Summer Plans for School-Year Success with Grants!

Summer is here! For many school staff, this time of year often comes with a break from school duties or at least a lighter, more flexible schedule. Additionally, while some grants are open each summer, overall, summer tends to be a slower season for grant applications.

If you plan to apply for grants during the 2014-2015 school year, you may be wondering how you can best use summer flexibility to prepare before hectic school days resume. Here are 7 of the most important actions you can take over the summer months to get a jump-start on your application process that will increase your likelihood of being competitive and lighten your workload during the school year!

  • Gather and review data! While you obviously can't administer fitness testing or student surveys over the summer, you CAN administer assessments that must be completed by staff members. Examples of useful assessments include but aren't limited to: the School Health Index (SHI), which assesses policies, environment, and available health-related services and supports within each school; the Physical Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (PECAT), which assesses written Physical Education (PE) curricula compared to national PE standards;  and the Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT), which assesses written Health curricula compared to national Health education standards. You can also review and aggregate individual student fitness and BMI results collected during the previous school year into group results that make clear statements about overall needs.
  • Get administrators and other leaders on board! It's sometimes difficult to find time to have significant conversations of length and clout during the school year due to busy administrator and teacher schedules. Summer represents an opportunity for teachers and administrators to schedule more time to sit down and really talk through the problems facing their schools, how to address them, and where grants can fit in. Determine who should be part of the conversations, schedule a few times to meet over the course of the summer, and then diligently prepare for those meetings by pulling together lists of what you want and need to do and evidence demonstrating why those actions (and purchases) are needed. Contact your Polar Sales Rep for great information on products and services you can share as you make your case!
  • Build partnerships! As we've discussed on this site before, partnerships are critical to both scoring points on your grant application and actually being able to implement a project that will generate strong results. If you don't know who your partners will be yet, or you know but aren't sure how they will participate, use summer to connect with community organizations and programs to discuss common goals, identified target population needs, what each organization is able and willing to contribute to respond to those needs, and where funding is required for each organization to make those ideas reality.
  • List out specific project activity ideas! Moving from general ideas about how to address student needs to a specific and actionable plan can be a time-consuming and challenging process. In your free relaxed, moments on warm beaches or as you walk in the cool woods this summer, think about how specifically your project will address each identified need. What staff will be needed, and what will each staff member be responsible for? Which specific services or programs will be offered or expanded and what will those look like? What equipment and supplies will you need for each program? What types of staff training will be required for implementation? etc.
  • Learn about products, services, and organization policies and begin drafting your budget! Developing a solid grant budget that is specific to the individual applicant typically takes much longer than organizations anticipate. Use the extra time summer offers to learn about vendors and the products and services they offer (including Polar!). Be sure, too, to schedule time to talk with your business office about:
    • costs associated with hiring personnel (including both salary and benefit costs)
    • paying for subs to cover for staff attending trainings
    • how Equipment and Supplies must be defined and accounted for locally compared to federal grant definitions and what the plan will be for addressing differences in those definitions
    • any organization-defined travel rates such as per diem and mileage reimbursement rates
    • any rules about or state or local limitations on contracts
    • what the organization's approved restricted indirect cost rate is, whether indirect costs will be claimed, and if so, where to get a copy of the indirect cost rate proof
    • the organization's tax status and where to get a copy of the organization's tax status documentation
    • organization matching capabilities
    • organization procurement rules and policies
  • Prepare and accounts! If you plan to apply for a federal grant during the 2014-2015 school year, your organization will need to create and activate and accounts. These systems can be complicated and at times even quirky. As a result, these processes typically day many days or weeks, and sometimes longer. You'll need a high-level administrator to perform or at least participate in these processes, which will mean that person will need lots of availability to work on this. Make use of more flexible and less chaotic summer hours to tackle getting these accounts in order so you're ready to roll when applications open during the school year!
  • Identify grant programs to apply to! Researching and identifying grants that are good fits for your organization's type and needs and what you can commit to can require a significant amount of time. Use summer to learn about the range of opportunities available and make a tentative list and calendar of action items for the programs you think you'd like to apply to in the 2014-2015 school year. Then plan to check in on the websites and with the program managers for those grants throughout the year to ensure you don't miss the application periods. One great place to start this process is right here on the Polar Funding & Grants site at our Grant Research Reports page, where you'll find summaries of many, many grants that could potentially fund projects inclusive of Polar products and services!

Enjoy the sun while getting things done! :)

By Rosalie J. Mangino-Crandall