There are 50 Head Start/Early Head Start grants forecasted to open for competition next month and many grantees are awaiting the posting of the Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFO). NOFOs are scheduled to post to on September 5, 2023, just three weeks away.

The roughly eight-week turnaround time from a NOFO posting to applications being due goes very quickly. Leveraging the “pre-NOFO” time strategically can help to set a program on a path to successful grant writing. Here are a few tips for how you might use the time.

Determine your application development team, including roles and responsibilities. Make sure the team knows the grant has been forecasted. Encourage team members to put the start and end dates on their calendars and block time for meetings, as needed. This is also a good time to discuss whether your program will need outside support. If your agency needs help from a grant writer, we recommend securing those services as soon as possible.

Sketch out your application development timeline. Determine when and how your Policy Council and Board will need to engage related to the application (e.g., input, approval). Put these meetings on your timeline. If there’s a critical group that is not currently scheduled to meet during the application period, flag that on your to do list. Once the NOFO posts and you know the application due date, you can schedule additional meetings with stakeholder groups. Grants don’t always post as forecasted – sometimes earlier, sometimes later than anticipated, so dates will be tentative.

Identify key milestones for application development. Consider, how many days in advance of the deadline do you want to upload your application? Prior to that, when do you need sign off on the final narrative and budget? 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 out when key milestones need to take place.

Begin program design and budget conversations. If you’re currently implementing a Head Start/Early Head Start program, how might your proposal look different from what you are implementing now? What is the data to back up your proposed program design? How much will the program cost to implement? These are 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.

Start gathering data and resources. Up-to-date data is essential for DRS grant writing. You will need data to demonstrate need in your service area and to justify the proposed program design and budget. Consider your program’s most recent community assessment; wage study; parent, staff, and community surveys; and other sources of data about your program (e.g., PIR). If your program needs assistance with data gathering, we can help by preparing a data summary that gives you all the data you’ll need for your application.

Think about partners and external stakeholders. As you engage your team internally, also think about who you will need to be in touch with externally. Consider existing partners that you might ask for a letter of support. Consider new partners 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 NOFO posts and why (e.g., letter of support, coordinating services).

We hope these pre-NOFO tips are useful! Does your program have the capacity to write your own grant application, but need help with the process? Consider Foundations for Families’ DRS Toolkit. The Toolkit provides resources to equip your program with a timeline, template, and process to successfully draft and submit a competitive proposal.

Foundations for Families offers a variety of Consulting Services to support competitive grant writing. If your program is interested to learn more, please be in touch. We have an exceptional success rate writing proposals for DRS, and we would be glad to speak with you about your program’s needs.

Thank you.

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