Insight Grants

Grant Tips and Discussion: From Implementation to Evaluation

In recent years I’ve had the privilege of working on various projects for Insight Grants Development. Back in 2006 I was a senior in college and was helping my sister-in-law, Rosalie, double check and prepare budgets for PEP Grant applications. Since that time Rosalie’s company has grown with all kinds of grant related success. From helping clients win tens of millions of dollars in grant funding to providing thorough evaluation services, I’ve seen firsthand Insight standing by the statement on our homepage “Dedicated to Making Positive, Measurable, and Sustainable Changes in Communities Through Grant Programs.” Rosalie has a tremendous team that works to deliver the best possible work and most competitive applications for clients.

Although I don’t have anywhere near the expertise, knowledge, and experience of some of the members of the Insight Team, I wanted to try my hand at sharing some of what I’ve learned while helping Insight. The following commentary is related to implementation and evaluation of a grant.

Grant Tips and Discussion: From Implementation to Evaluation

Winning a grant and knowing you will be able to implement your project is a very exciting time. You’ve put a ton of effort into the application, had challenges and successes along the way, and all of a sudden you receive the notification that your application will be funded. The work doesn’t end here. For your grant project to be truly successful, it is not just about getting funded. It is just as important for you to implement and execute your plan.

The majority of grant funding goes to causes or efforts that improve something. The funding pays for things like equipment, training, or even personnel. The funding is meant to take a problem, a shortcoming, or a need and fill that gap to ultimately solve a problem or advance the greater good in a specific area.

Nearly all grant programs require evaluation reports in order to establish a detailed analysis of the project. Projects may have outcomes, measures, or goals that the awardee needs to report on so that the funder can see what worked, what didn’t, and the best use of funds going forward. Often times these reports can shape future funding opportunities. For example, an organization that was lacking proper equipment to successfully serve the public might get the funding to purchase that equipment. The funder wants to see how it was used and what effect it had for the grantee in fulfilling its purpose or need for funding. If a school is given grant funding for nutrition education and fitness equipment, the funder needs to see the impact of the project and the funding. To show this, awardees will measure data based on where they started the project and progressing throughout the project as new equipment, curriculum, and initiatives are taken.

Grant funders also look favorably on projects and initiatives that are sustainable after the grant funding runs out. If equipment can be used for years to come, training and education provides life-long value, or long-term problems are solved by the funding, the funder is getting better value for and having larger influences with their resources. The lifetime value of a grant can be very high when sustainable measures are put into place. As a funder, this is exactly what you would want your resources to do. Resources that turn into important changes, valuable resources, and long term benefits are resources well spent.

From the time you start working on your project through implementation it’s important to have your organization and key stakeholders “buy in” to your project. To accomplish this, it is best to communicate clearly with all participants. These participants need to know what is going to happen, why it is happening, what is expected of them, and how the plan is going to be implemented. Most importantly, these participants need to know the bigger picture of the project. Educate them about what issues are being solved and what the long term goals of the project are.

It is unfortunate but in many organizations there will be participants who are not as excited about the project as you. Some people simply do not like change or anything coming their way that resembles extra work. Don’t let these participants get you down. If they are in the way of a project you and your funder knows will provide positive outcomes then in the big picture they are not important and are just another challenge to overcome in the way of successful implementation.

As your hard work pays off and your project progresses, just as important as making sure everyone knows the details and purpose of the project at the beginning, keep them updated along the way. And if you are having successes, highlight and celebrate them. If you’ve fixed a problem, are making solid progress, or in general are seeing marked improvements, then show off this positivity. Let your community know more about your project and what it has done. Show your funder through reporting and other information that their funding is being put to good use, and give them exact data on what it has done.


New Content on Polar USA: SHI, Research Grants, and US Department of Education (FY) 2015 Discretionary Grant Program Articles

Our friends over at Polar USA recently published three new articles that we’ve written, “The SHI: Creating a Snapshot of School Health for Improvement Purposes”,  “Should I Apply for a Research Grant?”, and “US Department of Education 2015 Forecast of Funding.”  All three articles can be found under the Helpful Information for Grant Seekers section on Polar’s website.

The article on the CDC’s School Health Index (SHI) covers the basics of the tool as well as noting recently-made changes and some helpful tips for getting the most out of it. The research grant article is a must-read for individuals and organizations considering whether to apply for a research grant. The US Department of Education (ED) recently began updating it’s Discretionary Grant Programs for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, and the article covers how schools can best use the tool for a planning guide.

See the articles here.

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!

Useful Resource for Grant Seekers: Polar USA Funding & Grants Section

Polar Logo

This year we’ve been working with our long-term partner Polar USA to develop a very useful funding & grants section for grant seekers. If you are a physical educator looking for more information on grants in general, or anyone looking to implement a program with Polar products or services included, you will definitely benefit from this information. Even if you hadn’t thought about including Polar in a grant to this point, the site is worth a visit. The pages include an explanation of how to determine whether you are ready to begin applying for grants–and what to do if you aren’t ready yet, tips for applying for grants, information on Polar products and how they fit into grants and can support grant project success, current grant opportunities you can apply to, research reports of grants that span the full year and beyond, and other helpful content!

Insight is very pleased to have had the opportunity to work with Polar to share our knowledge and experience to create and present this helpful section. We hope that physical educators and other grant seekers will utilize the information now and in the future. Over the years we’ve seen several grant resources offered by many different groups, but the biggest flaw we see is that the information usually isn’t presented in a way that really supports the reader taking the full necessary series of next steps to apply for a grant in a truly competitive manner. For this reason, the Insight team has made it our goal to generate content that is actionable–even for grant seekers who are entirely new to the process. Visit often, as more content will be added throughout the year!

For those unfamiliar with Polar products, Polar makes outstanding heart rate monitors, activity monitors, and activity and fitness assessment tracking and reporting software (including wireless, iPad, and handheld device-friendly options),  in addition to offering high-quality product-related trainings. Polar products give physical educators the ability to assess students individually, efficiently, objectively, and in real time. Polar products have been implemented in countless schools and have played a major role in the drastic improvement of students’ personal fitness levels and increased PE class engagement time and time again. Polar also offers products and services to support individuals, health clubs and gyms, athletes and athletic teams, first responders, worksite wellness programs, and others. To learn more about Polar, see their full line of products, read about successes through their “Showcase Schools” section, and find out how to connect with their sales team, visit To read about products and services specific to your organization type, click on “Group Solutions” and then select the appropriate category: Physical Education, Club Solutions, Team Sports, Corporate Wellness & Health Care Professionals, Protective Services, or Equipment Manufacturers.

Bang for Your Buck: What To Do When Professional Grant Writing Isn’t in the Budget

Professional grant writing can be costly, and while valuable, sometimes organizations simply don’t have enough money in the current budget to support the cost of professional consultants writing and submitting the full grant application. If you find your organization in that position but still feel strongly that you could use and benefit from some professional support, consider grant editing services. While not offered by all consultants, many do offer this or something similar, and Insight certainly offers and often advocates for clients to utilize our editing services!

Insight’s editing service requires applicants to write and submit all parts of the application themselves but also provides clear feedback on any documents the applicant wishes to send for review. While we certainly will do some basic proofreading along the way, this is NOT a proofreading service. Insight editing is aimed at helping the applicant identify exactly where and how the narrative (and other required documents if submitted at the same time) needs to be strengthened in order to stand the best chance of scoring highly and being strongly competitive. We provide specific notes both right in the document and as a summary in the accompanying email that detail what’s missing; what information should be moved or changed; where more detail is needed; and where the need justification, program design, management plan, and/or evaluation design feel weak. Clients can choose to receive a single round of editing or multiple rounds based on the amount of support they feel they need.

We’ve had terrific success with our editing clients, with the vast majority winning their grants, and our editing services come at a bargain rate. Typically, grant editing costs just 10-20% of what the cost would be for us to write the full grant application!

We LOVE writing grants, and we feel our work is super valuable and extremely competitive, but if your organization needs a more budget-friendly option or you have individuals in your organization who already have some grant experience or folks who want to learn to write grants and have the time, editing is a fabulous option for you to consider. If you’re interested in grant editing services, contact us.

“Do I Need a Consultant to Apply for a Grant?”

Honestly, the answer is probably no, you do not need a consultant to apply for a grant.

I’ve never seen a grant that obligated the applicant (through the application guidelines or the program requirements) to utilize a consultant. There’s no special certification or particular program of education needed to be a grants consultant. While some tools exists, there aren’t even tools that are “must haves” for this field beyond the basics of a computer, the internet, and basic word processing and spreadsheet software, and a heck of a lot of time.  Why, then, do we even exist? Do we serve any purpose at all? Of course I feel that we do. Our value is similar to that of most consultants: this is what we do all day long, so we know the field.

It’s not that grants are so complicated that the average person can’t figure them out, it’s really just that the average person doesn’t always have time to devote to the work of researching grant opportunities and writing grant applications and usually isn’t familiar enough with the field to know what’s out there, where to look, and how the various funding processes work. That’s where consultants come into play.

Do grants consultants know all there is to know about grants? Absolutely not. Unfortunately, the grants field is not always a clear one. Even those of us doing grants all day every day for years do not have all of the answers. There are many, many grant funders and even many more funding streams in the US. All of this involves countless individuals who participate in the program development, application review, and program oversight and evaluation processes along the way. While there are similarities among the many grant funding streams, each works a little differently. A consultant with a strong background in funding research who has applied to many funding streams multiple times is going to be able to offer the applicant solid direction and valuable input throughout the grant identification, application, and implementation and evaluation processes based on knowledge and experience, but cannot know every possible caveat or potential outcome for every program. There are simply too many variables. This is also why no grants consultant can guarantee with 100% certainty that your grant will win if the grant program is competitive.

So what are you paying for and why? Why take the risk of investing in a consultant if you don’t even know if you’ll win the grant? If you hire a grants consultant, you’re paying for time and knowledge. You still have to participate in the process no matter what, and your time contribution may be significant depending on the application, but it will be notably lessened with a consultant’s assistance. This frees you up to do all of the other things you’re supposed to be doing all day, like your regular job and meeting your home and other personal obligations. Our client contacts tend to be highly productive, intelligent, and resourceful folks that simply don’t have the time to devote to writing applications alone, learning how various grant programs work, or designing appropriate program evaluation plans. Basically, our job is to lighten their load by helping out with the grant work and advising them based on what we’ve seen over the years. While consultants don’t know everything, simply working regularly in the field provides a wealth of knowledge about basic grant processes, how to obtain information, program histories and current funding availability, and specific program rules—both publicly released and otherwise. A good consultant should be able to improve your chances of winning grants—in the immediate and long-term. Even if you don’t win the first grant the consultant writes, simply working with the consultant through the process should demystify the process some so that moving forward you have a better sense of how to grants work and what is required for success.

Is it possible to just go it alone? Absolutely. You can apply for and implement and evaluate grants without assistance if you have at least the minimum resources needed to do so.

So what are the crucial, minimal resources needed to be successful in the grants arena?

  • A computer with the internet and word processing and spreadsheet software
  • Solid writing skills
  • Time management skills and the ability to adhere to deadlines
  • Organizational skills
  • Time
  • Basic knowledge of the requirements of the program you are applying to or implementing funding from (At barest minimum, this would mean knowledge of the RFP for research applications, implementation, and evaluation, plus knowledge of any evaluation guidelines established by the funder for implementation and evaluation.)

If you have more resources than the above—for examples, in depth or historical knowledge of programs, particularly strong writing skills, a good editor, an evaluator or assessment professional, or a coalition of organizations or individuals that will support you throughout the process—you’re likely to increase your chances or level of success. A good consultant—and do be sure to get a good one with experience in the area you’re focused on, if you’re going to invest the money—can help here.

Be Sure Your 2011 PEP Application is a 2011 Application!

The PEP grant application/RFP for 2011 is very similar to the application for 2010, however, some changes have been made since the last competition. Note that all RFP changes—large or small—are important! Be sure you submit an application that is developed and assembled based on the newest PEP RFP to ensure you are in a position to score as many points as possible. You can obtain a copy of the official RFP at


The most notable changes this year are the deadline, submission mode, and Selection Criteria.

  • The 2011 PEP deadline is May 13, 2011. If you assume the deadline is the same as 2010 (July 19), you’ll miss the application period by more than two months.
  • In 2011, applicants must submit their grants using rather than as required last year. Register your organization now for a account, or update your existing account to ensure a smooth and timely submission.
  • Among the Selection Criteria, one criterion from 2010 has been removed (the criterion referencing target population previously placed in section B2), and two new criteria have been added. Below are the Selection Criteria for 2011 PEP according to pages 33-35 of the RFP. Criteria B2 and C2 are new this year. See the RFP for notes on what should be included to respond to each criterion.


Selection Criteria

(A) Need for the Project.

(1) The extent to which specific gaps or weaknesses in services, infrastructure, or opportunities have been identified and will be addressed by the proposed project, including the nature and magnitude of those gaps or weaknesses. (10 Points)

(B) Quality of the Project Design. (40 Points)

(1) The extent to which the goals, objectives, and outcomes to be achieved by the proposed project are clearly specified and measurable. (10 Points)

(2) The extent to which performance feedback and continuous improvement are integral to the design of the proposed project. (10 points)

(3) The extent to which the proposed project is designed to build capacity and yield results that will extend beyond the period of Federal financial assistance. (10 Points)

(4) The extent to which the proposed project will be coordinated with similar or related efforts, and with other appropriate community, State, and Federal resources. (10 Points)

(C) Quality of the Management Plan. (30 Points)

(1) The adequacy of the management plan to achieve the objectives of the proposed project on time and within budget, including clearly defined responsibilities, timelines, and milestones for accomplishing project tasks. (15 Points)

(2) The extent to which the time commitments of the project director and principal investigator and other key personnel are appropriate and adequate to meet the objectives of the proposed project. (15 Points)

(D) Quality of the Project Evaluation. (20 Points)

(1) The extent to which the methods of evaluation are thorough, feasible, and appropriate to the goals, objectives, and outcomes of the proposed project. (10 Points)

(2) The extent to which the methods of evaluation will provide performance feedback and permit periodic assessment of progress toward achieving intended outcomes. (10 Points)



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.

PEP Update: When Will We Find Out Who Won?

Most 2009 PEP applicants are now anxiously wondering when the awards announcement will be made. Several folks have emailed in the last couple of weeks asking whether I know of schools who have learned their results yet. No, I do not know of any schools that have received their results yet, but yes, I do have some idea of when the information should be available.

About a week and a half ago I emailed the federal program contact to check to see if the originally anticipated timetable for awards (originally discussed in the RFP as June or July) was still the anticipated timetable. She confirmed that ED expected to make awards “late June/early July.” As today is June 22, awards could be made any time between now and the next month. Exciting stuff, right? :o)

Many folks are also asking how they would find out their results. There are a few different ways that could happen.

Prior to announcing any grant awards, ED provides Congress with the list and allows the members a brief period (anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks) to be the first to notify and congratulate any winners within their constituency. Many members take advantage of this opportunity, but others do not. If your Representative or Senator is among those who enjoys making the announcement, you might hear from him or her directly (probably via phone or possibly fax) and/or you might see a press release from his or her office in a local paper. Remember, though, not all members do this, so not hearing from a member does not necessarily mean your application was not a winner.

ED will make its public announcement via a 2009 awards list of winning schools and their contacts at and/or via a press release posted at Additionally, ED will send out letters with instructions for “next steps” to winners via mail. While these packages are technically supposed to be sent prior to the public announcement being made, winners rarely receive them before learning they won through either their Congressional members or ED’s public announcement.

Following mail notification of all winners, ED will send out mail notifications to all non-winners that include reviewer scores and comments. (You should have THREE sets of reviewer scores and comments!) With so many people to notify, sometimes it takes weeks or even months for the non-winner packages to arrive. If it’s been a couple of months and you haven’t received anything, though, you should email the PEP contact ( and request that your scores and comments be resent since several do seem to get lost in the mail every year. If you weren’t fortunate enough to win in 2009, use your reviewer scores and comments to improve your application in 2010. Please note, however, that you will still need to adhere to the newest RFP and that your application will NOT be read by the same reviewers.

Insight monitors many press release channels for PEP daily, and we frequently check both the PEP and ED Press Release sites, so we often know very soon after the winners list is posted. Additionally, using press releases from Congress and information from Congressionally-notified schools with which we are in contact, we begin compiling a “tentative” winners list of our own and then compare that to the final list. We’ve been able to learn of as many as a third of the winners prior to the official announcement this way, however only the official list will concretely name all winners. Insight will send out emails to all applicants that worked with us on PEP once the official announcement is made, as well as sending out tweets from our Twitter accounts (insightgrantspe and insightgrantsed). Certainly, if you have questions in the interim, let us know. If you didn’t work with us but would like to receive an email when the PEP awards list comes out, leave your email address under comments or email us at (If you send an email, please be sure to note that you are requesting a PEP awards notice email and provide your full contact info.)

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!

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