Insight Grants

Take Advantage of Summer

June starts this weekend, and summer is upon us. Some school districts are already off for the summer; others will be finishing up within in the next month. If you have the benefit of summers off, or even if summers typically mean a reduced workload or less stress within your organization, use the summer to your grant-seeking advantage. There are often fewer grant applications open in the summer, so it’s a great time to organize and prepare for the major grant seasons which tend to be fall and spring for our topic areas—with spring typically offering the largest-dollar, most complex opportunities.

Here’s a quick list of some of the things you might do between the barbeques, graduation parties, weddings, beach runs, and vacations this summer.
· Talk with colleagues and administrators to develop a team-supported, concrete project concept for which you will apply for grant funding. While you will likely need to tweak the plan based on each grant you apply to, having a solid idea to start with will keep you focused on the opportunities best suited to your goals.
· Research grant opportunities, and create a list of what you’d like to apply for in the next 12 months. Include estimated application timeframes for planning purposes and web site links so you can check for program updates throughout the year.
· Begin collecting and organizing demographic information and data that illustrates your target population’s need.
· Identify and begin building or expanding relationships with community partners and leaders that could potentially enhance your project.
· Talk with colleagues and administrators to determine who can and will lead actual grant writing efforts. It’s valuable to have a team supporting you, but a single writer is usually your best bet for clarity and consistency. If your organization determines it will contract with a consultant for assistance, be sure to hire someone with successful experience pursuing and winning grant funding for the type of project you have in mind.
· Set up a system for tracking your grant applications.
· Make a list of other key “to dos,” including when in the year those actions should be taken.

Can you think of others? Feel free to share them!

2010 Federal Budget Update: US Department of Education Grants

Pertinent to the topic areas of physical education, physical activity, health and safety programs for youth, here are the budget amounts the President has requested for SOME key grant programs within the US Department of Education for 2010.

· Safe and Drug-Free School sand Communities State Grants (Title IV-A): $0 (compared to $294,759,000 in 2009)
· Grants to Reduce Alcohol Abuse Among Secondary Students: $32,712,000
· Mentoring Program: $0 (compared to $47,254,000 in 2009)
· Character Education: $0 (compared to $11,912,000 in 2009)
· Elementary and Secondary School Counseling: $52,000,000
· Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP): $78,000,000
· 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21CCLC): $1,131,166,000
· Grants for the Integration of Schools and Mental Health Systems: $6,900,000 (compared to $5,900,000 in 2009)
· Readiness and Emergency Response for Schools (REMS): $40,000,000
· Safe Schools/Healthy Students (SS/HS): $77,800,000

The President has also proposed a new $100,000,000 grant to support to approaches to changing school culture that will ultimately improve character and reduce risk behaviors, and $300,000,000 for a new program known as the Early Learning Challenge Fund. While it’s still unclear what exactly is envisioned for these programs, the latter program is intended to fund competitive grants to states for social and learning services for children five years old and under. Programs will be reviewed for quality based on a variety of elements, including health and safety.

The federal fiscal year runs October 1-September 30. The process begins with the President proposing his budget plan for the coming fiscal year. The House of Representatives and Senate each review it and propose their own budget plans—separately. When, as individual houses, they’ve agreed on a plan, they then work to reconcile the two plans into one that they both can agree on. It must be passed into law by Congress and then signed by the President. This process typically takes many months and many compromises.

Right now, we’re in the Congressional review part of the process. The President has proposed a budget, but no Congressional action has been taken on the 2010 Education budget yet. At this point in the process, it we do not yet know which programs will materialize and at what amount. Congress may reject or change part or all of the proposed budget, though the President’s suggestions do seem to be more in line with Congressional efforts in recent years than the previous administration’s education proposals. It will be interesting to see what Congress’s proposals look like in the coming months and what is ultimately passed.

What are your thoughts on the President’s 2010 Education budget?

Why a Grant Template is a Bad Idea

I often receive requests for and questions about creating grant templates/boilerplates for organizations about to begin the grant-seeking process. This is a service I refuse to offer because I find templates to be bad practice. While there are some common types of information most funders are looking for, and there will be some text and information you can use in multiple grant applications, the reality is each funder has its own priorities and RFP layout. Sending a template out to multiple funders suggests to the funder that you have not taken the time to review their individual goals, objectives, priorities, and RFP thoroughly, and that you may not be as focused on abiding by grant rules as they would like.

Furthermore, ignoring the RFP often means you fail to respond to the funder’s unique scoring criteria, which is likely to result in your application scoring fewer points than needed to win a grant award. It is CRITICAL the grant RFP to which you are responding is followed exactly. Your narrative should be laid out exactly as the RFP suggests to maximize potential points by ensuring reviewers know exactly where and how you attempted to respond to each of the scoring criteria.

Spotlight on Head Start Body Start

The American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation (AAPAR) and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), two associations of the American Alliance of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD), were awarded $12 Million grant in late 2008 from the US Department of Health and Human Services. The grant applied to was the 2008 Head Start Innovations and Improvement Projects program, and AAPAR/NASPE applied under Priority Area 1: National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play for the Head Start Body Start project ( NASPE and AAPAR won the only award made in the nation for this priority area, which I am extremely pleased about since the Insight Team and I generated this grant application. 😉

This four-year grant award will allow Head Start Body Start to accomplish its three main objectives (as stated on the program website):
Administer and support sub-grants for construction or improvement of playgrounds and outdoor play spaces at Head Start Centers
Provide resources, training, and technical assistance to Head Start and Early Head Start grantees
Inform and assist the Office of Head Start in setting national priorities and developing policies
Each year, approximately 380 mini-grants of up to $5,000 each will be awarded to Head Start/Early Head Start Centers for the improvement or creation of playgrounds or outdoor play spaces. This amounts to about $2,000,000 per year and is a tremendous opportunity for these centers. In addition to grants, Head Start Body Start will offer a wide range of training and technical assistance services (including but not limited to self-assessments, professional site assessments and recommendations, online resources, web-based trainings, trainings at conferences, and regional trainings) aimed directly at increasing physical activity and healthy eating among Head Start and Early Head Start Children. Secondarily, the project will also result in data collection on a number of issues for which no data currently exists, such as how physically active Head Start children are typically and what percentage are overweight or obese.

As of 2007, there were 18,875 Head Start Centers and 50,030 Head Start classrooms. 909,201 children were enrolled in Head Start and Early Head Start. Together Head Start and Early Head Start serve children ages 0-5 from households with income levels at or below the federal poverty level. Over 60% of Head Start children are from racial or ethnic minority groups, and over 12% have disabilities. While the debate as to why continues, it is well known that children living in poverty tend to have a higher incidence of childhood obesity. NASPE and AAPAR’s project is much needed, and—due to a high-quality, well-thought-out design, very likely to be successful.

The project has three full-time, permanent staff members in addition to support from NASPE’s Executive Director, Charlene Burgeson; AAPAR’s Excutive Director, Mariah Burton Nelson; and NASPE’s Director of Communications, Paula Kun. The Head Start Body Start permanent staff members are Karin Spencer, Center Director; Katina Kearney, Training Director; and Kellie May, Program Assistant. The project team also includes five Master Trainers (, a significant Advisory Board, outside evaluation consultant Dr. Paul Wright, and hundreds of professional consultants. AAPAR and NASPE designed the project to leverage existing strengths, resources, and experiences, but did not fail to acknowledge where more help or resources would be necessary or best for the project in order to ensure the greatest possible chance of wide-ranging success. The participating staff, consultants, and board members reflect this as AAPAR and NASPE reached out (DURING the application period, which is ideal) to individuals that were not just field professionals, but recognized field EXPERTS and brought them on board. This is a great strategy that will enhance any application because it enables the writer to be more specific about what will happen and who will do it, and demonstrates the organization has already done considerable legwork and will be able to mobilize quickly if funding is awarded.

So what’s going on now with Head Start Body Start? Well, the first RFP for grants for playgrounds and outdoor play spaces for Head Start and Early Head Start Centers has been released!! Applications are due by July 1, 2009 and awards are anticipated in September. All documents and information needed to submit an application can be found on the main program page ( in the red box in the center of the page. If you’re thinking, “$5,000 would be nice, but play areas are expensive. Can we really accomplish anything with $5,000?” worry no further! NASPE and AAPAR have proactively responded to this issue. Earlier this year, a vendor request for proposals was issued to generate a range of value-added packages of $5,000 or less that would empower Head Start Body Start grantees to effectively put grant funds to use in a way that is supported by the original Department of Health and Human Services grant. You can find information on selected packages and vendors in the grant applications materials posted on the site.

While you can’t apply for a grant if you are NOT a Head Start or Early Head Start Center, you CAN access some of the great technical assistance resources through the online HSBS Toolbox ( and monthly newsletters ( The Toolbox resources are easy-to-implement ideas for increasing physical activity in early childhood. They can be used in the classroom, in a community-based project setting, or at home! (Parents, check out the activity calendars!) The Head Start Body Start project plan also includes two important literature reviews and the preparation of a policy guide, as well, which might also be posted online or made available for purchase in the future.

I think this is an outstanding project that is off to a great start! It will be exciting to watch it progress this year and over the next three years. I’ll try to keep you posted on its progress, but visit the project site for more details and background information. :o)

Grant Budget Changes Post-Award

A school contact emailed today asking about making changes to the Year 2 budget plan for their PEP grant awarded in 2008. We receive questions about the potential for budget changes a fair amount. Generally speaking, when you prepare your grant budget narrative during the application process, you should make it as complete as possible and assume few if any changes can be made. This is because while funders do understand that things can change during the grant period and/or your understanding of specific needs may become clearer during implementation, they have approved your project only for the funding plan described, and deviations from it may make a difference in terms outcomes, target population, grant focus, etc.

Most funders allow minor changes within the same major budget category, but the percentage of change allowed without approval is often very small, and it varies by funder. (The common major categories are Personnel, Fringe Benefits, Travel, Equipment, Supplies, Contractual, Other, and Indirect.) Changes beyond the allowed percentage (usually made clear during the grant award negotiation process) or from one major category to another, typically require prior funder approval.

In all cases, if something on your end changes, and you need to make a budget change as a result, the best course of action is to discuss the issue with your grant award officer/funder contact. Describe the situation fully, and explain what change you think should be made and your rationale. Be sure to note how the change fits in with the originally approved grant project concept, major activities, and anticipated goals and outcomes. Ask if you need to file a formal project amendment. You may be surprised to find how understanding and accommodating your funder can be, or your request may be declined. In the latter instance, at least you can be confident you will not be utilizing grant funds in a manner that could get you into trouble with the funder later.

Grant Writing Tip: Use Language Any Reader Can Understand

When writing your grant narrative, don’t get flowery with your words. Despite some misconception, Reviewers are rarely impressed by big words or complex writing. They want to be able to quickly and easily read through your application and understand where your target population (the group of folks you will serve with the grant) is now, where you plan to take it with grant funds, and how you’re going to get there. Reviewers (also called Readers) have many applications to read and typically relatively little time to do so. Getting tripped up by overly extravagant language or sentences that go on for days is annoying and can result in an irritated Reviewer—which you NEVER want.

Keep in mind, too, that confusion can also lead to irritation. Be sure to do all of the following to avoid Reviewer confusion.
· Avoid jargon, clichés, and most metaphors.
· Define ALL acronyms a minimum of once.
· Declare all antecedents (the nouns pronouns stand for) clearly and avoid overuse of pronouns.
· Avoid using or CLEARLY DEFINE field-specific terms. (Even if the RFP—grant guidance—tells you Reviewers will be from your field, you should assume they won’t to be on the safe side. Generally speaking, grant funders tend to define “your field” much more broadly than you do. For example, whereas you may see your field as only PE teachers, they may also include social workers, school administrators, and grant writers with no PE knowledge.)

Keep the application clear, simple, and easy to follow!

Polar Grants Research Updated 5/15/2009

If you are a fan of Polar products and services and are seeking funding to make a purchase for a school or non-profit organization, email your name, phone number, email address, school and district or organization name, and state to with “Polar Research Request” in the subject line or contact your Polar sales rep ( for a copy of the most current Polar grants research. The report was just updated and reorganized for reader ease last week and made available 5/15. It’s FREE to potential Polar customers!

Grants for Running Programs

A Lead PE teacher in PA asked about grants for running programs this morning. Thanks for the blog topic, Steph! :o) This is a very timely one due to upcoming grant deadlines, as you’ll see below.

While you can certainly use general physical activity grants such as the GRHF Community Mini-Grants (Monroe County, NY; discussed the other day, Highmark Healthy High 5 School Challenge grants or Highmark Healthy High 5 grants for NonProfits (49 counties in PA;, General Mills Champions for Healthy Kids (national;, PEP (, or others, there are several grants out there that are specifically designed to support running programs. Here are three key opportunities listed in order of deadline—the first two are due in the next few weeks!

ING Run for Something Better offered in partnership with the National Association of Sport and Physical Education (NASPE): This program is new—just announced last month. Fifty (50) $2,000 grants will be awarded in 2009 to fund the start-up or expansion of school-based running programs lasting a minimum of eight weeks aimed at increasing activity to reduce childhood obesity. Applications are due 6/1/2009. and

Saucony Run for Good: This program surfaced in 2006. It offers grants of up to $10,000 to 501(c)(3) organizations for projects designed to use running to encourage healthy, active lifestyles among youth—particularly youth not typically exposed to running programs. The ultimate, long-term goal is again to reduce childhood obesity. Grants have been made to schools and school districts in the past, including public schools. The next application deadline is 6/13/2009, with award announcement anticipated on or around 8/13/2009. This program is open to organizations across the nation. Typically about five awards are made per application round.

Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) Kids Run the Nation: The Kids Run the Nation Fund was established in 2007. This year a total of $5,000 will be given out in the form of mini-grants of $500 to $1,000 each. (So 5-10 awards will be made.) Grants can go to new or existing running programs offered by running clubs, 501(c)(3) organizations, or elementary or middle schools. Programs cannot be one-time events. At minimum, programs must operate once per week for multiple weeks. Discrimination in any manner is unallowable, and programs must be open to both boys and girls. Applications are due 10/1/2009.

Good luck! If you apply for and win one of these grants, please let us know at

2009 PEP Grant Update: Inquiries

A client contacted me today because the US Department of Education (ED) emailed some questions related to their Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) grant submission. This is exciting stuff! I was not expecting inquiries such as this to begin for at least two more weeks, possibly a month. Perhaps this means PEP awards will be announced even earlier than last year (early July), but time will tell.

If you applied for a 2009 PEP grant, please let the listed project director and authorized representative (the person who signed your grant forms) know they should now be vigilantly watching their email in case ED sends questions about your application. These questions do not guarantee you have won, but they often suggest your application at least scored well. The questions allow ED to receive more clarity on contacts, budget information, etc., as they continue the review process. Questions are only sent after the application has been scored, so your answers do not affect your total points or your rank on the applicant slate for the program year. They may, however, affect which items are funded if an awarded is made. The best approach is to answer questions clearly, honestly, and with as much detail as possible. If you feel the answer is presented elsewhere in your proposal, you may want to reference that and expound on it. You cannot, however, change information you have presented (with the exception of contacts if someone has left the district) or revise your budget request. If Insight wrote your grant, your service includes assistance with these inquiries, so be sure to contact us if you need help. If you do not receive any questions, do not assume that means you won’t win—sometimes ED just doesn’t have any further questions.

If you are not familiar with the PEP grant but are interested in the funding topics addressed by this blog, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with this program (my personal favorite) ASAP! Here’s a quick summary of the program in 2009 to get you started…

Carol M. White Physical Education for Progress (PEP)
Who is offering this grant? The program is offered by the US Department of Education (ED)—Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools (OSDFS).
What is the purpose? The program provides grants to initiate, expand, and improve physical education programs for K-12 students in order to help them make progress toward meeting state standards for physical education.
What types of activities might be supported? Funds may be used to provide equipment and support to enable students to participate actively in physical education activities. Funds may also support staff and teacher training and education. Supported equipment includes Heart rate monitors; fitness assessment technology; Project Adventure (; fitness center equipment; weight lifting equipment; lifetime fitness equipment such as: bicycles, cross-country skis, snowshoes, ice skates, snowboards, etc.; among others.
Who can apply? Local education agencies (school districts) and non-profit community-based organizations are eligible to apply.
When is the application due? In 2009, applications were due 3/6/2009.
When should I get started? PEP grants are major undertakings, and these grants have become extremely competitive. You should begin preparations early—in advance of the application’s release, if possible.
How much is available? $78,000,000 is expected to be available in 2009 for new and continuing grant awards. Of that amount the total available for new awards is not yet known. ED is anticipating approximately 88 new awards.
How much can I request? The average award size is $100,000 to $500,000 per year for one to three years.
Do I have to offer a match of any kind? Yes, you are obligated to match 10% the total project cost the first year and 25% of the total project cost each year for the second and third years. In-kind matching is acceptable—a cash match is NOT required.
When will the awards be made? Awards have historically been made most commonly in August-September following the application’s due date, though awards were announced in July in 2008. Awards for 2009 are anticipated in June or July.
How can I find out more? Visit, or contact Carlette Huntley at or (202) 245-7871.

Local Health Foundations as Organizers in the Battle Against Childhood Obesity: Part 1–The Greater Rochester Health Foundation

Last week was an exciting week for The Greater Rochester Health Foundation ( located here in Rochester, NY. Wednesday they held their annual Grantee Showcase, and Friday was the deadline for the 2009 Community Mini-Grants. (Watch for these in 2010!) As Insight was a 2008 Round 1 Community Mini-Grant awardee, I read the current Request for Proposals (RFP—the grant application guidance) and noted the key changes prior to heading over to participate in the Showcase. I was really impressed with what I found at the event and really disappointed to see there wasn’t a higher turn out by community members. I was pleasantly surprised to learn what a great opportunity the Showcase is for networking, learning about the wide range of currently active health initiatives in our community, further connecting with Foundation staff, and increasing my understanding of how this Foundation operates and what it views as important. I realize I have a hometown bias here, but I truly believe GRHF is a national model for health foundations as community leaders—particularly regarding childhood obesity reduction and prevention.

The goal of GRHF’s Community Mini-Grant Program is “To increase physical activity and improve nutrition for Monroe County children and youth from age 2 years through high school.” In 2009, Mini-Grants of $500-$7,500 (depending on the number of children to be served) were open to nonprofit organizations serving Monroe County children ages 2-18. Grassroots nonprofits who do not yet have 501(c)(3) status were even eligible provided an established bank account in the organization’s name existed. This is a prime example of one of my favorite things about this Foundation: accessibility. GRHF makes sincere and ongoing efforts to ensure that any organization with good ideas and commitment to increasing activity and/or improving nutrition can access Mini-Grant funds—even if the organization doesn’t have any grants experience and isn’t large. This is further reflected in the RFP layout. Every RFP this program has released to date has been easy to understand, but what amazes me is that they continue to get clearer. (Anyone who’s spent any amount of time applying for grants knows RFP clarity is a rare and wonderful thing.) Deb Tschappat is the manager for this program. An experienced grant writer herself, Deb does a terrific job of listing succinct, direct questions that keep the focus of the grant proposal scoring on the content and not necessarily the writing. As a proponent of physical activity programs—and particularly those that are locally-based—and a writer who has seen a lot of vague RFPs, I really appreciate this approach. I’m certain it was helpful to me when Insight applied to GRHF last year, and I have a very significant amount of experience with grant funding on this topic.

So… What did we do with our money? Insight created the Maplewood Kids Get Moving project. Maplewood Kids Get Moving is simply aimed: offer more opportunities for Maplewood Neighborhood children to be physically active. We did this by offering two different activity programs: MKGM Summer Program and Healthy Activity Preschool PlaY Times (HAPPY Times). Both programs have been entirely free to participants. The Summer Program ran three mornings a week for three weeks last summer in a local park and was open to children ages 2-10. HAPPY Times is meeting every Tuesday morning (October to June) at our neighborhood library and is open to children ages 2-6 and their parents or caretakers. For both programs, we utilized the research-based, proven-effective Coordinated Approach To Child Health (CATCH; Physical Education (PE) program to give us a wide range of fun activities we knew would work. We also offer healthy snacks at every session. Most of the staffing is volunteer. Our grant from GRHF paid for liability insurance, CATCH training (which we opened to many other organizations in the neighborhood), a CATCH PE equipment set, Polar E40 heart rate monitors (, pedometers, obstacle course materials, jogging trampolines, etc.

At the Showcase I learned the many ways other grantees have used Mini-Grant funds. Here are just a few examples:
· Creating new opportunities for physical activity through afterschool fitness programs for adolescents and teens
· Parent and child cooking classes focused on healthy eating
· Expanded dance programs
· School-based skating programs operated by outside organizations
· Improved indoor and outdoor play spaces and playgrounds at child care centers and schools
· More physical activity equipment for afterschool programs, churches, and PE classes

You may be thinking, “This is all great, but does it really constitute a national model?” On its own, it’s just a great grant program, but combined with GRHF’s comprehensive approach, it does. The Mini-Grants are one piece of a larger effort that includes:
· a full strategic plan complete with measurable goals
· local research on trends, parent views, activity levels, and BMIs
· larger physical activity and healthy eating grants for area schools
· educating physicians and other primary care providers in obesity prevention and reduction practices
· Healthy Hero awards that honor individuals in the community that are working to reduce childhood obesity
· a 5-2-1-0 ad campaign that leverages stickers, magnets, flyers, mailings, billboards, TV and radio commercials, and parent education events (5-2-1-0 is a nationally-recognized model program. It reminds students and their caretakers that students should strive for: five fruits and vegetables per day, two hours or less of computer and TV time, one hour of active play, and zero sugary drinks.)
· partnering with other organizations and initiatives to go after major national funding streams in order to make policy and environmental changes
· support for other health projects (childhood obesity is a major initiative of the Foundation but not the only initiative) including neighborhood health improvement projects that include policy and environmental assessment and changes aimed at increasing physical activity and healthy eating.

GRHF is outstanding because it has recognized that the issue of childhood obesity is not one that is solved quickly or by one or two types of action. It takes efforts at all levels of the community and the engagement of many people and organizations to turn the tide. GRHF has adopted and invested in a wide range of efforts that will decrease childhood obesity in the Rochester Region by empowering each child to be active and make healthy eating choices every day!

Do you know a funder we should feature? If so, email us at I’d definitely like to talk about the Highmark Foundation, including but not limited to the Highmark Healthy High 5 School Challenge grants, so anyone who is willing to share their experience with that funder, please email!

Insight Grants