Saturday, January 15, 2011
By Vince Siragusa
As the new calendar and fiscal year 2011 begins, many grant programs are being reminded that they are only as valuable as the actual projects they support. Those consistently lacking results often find their government appropriations dwindle, if not dry up entirely. With everyone positioning their stake for a finite, albeit ever-growing level of federal funding, many grantmaking agencies demonstrate their value by leveraging investments in various projects that represent not only immediate community benefits but also the greatest potential for a long-term return on investment. Grantseekers therefore have an opportunity in the new year to strike while the iron is hot. Savvy applicants will likely consider one of the following project components in their FY2011 applications.
To various degrees, grant makers have always targeted applications built around creative ideas, measurable results and project deployment that holds the greatest potential for sustainability. You may have noticed in the last few years that proposals built on collaborative efforts seem almost prerequisite for many grant funders. It is reasonable to expect that a partnership between various project-oriented organizations will facilitate the greatest return on investment. Resources can be shared, purchase duplication can be avoided, and lessons learned can be mirrored by other collaborators.
In much the same way that the value of partnerships should be respected, applicants should not overlook other important training-related details and questions. How will you extract the greatest benefit from the procured solutions? How will training for that equipment be structured and recorded? Who will be targeted for training and how often? Who will perform the training and how will people know when they are adequately trained? These are some of the issues that should be addressed in a narrative that will help put the grant maker’s mind at ease.
Many of us are comforted to know that most job duties allow for a certain degree of “hands on learning” and “learning as you go.” While it’s difficult to argue this long-term training model as unsuccessful, be aware that grant funders might not be as patient with their timelines. With the average grant performance period of 12-24 months, grant makers want their support to impact the recipient and associated community in real time. Inasmuch as “shovel ready projects” have become buzzwords now part of the grant community’s vernacular, training that allows for comprehensive and immediate project deployment continues to warrant additional consideration as well.
Perhaps train-the-trainer methodologies will continue to gain relevance in addressing training needs. This process refers to training specifically tailored for a person who will in turn train others on equipment, software, and educational materials. While this method is nothing new for some, consider relating the benefits of this process and citing its relevance in your own grant projects. The training efficiency and flexibility offered through this process may help your project and application stand apart from the others.
To explore this point further, we can look at a program like FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG). The guidance document states “DHS has determined that the most benefit is derived from training that is instructor-led and hands-on and that leads to a nationally sanctioned or State certification. Therefore, applications focused on national or State certification training, including train-the-trainer initiatives, will receive a higher competitive rating.”
Not every program is as clear as AFG with their stated focus on certifications and training. However, as operational needs evolve and process improvements are identified, so too must we explore the possibility of solidifying training methods in response to those needs. Bringing new ideas and innovative approaches to project deployment and training should only help you garner grant support in 2011 and beyond.