Earlier this week, the 6th round of Designation Renewal System (DRS) came to a close. Congratulations to everyone who successfully submitted a proposal!
Over years of working with programs in every round of DRS we’ve continued to observe a number of factors that support smooth planning and submission of strong, competitive proposals. With DRS round 7 around the corner, we hope those of you who are required to compete for funds in the upcoming round will find this information useful.
Here are a few of the factors we have observed that make a difference in process and quality of DRS proposal submission –
- Having a clear leader. A clear leader within the program who can see the DRS proposal through its early stages of brainstorming all the way through to submission is essential. When someone has their eyes on all pieces of the proposal and has an overarching view of considerations for discussion then your program will be less likely to have pieces fall through the cracks. We recommend identifying your DRS leader at the very beginning of the process.
- Adhering to a detailed proposal development timeline. Second to having a clear leader, having a clear and detailed timeline can make a significant difference in stress level during proposal development. The more detailed you can be in your timeline, the better. Our approach is to use a day-by-day timeline in which every day of the approximately 60-day turnaround is leveraged. We recommend including benchmarks for proposal development, such as gathering data, drafting narrative, Board and Governing Body approvals, and appendix development. We’ve also found that establishing and following a weekly DRS meeting schedule is important. Having dedicated time and commitment for DRS planning makes it easier to keep DRS a top priority.
- Involving key content managers. One of the main responsibilities of the DRS leader will be to know who to involve and when. We’ve found that when key content managers are engaged throughout the process, the DRS proposal narrative is most rich. The new (DRS round 6) structure of the DRS Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is less prescriptive than past rounds – it feels more like a reflection of the new Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) and Aligned Monitoring System 2.0 (AMS 2.0). Given this, you’ll need to be clear about how the pieces of your program design fit together so that you can write about it clearly in your narrative.
- Having a current, high-quality Community Assessment. The DRS FOA requires programs to provide a substantial amount of data, particularly in the Demonstration of Need section of the proposal. In this section you’ll need to write about demographics, priority populations, community health factors, and other data – specific to the children and families in your proposed service area – to ground your proposal in the need. Most of that data, if not all, you should be able to find in your most recent Community Assessment. If you have an accurate, current, comprehensive Community Assessment your Demonstration of Need will align easily and Community Assessment data will be your top data resource. Having to research a substantial amount of data while planning and drafting the DRS proposal can be cumbersome. When programs are gearing up for DRS and do not have a current Community Assessment in place, we’ve found that those who take the time to update their Community Assessment – in advance of DRS – are well off when it comes to writing the Demonstration of Need section.
- Knowing program policies and procedures and how to leverage them. Throughout the FOA you’ll be asked to write about areas of your program that should already be established in your program policies and procedures. Programs that have comprehensive policies and procedures in place seem to have an easier time writing about how their program currently and will operate. There are many examples of areas where your program policies and procedures will be a key resources, such as describing services to children with disabilities, screening and assessment practices, evaluation of staff, and fiscal accountability. In fact, the DRS round 6 FOA specifically asked applicants to provide a copy or description of the organization’s fiscal control and accountability procedures.
We understand that finding out your program will be required to compete for funding as part of DRS can be incredibly stressful. As we lead up to DRS round 7 we’ll provide new tips to help ensure smooth and successful proposal development and submission.
If your program is part of DRS round 7 and you’re interested to explore how our comprehensive grant writing and coaching services may help your program please feel free to be in touch. We welcome the opportunity to learn about your program and help you create a clear path forward.