Pre-Award Grants Management
Although the actual mechanics of grant administration will likely be delegated by you to on-staff grant specialists, the responsibility to manage a successful granting agency are ultimately yours alone. The greatest care must be exercised in this arena, as the successful administration of the grant funds entrusted to your agency may well be the most important task associated with the position. By using the suggestions outlined in this module and those found in the links provided, you will be exercising the diligence necessary to achieve success.
As discussed in this section, monitoring and auditing of your sub-grantees are necessary and critical to not only your agency’s success, but also, to the success of your sub-grantees and to the state as a whole. The next section will detail the steps that you as the SAA should take to ensure effective monitoring and auditing by your staff, what monitoring and auditing you should expect from OJP and the ethical considerations that should be taken into account.
Notice of Availability or Funding Opportunity Announcement
The Notice of Availability (NOA) or Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) places the entire sub-grant process into motion. Whether your state (or particular grant process) uses a concept paper method or directs applicants to proceed directly to an application, it is the announcement of funds being available for a particular purpose or set of purposes that initiates the process. Care needs to be taken to assure that all pertinent federal requirements; those that might prompt or discourage prospective applicants - are addressed. The statement need not be long, but it must be inclusive. At a minimum it should include narratives clearly stating the purpose of the funds to be distributed, the amount available, the award period, whether match is required or simply encouraged (and if so, whether hard/cash match or soft/in kind match), eligibility requirements, types of programs to be funded and those specifically excluded. It is also advisable to state any special requirements and the mandated reporting requirements. Later in the award process this announcement will likely be referred to for clarifications on decisions that your staff made, making an inclusive announcement crucial. Finally, this announcement should give a clear pointer to the application itself.
The careful drafting of the Notice of Funding Availability is the foundation for all other actions. In addition to the pertinent federal requirements, it should clearly and concisely state the intended local purpose (i.e. to help procure needed technology; to provide support for victims of domestic violence, etc.) The NOFA is also the source document that the grant reviewers will use to conduct fair and equitable evaluations of the applications.
Integrating Evaluations into RFPs
Incorporating evaluation into a Request for Proposal (RFP) has many benefits for both the grantor and potential grantees. As a program funder, you want program managers to think about evaluation as an integral part of the program planning and design process. They need to understand that evaluation is not only important to you, but it is mandatory if they want funding. An RFP that clearly lays out the evaluation elements expected of grantees requires them to think from the beginning about the results they are trying to achieve and how their daily program activities contribute to those results. Requiring grantees to document this information for a wider audience also makes them think more precisely not only about what they are doing, but also about how to demonstrate that their program benefits the people or community it is supposed to serve.
In most cases, incorporating evaluation into the RFP process means requiring potential grantees to submit an evaluation plan as part of their proposal. What information should be included in this evaluation plan is up to each grant making office. Below are seven potential steps that grant program managers can implement into their RFPs.
Define the problem. As the grantor, you must first require that the grantees clearly identify the nature and scope of the problem their program is designed to address. The program must provide data that document how widespread the problem is, whether it is getting worse, and whether it affects certain groups more than others.
Implement research-based programming. The program being considered for funding represents the grantee’s proposed solution to the problem identified in Step 1. Your RFP needs to indicate that you will fund initiatives that either: (a) have been demonstrated to be effective in solving this problem in other locations; or (b) are promising approaches to solving the problem, in the sense that they are supported by theory or previous research. The RFP should contain information about these effective approaches or should provide a list of resources that can be used by grantees to find this information.
Create a program logic model. Grant applicants must be able to explain what they will be doing and how their program will address the problem they are attempting to solve. They should be able to identify the program’s goals, objectives and activities, and be able to state how each activity supports a particular objective, and how each objective contributes to achieving the program’s goal(s). The result of this process is often referred to as a “logic model.” The RFP should describe how to develop logic models or refer grantees to this information and should, if possible, provide a preferred format. This will help both the program and funder understand why the program and its activities, processes and interventions will address the defined problem as described in step one.
Develop measures. After the relationships between the program’s goals, objectives, and activities are defined, program managers should develop a set of measures or indicators that can be used to assess how well the goals and objectives have been met. Requiring potential grantees to document performance measures as part of the grant application process encourages them to think very specifically about how they will demonstrate that what they are doing is having the intended impact.
Collect and analyze data. Once program measures are in place, grantees must collect data that will show whether the program’s objectives have been met. The RFP should require grantees to explain how they will implement the measures they identified (for example, administering surveys to juveniles or requiring counselors to complete rating scales). Once the data are collected, they will need to be analyzed and reported. By requiring grantees as part of the application process to demonstrate how they will do this, you help ensure that they will have the necessary knowledge and resources to actually implement their proposed evaluation plan.
Report findings. The RFP should require grant applicants to state that they will report the results once the data they collect about their program’s performance has been analyzed. These reports do not have to be complex or extensive. For example, grantees could list their goals, objectives, and activities, then present their data showing whether they met their objectives at the end of the grant period. It is important that grantees understand they will be required to summarize what they have learned about the effectiveness of their program.
Reassess program logic. If grantees follow the steps outlined above, they will accumulate a sizeable amount of information about their program’s characteristics and operations. These evaluation findings will become a useful tool for programs to fine-tune activities, add or change specific objectives, and identify more accurate measures of program performance. The RFP should encourage program managers to report how they have used evaluation information to improve their program’s functioning. This report can, in fact, be part of the program’s funding proposal for the following year.
To learn more about this topic as well as about fine-tuning your new RFP and educating potential grantees about the new RFP process, please reference Incorporating Evaluation into the Request for Proposal (RFP) Process, the fifth publication in the Justice Research and Statistics Association's Juvenile Justice Evaluation Center Program Evaluation Briefing Series.