Applications Sought for Financial Literacy, Education Projects

Private Funder: BBVA Compass Foundation (formerly Compass Bank Foundation); Opportunity: Community Giving grants; Funding Focus: Education, youth, arts and culture; Geographic Focus: Communities where BBVA Compass Bank has a presence (AL, AZ, CO, FL, NM, NY, PR, and TX); Eligibility: Nonprofits; Funding: Varies, the foundation has $1.5 billion in assets and distributed $5.5 million in grants last year; Continue reading

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Group Provides Support for Autism Community Service Programs

Private Funder: Autism Speaks; Opportunity: Family Services Local Grants; Funding Focus: Education, recreation, community activities and young adult services; Geographic Focus: National; Eligibility: Nonprofits; Funding: $5,000 to $25,000 for multiple awards; Deadline: Sept. 28.

Summary: Funding supports efforts to change the future for those with autism spectrum disorders.

The organization’s Family Services Grants support programs that build the field of services for individuals with autism. The grants support efforts to increase the capacity of service providers, broaden recreation and athletic programs for individuals with autism spectrum disorders and improve their pre-vocational and vocational training opportunities.

School districts are eligible to apply for grants, although they do not receive a priority, officials tell us. Local Grants are divided into Chapter, Regional, and Neighborhood Grants, depending on the location of the service providers.

Successful applicants are expected to use grant funding to support new programs or expansion of existing programs, she says.

Other Grants

These are different from the organization’s community grants, which run on a different funding cycle.

Info: http://tinyurl.com/7m3qf8y  or 917/475-5059

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DoEd Approves NCLB Waiver Renewals for Seven More States

The Education Dept. (DoEd) has approved seven states — Alaska, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Tennessee and Utah – for continued flexibility from the most onerous provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

These states are implementing comprehensive, state-designed plans to ensure student success.

“The last six years have seen dramatic progress for America’s school children. The high school dropout rate is down, and graduation rates are higher than they have ever been,” said Education Secy. Arne Duncan. “As a result of our partnerships with state and district leaders to couple flexibility with reform, we are seeing remarkable strides and bold actions to improve student outcomes.”

Since the first NCLB waivers were granted in 2012, the department has partnered with state and district leaders to provide relief from some provisions of NCLB in exchange for taking bold actions to improve student outcomes and ensure equity for all students. Under NCLB, schools were given many ways to fail but very few opportunities to succeed. The law forced schools and districts into one-size-fits-all solutions, regardless of the individual needs and circumstances in those communities.

Under the flexibility plans, states continue to focus funding on comprehensive, rigorous interventions in their lowest-performing schools and supports to help the neediest students meet high expectations alongside their peers. States also have spent money on improving teacher and principal effectiveness across the country with evaluation and support systems that are used for continual improvement of instruction and provide clear, timely and useful feedback, including feedback that identifies needs and guides professional development, DoEd said.

The waivers provide an additional four years of flexibility for Tennessee, and three years of flexibility for Alaska, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey and Oregon. As requested by Utah’s State Office of Education, the state is receiving a one-year renewal.

Each state has its own plan.

For example:

  • The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development has created a system where expert mentors and state staff work closely together to ensure that Alaska’s lowest performing schools and districts are receiving the additional supports they need to help students become college- and career-ready.
  • Indiana has developed and posted on its website a series of tutorial videos that model best practices and support its teachers to set and implement college- and career-ready goals for their students.
  • The waivers have allowed Maryland to make additional resources available to low-performing schools, and they are getting additional help as a result of coordinated interventions and services through the State’s Breakthrough Center, which works closely with the state’s priority schools to identify the and magnitude of a school’s needs.
  • New Jersey has implemented several innovative support structures, such as partnerships with higher education for teacher training and student preparedness, as well as program grants to foster family-school partnerships. These structures are intended to not only support the general K-12 student population but also to target the unique needs of English learners, students with disabilities and students living in poverty.

Forty-two states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have received flexibility from the burdens of the existing law in order to support improved achievement in schools. All states up for renewal have submitted a request to extend their flexibility and Nebraska requested a waiver from the law for the first time ever.

In addition to the states being announced today, the Department has renewed flexibility for Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

Info: http://tinyurl.com/nao88tr

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DoEd Needs Better Oversight of $35M Teacher Prep Grants

The Education Dept. (DoEd) needs to do a better job monitoring a $35 million program that helps improves teacher preparation and enhance K-12 student achievement, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office.

DoEd is doing a poor job in making sure that state preparation programs are keeping bad teachers from entering the classroom, the report said. DoEd should develop a risk-based, cost-effective strategy to verify that states are implementing a process for assessing whether any teacher preparation programs are low-performing.

Last year, DoEd awarded 24 grants as part of the $35 million in Teacher Quality Partnership competition. The winners were pledged to improve teacher preparation primarily for science, technology, engineering, and math teachers. GAO noted that other programs also helped in teach prep, like the Transition to Teaching grant program also provides grants to recruit and retain teachers in high-need, the Race to the Top Fund, the Investing in Innovation Fund, and the Supporting Effective Educator Development program.

DoEd Problems

GAO revealed that the entire process is a mess. To get the federal grants, states must verify that they are assessing whether the programs are low-performing. Seven states reported to GAO that they do not have a process to do so. State officials who reported not having a process in GAO’s survey cited several reasons, including that they believed other oversight procedures were sufficient to ensure quality.

On top of that, federal education officials told GAO they have not verified states’ processes to identify low-performing programs. DoEd missed opportunities to share information about teacher prep quality internally and with state oversight entities, the report said. Federal internal controls standards highlight the value of effective information-sharing with internal and external stakeholders. However, DoEd does not have mechanisms in place to promote regular, sustained information-sharing among its various program offices that support teacher prep quality because the workgroup that used to facilitate such information-sharing was discontinued, the report said.

Without such a mechanism, DoEd cannot fully leverage information about teacher prep quality gathered by its various programs.

Further, DoEd’s current efforts to share information about teacher prep quality with states only reach about a third of states, according to GAO’s survey, although about half of all states reported that they wanted more of such information. DoEd officials acknowledged that more could be done to share information with states and other stakeholders. Without such efforts, DoEd may miss opportunities to support state efforts to improve teacher prep quality, the report said.

GAO recommended that DoEd do a better job in monitoring the state programs as well as develop and implement mechanisms to systematically share information about teacher preparation program quality. The department agreed with the recommendations.

Info: http://tinyurl.com/nzfzvl3

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Advocates Push for Additional Funding to Reach More Disadvantaged Youth, Minorities

Lawmakers should increase funding programs that provide services for vulnerable youth, including young men of color and those disconnected from school and work, to keep young people connected and put them on a career or college path, advocates say.

Arbitrary sequester caps continue to produce anemic federal budgets, which means the core programs on which low-income people depend are flat or shrinking, according to a new white paper from the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).

Proposed congressional funding bills for FY 2016 would continue this trend, making cuts to workforce and education programs. Since 2008, Department of Labor Youth Activities funding has decreased by nearly 15%. Communities of color have been hit especially hard by disinvestment; youth of color, particularly vulnerable youth, simply don’t have the resources they need to succeed, the paper said.

For example, the national on-time high school graduation rate has risen to 81%—a 6.3% increase since 2010. However, unpacking this data by race reveals severe disparities in who’s graduating. Students of color are less likely to finish school within four years. And, 75% of Latino students, 75% of African American students, and 70% of American Indian students graduate from high school, compared to 87% of White students.

The federal budget’s spending levels are based on sequester caps; as a result, even the most modest increases require offsets in other areas. Congress and the president must lift funding caps, so that significant investments can be made in programs that help low-income families, the paper said.

Info: http://tinyurl.com/nwf3996

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Bill Would Strengthen Important Child Nutrition Efforts

A Senate bill would ease eligibility for an important Agriculture Dept. (USDA) child-nutrition program and provide $100 million in state grants to make it more streamlined and easier to administer.

The Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act, sponsored by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA)  would make significant improvements to the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) (CFDA Number: 10.574), that provides meals to more than three million children each day who are in Head Start, Early Head Start and related child care programs. The bill would also authorize $20 million for capacity building grants.

In some states, the program also provides an important connection to home-based child care providers, including family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) caregivers, who may be isolated and have limited access to quality supports. CACFP reimburses caregivers for meals and snacks served to children in child care centers, preschools, family child care homes, after-school programs, and homeless shelters. The program includes regular visits to child care providers, as well as educational resources on healthy eating and good nutrition.

The Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Improvement Act would:

  • Reduce the CACFP area eligibility test from 50% to 40% eligible to streamline access to healthy meals for young children in child care;
  • Allow child care centers and homes the option of providing a third meal service (typically, supper or an afternoon snack) for children who are in care for eight or more hours daily;
  • Increase CACFP reimbursements by 10 cents per meal type per tier to reduce participation declines and improve nutrition;
  • Increase the Administrative Reimbursement Rate for CACFP sponsoring organizations by $5 per family child care home per month and protect rates from negative cost-of-living adjustments to sustain participation of family child care providers;
  • Continue funding for the ongoing five-year cycle of child care and CACFP nutrition and wellness study authorized in the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act; and,
  • Authorize the continuation of the congressionally mandated CACFP paperwork reduction initiative, which includes a focus on maximizing the effective use of technology.

Info: http://www.casey.senate.gov/

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Collaboration, Partnerships Can Extend Funding Dollars

We at The Grant Advisors have always been big fans of partnerships, whether they are public-private or as simply a collection of private organizations. The essential advice here is to diversify your local funding stream to make sure you have adequate resources if one funder dries up and disappears.

And, under the Obama administration, the feds have been pushing collaboration and partnerships in the federal Request for Proposal (RFP) process.  Such insistence on collaboration is starting to show up in private RFPs as well.

Each prospective partner has unique reasons for participating in a public-private partnership for youth programs. Recognizing these reasons makes it easier to understand how and why partnerships are able to mobilize public and private resources to improve and expand supports, services, and opportunities for youth.

10 Steps to Better Public-Private Partnerships

  1. Have clear goals — Collectively defining goals gives all partners ownership of the partnership. This increases the likelihood that partners will stay committed.
  2. Focus on results and measure progress — Defining and setting benchmarks of success are an important way to measure your progress but also to identify challenges and make smart decisions, based on how and where the initiative is going.
  3. Involve youth and families in developing programs — Engaging youth and families in planning and evaluating programs helps ensure partnerships achieve their purpose and maintain high quality services. They can also ensure that they’re culturally appropriate and meeting the needs of communities.
  4. Engage diverse stakeholders from the start — Establishing a diverse stakeholder group (youth, parents, non-profits, and other community groups, as well as business and foundation leaders and local government representatives) helps gain broader public and private support.
  5. Rely on community champions for support — Cultivating key champions (religious and other community and non-profit leaders, government officials, foundations, and business leaders) can bring stronger interest and visibility to your initiative, both through media and other public events.
  6. Establish clear governance structures — Whether relying on existing leadership or developing new governing structures (either new non-profit entities or temporary bodies, such as committees, commissions, or advisory boards) partnerships benefit from defined roles and communication and decision making processes.
  7. Adapt to changing conditions — Being flexible enough to take advantage of changing conditions or resources could mean adapting your partnership’s scope to take advantage of new local, state, or federal funding.
  8. Enable all partners to benefit — Draw on the strengths of individual members while remaining sensitive to the different corporate, government, or community cultures. When all partners perceive they have something to gain, they remain actively involved.
  9. Work to maintain momentum and sustain your efforts — Celebrate even the small successes and generate public awareness and media attention whenever possible. It’s also important to plan for financial sustainability and to recognize that dedicated staff may be needed to support your partnership, both initially and over time.
  10. Support like-minded community partners — Remain aware of and connected to the work of other community partners to enable the partnership to use resources more efficiently. Youth, families and communities benefit from coordinated efforts.

The most successful partnerships accommodate the motivations underlying partners’ participation and shape partnership goals and activities to benefit all partners.

Info: http://capitalworkforce.org/, Capital Workforce Partners has more tips on partnerships.

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When It Comes to Online Fundraising, Just Think KISS; Keep It Simple, Stupid

Grant Guru is a monthly feature in which we talk answer the outstanding questions in the field of fundraising. It is part of our continuing effort to enhance our coverage.

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Dear Grant Guru: We are starting an online Web-based fundraising appeal. Do you have any suggestions on the best way to start? This is our first time.

Grant Guru: Launching an online funding appeal can seem daunting. It’s really not. While organizations’ approaches to online fundraising can vary based on mission, staff resources and constituent base, every online fundraising program should have four basic goals.

They are: make people aware of your organization, get people to care about your organization, encourage people to support your organization and keep people connected to your organization.

Here are 10 quick tips that will help you reach these goals and get the results you want.

  1. Drive traffic. Never pass up an opportunity to gather e-mail addresses at your functions or to encourage people to register at your Web site—even if they don’t donate—so you can continue to cultivate them. In your offline publications, highlight your Web site and the benefits of donating online
  2. Know your audience. Who do you hope will donate to your organization? Keep in mind their age, technological comfort level, and Internet connection when creating an online fundraising presence. A Web site heavy on graphics and presentations, for example, may turn off a potential donor connecting via a slower connection.
  3. Maintain your brand. Your online identity and message should reflect your offline identity and message, since that’s the brand with which your constituents identify. It is important to maintain consistency among all communication channels.
  4. Stay fresh. View your Web site as a high-impact marketing and communications tool. Keep it updated. This demonstrates that your organization continues to have relevance and an impact.
  5. Make it easy. While a Web site should tell about the nonprofit’s mission through vivid graphics and inspiring stories, it also must allow both casual browsers and frequent visitors to donate to the organization.
  6. Be clear, be brief. Articulate your organization’s mission on your home page. Individuals’ attention spans are much shorter on the Internet than they are reading through a brochure or an annual report—especially if it is on a site they have stumbled onto. You have a short window of time to “sell” your organization to these types of visitors and don’t want to lose their attention.
  7. Get personal. If you don’t personalize e-mail, you should. Each online interaction is an opportunity to learn more about his or her interests, which you can use to personalize communications. Also, work on achieving the right tone. You wouldn’t just take a direct-mail letter and slap it into an e-mail message any more than you would put a phone-a-thon script in an envelope and mail it.
  8. Make it interactive. Think of online fundraising as building an online community. Provide people the opportunity to sign up to volunteer on your Web site. Allow donors to post messages and publicly share their reasons for giving.
  9. Keep track. Measure e-mail response to find out what to do more of—and what to stop doing. Here’s one approach: Split your e-mail list into two groups and mail the same content to both groups using different subject lines. Then, see which version is opened more frequently. Another idea: Experiment with story order in your e-newsletter, and track click-throughs to see which story gets more response. Look for software that will allow you to track click-throughs on e-mails and Web pages and test the effectiveness of e-mail messages so you can learn what’s most effective.
  10. Stay flexible & adapt. Some people want to mail a check. Others want to charge their donation by phone. Still others want to give online. Provide an array of easy-to-use options so that your donors can choose the means they like best.

Info: Contact Editor Frank Klimko at Fklimko@cdpublications.com

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Funding

NCLB’s maintenance of effort mandates require states to keep their own spending to a certain level in order to tap federal funds. And federal money can’t replace state and local dollars. In general Title I funds have to be targeted to low-income kids.

The House bill would repeal maintenance of effort, which calls for states and districts to keep up their own spending at a certain level in order to tap federal funds. But it would keep the “supplement-not-supplant” rule, which essentially says that federal funds can’t replace state and local dollars. And any school that gets Title I money could use it to run a program that benefits all children, even if fewer than 40% of the students are in poverty. Continue reading

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Opt-Out

House and Senate Republicans want opt-out provisions that allows students’ ability to refuse to take the mandated tests without their schools and states being penalized. The Education Dept. now requires that schools test at least 95% of their students or else face potential monetary sanctions. Language in the House bill would eliminate the 95% requirement, but such a provision is not included in the Senate bill. Continue reading

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