Insight Grants

Carefully Develop Your 2011 PEP Proposal to Communicate Value to Congress

Congress has just made cuts of historic proportions to the 2011 federal budget. (The 2011 federal budget year began 10/1/2011.) A wide range of programs saw their funding reduced or were cut completely. Deeper cuts are likely to be seen in the 2012 budget.


Many organizations have been and are responding by asking you to write letters to Congress to express your support for various programs, including the PEP grant program in particular. While I agree there is a place for those efforts in this process as programs are reviewed for their value because, ultimately funds are finite, I’m now recommending a slightly different approach, a two-process…


Step 1:

Do an amazing job on your grant proposal. Really, seriously. Write an absolutely stellar proposal that articulates a clear plan that is highly responsive specifically to your local need (not just generalized state or national need) and likely to work. Be sure your budget is large enough to accomplish your goals, objectives, and outcomes but modest enough to be financially reasonable. Don’t pad your budget, and don’t ask for things you don’t need. There is no generic amount that is too large for any particular size population from a competitiveness standpoint: you can request whatever you need to as long as you can justify your request. That said, don’t go overboard. Some of the education programs cut first this year were programs with histories of funding many bloated budgets that only led to marginal results. If you don’t want that to be the case for PEP, think bang for your buck.


Step 2:

Call your Congressional Office and ask to speak to the person in charge of appropriations and/or grants after asking to (and almost certainly being denied) speak to the actual Congressional Representative or Senator. Explain your personal involvement with PEP–whether that’s as an applicant hoping to receive funding in 2011 or a previously funded grantee. Many conversations have taken place and many letters have been sent outlining the basic, generalized need for this funding. It’s time to drill down to the local communities that are actually being impacted and how. You should plan out what you want to say ahead of time and make notes, because you may not be able to talk for more than a short time. Explain the specific needs your target population has, what you’ve done or what you plan to do, and how you know what you’re proposing will work or what key positive results you saw after grant implementation. This latter item is really, really important. Programs need to be valuable—showing results—to continue. This is always true, but it’s especially true right now during these dire financial straights. After your call, follow up with a letter reiterating what you said. If you’re applying for the grant this year, consider sending a copy of your proposal once it is complete. This is unlikely to affect your ability to win an award in during the competition, but it may be a valuable illustration of what specifically schools and community-based organizations are trying to do with PEP grant funds, which could be beneficial for keeping the program in the budget in the future.


In summary, if you want to see PEP continue to be funded, make an effort to show your members of Congress that this program is making a difference and that budgets currently being submitted are reasonable for the results to be achieved. Enough generic letters have been sent. It’s time for real conversations and proof of efficacy and cost-effectiveness, if we want to see this program continue.


PS You can certainly apply this approach to any federal, state, or local program you’d like to see continued!


Leave a Comment

Insight Grants