The Title IV-A (Student Support & Academic Enrichment) grant focuses on three areas: well-rounded educational activities, safe and healthy students, and effective use of technology. Exciting news: Congress increased the Title IV-A federal appropriation for schools from $400 million for FY18 to $1.1 billion for FY19. This means more money for schools to improve school safety, healthy practices for students, technology, professional development for instructional staff and leaders, enrichment activities for students, and so much more. 2018 was the first year I had the privilege of working with a school to receive and manage these funds appropriately, and next year we will continue to improve student learning outcomes even more.
Omega Alpha Academy (OAA) is a rural K-12 charter school in Douglas, Arizona. I love working with them because instructional staff and administrators are passionate, skilled, and dedicated. Students are polite, enthusiastic, hardworking, and instructional staff hold high expectations for their achievement. Through Title IV-A funding, they have started weekly afterschool Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) enrichment activities. Instructional staff, administrators, assessment staff, science teachers, Instructional Leadership Team members, English Language learning staff, and the Special Education Coordinator (also a teacher) are involved in this STEM program, making it truly multidisciplinary. The theme for these activities is zoology and robotics, but the STEM activities incorporate all content areas. Older students naturally mentor and support their younger peers during these STEM events, and teamwork skills are practiced and essential to successful scientific implementation. Students are divided into five different groups: Panthers, Tigers, Pandas, Wildcats, and Triceratops.
Teacher: Why don’t we have webbing between our fingers and toes like frogs? Student: Well, I think babies are born with the webbing, but doctors cut it out. Priceless! This conversation occurred during one of the STEM afterschool activities which was a follow-up to the previous week’s frog dissecting lesson, where 53 students and numerous parents were involved. The lesson involved learning about adaptation, surface area, watching frog leg muscles in action jumping and swimming on videos, creating frog leg muscles using multi-color play dough, identifying muscle names, and working with frog foot webbing replica manipulatives. These replicas consisted of four popsicle sticks representing the frog foot with wax paper in between, and four popsicle sticks without wax paper. Students went outside and used both replicas to demonstrate how frogs swim in tubs of water, racing to see how much water could be moved into another tub with each replica. They excitedly discovered the valuable adaptation of webbing in frog feet, and why humans don’t need this webbing.
Other STEM activities include studying wild dog robots, robotic flying birds, building robots, keeping a scientific reflective journal, Cornell note taking, using the scientific method, and showcasing an individual or team STEM project. The OAA STEM course description is as follows. “Our students will have the opportunity to study the origin and development of animal species, the habits and behavior of animals, and the interaction between animals and their environment. They will also conduct research to learn how animal diseases develop and how traits are passed from generation to generation. They will study the physical characteristics of animals, animal behaviors, and the impacts humans have on wildlife and natural habitats. Our goal is to study the influence on behavior of specific animal societies by integrating computational mechatronic devices (robots) into those societies.”
Find out more about Title IV-A here. Resources from the Arizona Department of Education Title IV-A funding can be found here. With all the negativity surrounding public education and beliefs that federal grants make no impact on student achievement in our country, kudos to Omega Alpha Academy for proving those beliefs wrong.
What stories of Grant Funding in Action (#Grantswork) do you have to share? We’d love to hear! You can also see more of the stories our team has shared about the projects that they have been able to see personally in their communities for Grant Funding in Action stories here.
Note from Diane: The last post in our series about how grant writing is not a solo sport, but rather a team endeavor when looking for the greatest level of success, it’s time to look at more analogies for grant teams. Did you miss the previous posts? Check out Nicole Sibilski, GPC’s post, Grant Writing Isn’t a Solo Sport: When Life and Deadlines Compete, Bethany Turner, GPC’s post, Grant Writing Isn’t a Solo Sport: It’s a Lot Like Volleyball, and Briana Popek’s post, Grant Writing Isn’t a Solo Sport: Grant Professionals are the Quarterback.
The excitement is palpable when my daughter’s newly formed 7th grade volleyball team executes a strong play- digging, setting and spiking the ball back over the net. When they hold their own in a volley, they are required to constantly reassess their situation and respond as a team. It has taken them time and trust to get here, but now that they have- their confidence, happiness, and competitiveness has risen exponentially.
This teamwork is equally critical in grant development. There is no such thing as a (winning) proposal written in isolation. You need teammates that are strong in their roles- whether it is research, budgets, or program development- so you can play your part equally well and score for your organization.
We can take some inspiration and guidance on team-building from the UConn women’s basketball team. One of my favorite authors, Shawn Achor, sums up the winning strategy of UConn’s head basketball coach Geno Auriemma, “You could put Geno on any team at any company and he would keep on winning, because his entire philosophy is to construct a team of stars rather than pamper a superstar.” The nice thing about this is, none of us have to be superstars. We can be excellent teammates, and our organizations will reap the rewards. A supportive team is linked to greater workplace happiness, which decades of research show increases productivity, accuracy, and quality of life (Achor, 2011).
So, take some time out of your day today to cultivate your team of stars. Work on recruiting your team based on their strengths and passions. Bring a coffee to your resident “numbers cruncher” or send a note of appreciation to the creative thinker you like to bounce ideas off, reminding her how much you appreciate her. And remember, team members don’t have to just be paid staff members. They can include board members and other stakeholders well informed on the issues your grant is addressing.
Note from Diane: The third post in our series about how grant writing is not a solo sport, but rather a team endeavor when looking for the greatest level of success, it’s time to look at more analogies for grant teams. Did you miss the previous posts? Check out Nicole Sibilski, GPC’s post, Grant Writing Isn’t a Solo Sport: When Life and Deadlines Compete and Bethany Turner, GPC’s post, Grant Writing Isn’t a Solo Sport: It’s a Lot Like Volleyball.
“We’ll give you all the written materials and attachments, we just need you to quarterback the project.”
These words were spoken by a project director who brought me in to help her organization apply for state funding for a capital project last year. Written materials from a previous funded grant application were available, extensive attachments would be provided by architects and environmental firms, and another consultant experienced with this grant program offered to walk us through the application.
What does collaboration with a grant professional look like when there isn’t much to write? What exactly does it mean to “quarterback” an application? Can a “grant writer” not write?
“Grant writing” is a misnomer. Preparing a grant application is not *just* writing – it often includes research, program/project design, budget development, and project management. These elements are also essential parts of an organization’s grant readiness and grant seeking strategy before there is an application on the table. Given the variety of activities necessary to identify and prepare competitive applications, it is understandable that sometimes the collaboration between an organization and a grant professional, including internal grant professionals, will focus on project elements other than writing the project narrative.
Quarterbacking a grant application means serving as the project manager, a role which may include:
- Overseeing progress towards completing the many parts of the application, including facilitating meetings, keeping the grant team on track, and motivating and supporting the grant team during what can be a stressful process;
- Reviewing application and project components as they are developed to ensure that they meet the funder’s criteria;
- Adapting existing written materials to fit the requirements of the application – recycling narrative responses from previous grant applications or other written materials often still requires editing or rewriting to address the funder’s specific criteria or questions
- Monitoring the status of attachments that must be created, completed, or located;
- Helping the grant team understand grant requirements and processes;
- Ensuring consistency between the project narrative, budget, and attachments; and
- Communicating with the funder.
Grant development is a collaborative process, and “writing” is just one of many skills in grant professionals’ toolboxes. Having a grant professional manage the grant application, or “quarterback” it, can save busy organizational staff time and energy, share the responsibility of putting together the application, and bring knowledge and experience specific to the grant development process to the table.
What are some of the tools you use as a grant professional to help in quarterbacking a proposal?
Note from Diane: The second post in our series about how grant writing is not a solo sport, but rather a team endeavor when looking for the greatest level of success, it’s time to look at some analogies for grant teams. Did you miss the first post? Don’t forget to check out Nicole Sibilski’s post, Grant Writing Isn’t a Solo Sport: When Life and Deadlines Compete.
What do grant writing and volleyball have in common?
During upper elementary and middle school, I enjoyed playing volleyball. If you aren’t familiar with volleyball, here is a quick tutorial. A volleyball team has six members on the court at all times. The volleyball positions include serving specialist, setter, defense specialist, outside hitter, libero, middle blocker, right side, and even the coach. Each of these positions has specific roles and responsibilities to contribute to the overall goal of the team – winning. The volleyball players each have a specialty, but they rotate through the six positions on the court throughout each game and share the roles and responsibilities.
And now that you have had a quick tutorial about a volleyball, you are probably wondering how this applies to grant development. Grant writing isn’t a solo sport. It is most successful when completed as a team. At DH Leonard Consulting, we talk about grant teams on a very consistent basis because it is so important.
Like a volleyball team, a grant team has many positions – writer, organizational guru, researcher, numbers person, details person, ideas/creative thinker, and specialties. Each of these positions has specific responsibilities to the grant writing process and contribute to the overall goal of the grant team – being awarded the grant.
If a volleyball team only has five players out on the court, there is a good chance some of the responsibilities will not be covered and the ball will drop giving the other team the point. What happens if that one person becomes ill, is on vacation, or *gasp* leaves the organization?
Note from Diane: Our team is a constantly evolving team, focusing on gaining new skills to best support our clients. Our client teams are constantly evolving as well as we work to build their grant team capacity and grant readiness. As we talk about grant teams so frequently, we thought as a team, it would be fun to write a series of blog posts about how grant writing isn’t a solo sport.
Grant Professionals sometimes joke that they are on a “Team of One”. In many organizations, the grant activity falls upon the shoulders of one person. This includes writing, reporting, and keeping up with deadlines-the dozens of detail-oriented activities that require precise execution in order to achieve grant success. Many times, I have been that person, that Team of One juggling all of those moving parts. I reveled in it. There is a certain pride one has in taking on such responsibility. However, as I have grown in my role as a grant professional and, as I have experienced the gut-punching realities of adulthood, I realize that grant success mustn’t lie in the hands of one person.
Sometimes, deadlines and life just don’t mix. Aging parents, sick children, and your own health can overtake all of your time and mental energy in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, one can’t just call up the National Science Foundation and say, “Hey, both my kids have the flu, can I submit this $750,000 ask next Monday?” While your personal needs merit just as much importance as your organization’s funding needs, both must be addressed. After dealing with the unwanted collision of personal emergencies and professional deadlines, I have realized a few essentials to avoiding any professional disasters:
- Communication – Realizing you need help and asking for it are unbelievably difficult, especially for some people (like myself) who pride themselves on being able to handle it all. However, that self-awareness and honesty is the most vital thing you can do to ensure your grant program continues to run during times of personal crisis.
- Organization – Make sure that all required documentation, log-ins, passwords, notes, etc. are in a place where any relevant team member can access them. Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft Online are three great tools that will allow a user to save their work in a shared system and grant access to one or more users.
- Delegation and Teamwork – At DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, we work on a Scrum framework, where the team works individually and collaboratively on prioritized goals during a defined period of time. This allows the team the agility to provide support to other team members if needed. Having a team that works in concert to achieve a defined goal is essential to grant success.
Productivity expert David Allen once said, “You can do anything, but not everything.” Having the self-awareness to realize the limits of your professional and personal capacity is daunting and scary, but it is vital. Couple that wisdom with the practical components of teamwork, and your organization can enjoy grant success.
What tips do you have about how you think big picture about grant writing as a team sport, not a siloed activity? We’d love to hear! Share your thoughts in the comments below.