Insight Grants

Why Isn’t Your District Applying for School Climate Transformation Grants for LEAs in 2014?

On 5/13/2014, we published a blog post about one of the US Department of Education’s new school safety grants: School Climate Transformation Grants for LEAs. Applicants can request up to $750,000 per year for up to five years for projects that, “develop, enhance, or expand systems of support for, and technical assistance to, schools implementing an evidence-based multi-tiered behavioral framework for improving behavioral outcomes and learning conditions for all students.” This is a terrific opportunity for Local Educational Agencies such as school districts, charter schools, and consortia of LEAs to obtain funding for programs and resources that support positive student behaviors, social and emotional development, and mental health for students!

If these are areas of need in your schools, here are the top 6 reasons you should apply to this program in 2014 rather than a future year:

  1. Student needs won’t be resolved without intervention! Every student deserves a safe, comfortable, equitable learning environment that is supportive of his/her success. Apply in 2014 because your students shouldn’t have to wait any longer for an improved school climate–and can’t afford to.
  2. Approximately 118 awards are expected in 2014! While 5-10 years ago it might not have been terribly uncommon to see a grant program make 100-200 awards, those days are pretty much gone. In recent years, programs making 50-80 awards are thought to be making a lot of awards since most programs make under 50 awards in a given year, and many make far under 50. Apply in 2014 because based on the anticipated number of awards alone, your odds of winning will be significantly better than for most current grant programs.
  3. If this grant is offered again next year, more likely than not ED will only be able to make about half as many awards (or fewer) unless substantially more funding is allocated. In other future years, the number of new awards may be even smaller. Since this is a five-year grant program, this year–the very first year of the program–is likely to be the year we see the most new grants funded for several years since ED will have to use a portion of the funds allocated each future year to fund the continuation awards in addition to any new awards. In some future years, ED will be funding multiple years of continuation awards. For example, in 2018, ED will be funding awardees in Year 2 (2017 winners), Year 3 (2016 winners), Year 4 (2015 winners), and Year 5 (2016 winners). Continuation awards are typically committed before any new awards are made, as is fair. Whatever money remains in the allocation is available for new awards. In some future years, there may only be enough remaining for a small number of new awards or none at all. Apply in 2014 because it is likely fewer new awards (if any) will be available each future year, as the program will be supporting significant numbers of continuation awards.
  4. Applications are due 6/23/2014! While that’s less than a month away, if you begin working this week and work very diligently until the deadline, you still have time to put together a strong application. This is especially true if you recently applied for the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling grants due 4/28/2014 or a similarly-focused funding stream, since much of the need information is likely to be the same. You may be shying away from this application based on the fact that it’s due right as school is wrapping up for some districts and after school has closed for the summer for others. Here’s the thing: many schools are thinking that way, and June and July deadlines for US ED grants sometimes have few applicants for that reason! Apply in 2014 to seize the opportunity to be one of what is likely to be a relatively small pool (comparatively) of brave applicants who apply for a grant at the start of or during their summer breaks and capitalize on increased odds of winning as a result!
  5. This program is new this year! As programs age, they tend to evolve. While that is usually in many ways a really good thing, from an applicant/awardee standpoint, it often also means more rules and requirements during both the application and award periods. Apply in 2014 to take advantage of what are likely to be the least demanding application and award period reporting requirements!
  6. You can be one of the first! If you have an interest in serving as a leader for other schools in your county, region, state, or the nation, this grant offers you a great opportunity to do that in the area of behavioral health–one of the areas for which until now schools haven’t received much funding at all in recent years despite great need. Due to support by both the President and Congress, that’s about to change. 2014 will be the first year of award for this program, as well as for Project Aware (due 6/16/2014), Project Prevent (due 6/30/2014), and School Justice Collaboration Program: Keeping Kids in School and Out of Court (due 7/21/2014). Apply in 2014 to this and/or any of the three other new school safety grants to be leader and a model for other schools in improving student behavior and mental health to improve student safety and achievement!

Communication with Foundations

Grant writing consultants with experience mostly in government grants, or those who have worked for a grant firm or within an organization, often have questions when they begin to communicate with foundations.

While there aren’t necessarily “rules” for the following situations,  here is how Insight generally handles them:

When contacting a grant-making foundation, do you e-mail from your own e-mail address or use an applicant organization member’s address? Do you identify yourself as helping to write the grant, or as a member of the organization, or simply wait to see if you are asked to identify yourself when you contact the foundation?

This depends on the reason for contacting the grant-making foundation. If we are just looking for information to determine whether our client is eligible – what the rules are for applying, where priorities currently lie, etc., we just use our own email addresses, and then pass on what we learn to the client as the information is relevant. If the grant-making foundation needs to be contacted to build a relationship, we usually encourage the applicant to make contact with the foundation because we are consultants and may very well not be in the picture in the future to continue the relationship (though we may advise our client of text to include in the email or phone conversation,  to help them obtain all of the information necessary). Whenever possible, applicant organizations should build their own relationships with their existing and potential funders. That said, in the occasional case the client is not able to do that at the time contact needs to begin, we send emails to the grant-making foundations from our accounts with our client contacts included, so the two entities can be connected and begin building a relationship moving forward.

Can you ask a foundation for examples of Letter of Intent/Grant Applications from previous successful applicants?

You can, but I’m not sure whether you’d get them. It probably depends on the foundation. A better bet may be to obtain a list of some awardees and try to reach out to them directly. Always bear in mind that one organization’s winning application can be another organization’s losing application. Applications must be specific to the applicant in order to be effective. This sometimes means significant presentation differences.

Should the Letter of Intent/Grant be submitted as work of a member of the applicant organization?

I’m not sure it matters. We submit things for our clients all the time and we never say either way who did the work. If you are a consultant rather than a member of the organization and you submit something via email for your client, just be sure you make it clear in your email who at the applicant organization can be contacted with questions, and how (email, phone number). The foundation won’t care who did the writing on the Letter of Intent or application. They just want to receive a well-developed, applicant-specific application and to know who to get in touch with, should they need to.

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!

Insight Grants