If your agency serves one of the areas for the grants that were recently forecasted or if your program is subject to recompetition through the Designation Renewal System (DRS) then you may be anxiously awaiting the posting of grants that were forecasted on July 11, 2017. Currently, the grants are scheduled to go live on October 2, 2017, just nine weeks away.
If you’ve developed an application for Head Start (HS) or Early Head Start (EHS) funds in the past, then you know what a whirlwind the application period can be. The roughly eight-week turnaround time from the grant posting to applications being due goes very, very quickly. That’s why we recommend using the time before the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) posts to get the ball rolling.
If you intend to apply for one of the upcoming grants, here are some ways you can use your “pre-FOA” time strategically:
Determine your application development team and communicate with them. Gather your team or send an e-mail to the group letting them know the grant has been forecasted. Encourage them to put the start and end dates on their calendar. Ask them to let you, or whoever is overseeing proposal development, know if they foresee any barriers to being available for application development (e.g., time out of the office for vacation or training). Grants don’t always post as forecasted – sometimes earlier, sometimes later than anticipated. So, make sure you team knows these dates are tentative. While they’re a good starting point, they aren’t definite.
Start to sketch out your application development timeline. Take a look at when your Policy Council, Board, or other groups you will need to engage related to the application are currently scheduled to meet (between October 2 and December 1, 2017). Put these meetings on your application development timeline. If there’s a critical group that is not currently scheduled to meet during the application period then flag that on your to do list. Once the FOA posts and you know a definitive due date then you can schedule any necessary meetings with stakeholder groups.
Also, take a look at the 8-week application development time period and back into your due date. How many days in advance of December 1, 2017 do you want to upload your application? Prior to that, when do you need sign off on the final narrative? When will the first draft be prepared to allow adequate time for internal review? If you start at the end date, you can work backwards to figure when the key milestones need to take place.
Start gathering data and resources. After you back into your timeline you might realize that the turnarounds are tight. To help address this challenge we recommend starting now to gather data and information that will inform your application. There are many similarities between the applications for past rounds of DRS or other competitive HS/EHS grant opportunities. For example, applicants are almost always asked to write about demonstration of need. Start answering questions (and pulling together the data to back it up) such as, what is your service area, where is the greatest need (poverty, unemployment, community health disparities, etc.), what are the needs of children with disabilities, homeless children, and those in foster care? Many past FOAs also ask applicants to write about other available services in the service area, the numbers of eligible children, and how you work or will work with community partners to meet the needs of children and families.
If you’re currently implementing a HS or EHS program, how can you improve or what will look different in your proposal versus what you are implementing now? What is the data to back up your proposed program design? These are key questions that can take time to address. If you start having the conversations now then you’ll likely have an easier time during the application period when your team has to make final decisions and draft the proposal.
Also, consider what resources you have at your fingertips that can be used to support the application. For example, if your program recently completed its community assessment you will likely find data there that is requested in the FOA.
Think about partners and external stakeholders. As you engage your team internally, also think about whom you will need to be in touch with externally. Do you have existing partners whom you may ask for a letter of support for your proposal? Or, perhaps you have a new partner you want to collaborate with to meet a defined need in your community. Make a list of the people or organizations you’ll need to talk with once the FOA posts and why (i.e. letter of support, coordinating services).
We hope these tips for your pre-FOA time period useful! The FOAs will be posted before we know it and any steps you can take now to make the application period easier will be well worth it.
If your program intends to apply for one of the forecasted HS or EHS grants and needs assistance with the process or drafting a strong proposal please feel free to be in touch. Foundations for Families’ consultants have an exceptional success rate writing proposals for all rounds of DRS, and we would be glad to speak with you about your program’s needs.