If your program is preparing for grant writing in 2021 – whether it be DRS, Early Head Start – Child Care Partnership, or another upcoming opportunity for the early childhood community – now is a great time to consider the resources and information you will need at your fingertips for success. In recent years, fall has been a busy time for responding to Office of Head Start (OHS) grant opportunities. As your program nears the end of the current program year and thinks about summer planning, we offer a few strategies to help you prepare.

While there are many steps involved in preparing for and writing grant applications, today we focus on the importance of data updates as essential “pre-work” for upcoming grant opportunities. When you are in the weeds of grant writing, it is best to already have the data you need rather than trying to find data while drafting a proposal. Below are tips you might keep in mind.

1. Determine the data you will need. If possible, review a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) that is similar to the FOA you anticipate responding to in order to determine what data points will be required in your application. For example, if awaiting the next round of DRS, review a DRS FOA that was released last fall.

2. Consider the data you will want. Remember that in addition to providing data that is required in an application, you will also want to have data that helps to justify your proposal. Think about how you will describe the need for services through data and how you will use data to justify your proposed use of funds

3. Take inventory and plug the holes. How does your current community assessment line up with what you will need and want for grant writing? Consider whether the data you need and want is included in the current community assessment. Make a list of identified gaps. If you do find the data in your community assessment, determine whether it is up-to-date. Outdated data should be updated to reflect the most recently available data sets. Current data, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, is essential. This brings us to one of the most important considerations for grant writing in 2021…

4. Document the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the deep and lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, any data updates should include a focus on understanding how COVID-19 has impacted communities and families. As the pandemic has been impacting communities for more than a year, some data sources that may not have reflected COVID impact early in the pandemic are now capturing some of that data. For example, you may notice this in data on unemployment, TANF, or food assistance. Pay particular attention to recent data sources.

5. Prepare reflections on the impact of COVID-19 in your communities. When 2020 and 2021 data is available, analyze what the data show. Ask questions like, how did data change during the height of the pandemic? Are any data changes from the pandemic sustained currently? Take unemployment as an example. Data in many states show a sharp increase in unemployment rate in spring 2020, aligned with the implementation of stay-at-home orders. In some communities, employment has recovered to some extent. In others, elevated, deep unemployment remains. What is happening in your community?

With these tips in mind, your program will be well positioned to respond to required data, provide data that justifies your grant proposal, and show your understanding of historic and current data trends, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Foundations for Families offers a variety of Community Assessment Services, including data updates and enhancements to help programs prepare for grant writing. We are currently filling slots for summer data updates and enhancements. If your program is interested to learn more, please be in touch, and we would be glad to discuss your program’s needs. 

Thank you.

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