If your program submitted an application in DRS Round 8, with most applications due in November 2019, then you might be anxiously anticipating your notice of award. Typically, it is a few months until programs enter negotiations with the Office of Head Start (OHS). You might have heard from OHS that your application was received and will be reviewed. Now, the real waiting begins.

Most DRS Round 8 grants have a projected start date of July 1, 2020. If negotiations take place in the spring and awards are made by summer, that doesn’t leave a lot of time before the grant start date. Below are a few tips for how to use the time.

Provide status updates to staff. DRS can cause stress among staff and administrators. The uncertainty of the future of the program, particularly when there are known competitors for funds, can be unsettling. Be as clear as possible with staff about when you will have more information about the status of the DRS grant proposal. Share what you can, when you can, as it seems appropriate.

Be mindful of the potential impact on families. Enrolled families might know that the program is in DRS and submitted an application for funding. As with staff, consider communicating with parents of enrolled children about the status of the program. Let them know when you will have more information. This can be particularly important if your program proposed a change in program design – for example, moving from a model of only Head Start services to one that provides Head Start and Early Head Start.

Prepare a communications plan to execute upon award. Think about this as part of the roadmap to your new program design. When your grant is awarded, which groups of stakeholders will you need to communicate with? Governing body and Policy Council members, staff, families, and community partners are likely at the top of your list. These communications will be particularly important if you have a change in program design from what your agency has implemented in the past. Develop a plan for when and how you will roll out these communications and who will take the lead. Consider messaging and how it might be different for each stakeholder group.

Develop and follow a start up work plan. If your program budgeted funds for start up, now is a good time to develop your start up work plan. Revisit your proposed start up budget with fresh eyes. Determine the individual or team that will oversee start up activities. Begin by identifying your low-hanging fruit – what can you address quickly and easily? Then find the other areas that may take more effort, resources, or time. If you anticipate needing support with any of these more challenging items then seek support early in the process to ensure timely completion that keeps you in compliance with grant requirements.

Focus on “clean up” activities that bubbled up during the application phase. When preparing grant applications, programs pull information and data from a number of resources – agency reports, policies and procedures, and community assessment data to name a few. We find that, through the grant writing process, programs notice improvements that are needed in some of these source documents. For example, it might be that community assessment data or policies and procedures are out-of-date. While you’re waiting for your DRS award, consider using the time to revisit areas that bubbled up during your application period. Get policies, procedures, and data ready for your new grant period.

After your program goes through the grant negotiation phase there might be some aspects of your funded application that are different than what was initially proposed. If your program needs assistance planning for or navigating the start up period please be in touch. Reach out to learn more about the ways Foundations for Families can support your program.

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