Are you interested in becoming a Grant Champion? If you have ideas, but are confused or unsure about how to go about applying for or managing a grant, the content below will help point you in the right direction.
Seven ways grants have transformed Virginia Western
Grants are about money, yes.
Over $2.5 million in grants were awarded to Virginia Western between 2015 and 2016, to be exact. But grants are really about ideas and innovation. They help us improve existing programs, imagine new projects, and force us to get out of our comfort zones to work across departments and with other organizations.
They help us change so we can continue to change the lives of our students.
In this video, we explain how the following grants, both big and small, have transformed Virginia Western.
$1,500 – Paul Lee Workshop Mini-Grant
Thanks to this mini-grant, Dr. Carrie Halpin presented a one-day instructional technology workshop to Virginia Western, New River and Central Virginia community college faculty and staff.
$20,000 – MentorLinks: Improving Biotechnology Education
Funder: American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) & National Science Foundation (NSF)
Assistant biology professor Stacie Deaver created a new Career Studies Certificate in Biotechnology with the help of the MentorLinks Advancing Technological Education program, which is designed to help colleges develop or strengthen technician training programs in STEM fields.
$108,360 – On-Ramp
Funder: VCCS and WIOA
The On-Ramp grant program, under the direction of Virginia Western project coordinator Michelle Penn, is designed to help dislocated workers upgrade their skills and improve their chances of career success. This program provides eligible students with free tuition, books, and supplies as they pursue a non-credit program toward an industry-recognized certification. Examples include high-demand fields such as truck driving (Commercial Driver’s License) and welding.
$516,886 – C2C: Credentials to Careers
Funder: Department of Labor (TAACCCT)
This $12 million U.S. Department of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant (TAACCCT) grant was awarded to a national consortium of seven community colleges, which included NOVA and VWCC. The purpose was to address the changes in the economic and employment outlook in the STEM fields, particularly with the unemployed and displaced worker populations. This innovative community-based partnership project, modeled after the C4 initiative, has afforded Virginia Western the opportunity to provide Microsoft Office Specialist Training with a healthcare emphasis — and certification — at the Goodwill Industries of the Valleys Inc.’s Melrose Jobs Campus. The culture of trust, collaboration and support between Virginia Western and Goodwill has offered opportunities to expand workforce training programs at the Melrose campus, including Industrial Maintenance. This partnership has given Virginia Western the opportunity to reach and serve new students, access support services leading to better employment outcomes, and Goodwill the opportunity to provide higher quality training and credentials, meet business needs, and better employment outcomes.
The partnership has been so successful that the Aspen Institute published “Working Together and Making a Difference: Virginia Western Community College and Goodwill Industries of the Valleys Partnership Case Study Report.”
$787,849 – PACE-ME
Funder: National Science Foundation
PACE-ME, which stands for Partnership for Advanced Career Education in Mechatronics Engineering, is a nearly $800,000 grant from the National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education program (NSF-ATE). The primary goal of the project is to strengthen Mechatronics technician training pathways from secondary to post-secondary education through a direct link from industry to the classroom. The grant also funded the creation of the engineering FABLAB, which features multiple 3D printers, laser engravers and cutters, an injection molding machine, a sign cutter, a high-resolution NC milling machine for circuit boards and precision parts, and more. Mechatronic program head Dan Horine is the project director.
$1.4 million over 5 years – Pathways: Student Support Services
Funder: Department of Education (TRIO)
Virginia Western’s Pathways project is funded by a $1.4 million grant from the Department of Education’s federal TRIO program. The latest Student Support Services grant was awarded in 2015 and will continue until 2020. The mission is to support 250 disadvantaged students — including low-income, first-generation and students with disabilities — with extra academic advising, career counseling and activities, including transfer trips to four-year schools. Angela Hairston-Niblett is the project director.
Community College Innovation Challenge (CCIC)
This national competition — a partnership between the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) — aims to foster development of innovation skills in STEM-related fields. Out of 10 finalists from across the country, Virginia Western tied for second place with the team’s project that proposes a mechanical way to recover apples that can produce an environmentally friendly biofuel, allowing more efficient use of U.S. orchards and new economic opportunities for apple producers. (Watch the video: “When the Apple Falls”). The students and Amy White, Dean of STEM, attended a four-day innovation “boot camp” in Washington, D.C., where they presented the project to members of Congress and legislative staff. While this isn’t considered a traditional grant, it was made possible through communication with the grants office.
Three tendencies of true Grant Champions
Hello, Grant Champion. Just by watching this video, you’ve shown potential for funding greatness. Everyone starts with baby steps.
One of the most important things to understand about the grants process is your role as a project director. Think of yourself as the aspiring Olympic athlete and the grants office as your coach. We can help you meet your goals, but YOU are the competitor. We’ll sweat with you and cheer you on … but you have to be willing to do the work.
And winning a grant is only the first leg of the marathon. Ask yourself: Can you commit to a multi-year project? Are you prepared to keep track of a budget and manage the minutiae?
Before you get started, see if you share these three tendencies of Grant Champions:
- They are enthusiastic team players, open to new ideas and working across departments.
- They are organized, which includes keeping up with some paperwork, lots of details and critical deadlines.
- They communicate: They are not afraid to ask questions and keep the grants office in the loop throughout the life of the grant.
Do you have what it takes to become a Grant Champion? We’re excited to get started … so let’s go!
Don’t have time for grants? 5 ways the grants office can help!
You don’t have time, we don’t have time … so we’ll just cut to the chase and show you how the grants office can help you MAKE time for these important projects that can transform our community and your career.
- Where to find grants? Simply tell us about your funding need or project idea. We can help brainstorm some solutions and be on the lookout for grant opportunities that would make a good fit.
- Secrets to success: You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We can provide examples of successful grant proposals to help get you started … and help you avoid spinning wheels.
- Planning the budget: Putting together the budget is arguably the most important — and time-consuming — part of your proposal. The grants office can help you navigate the process.
- We proofread and edit: We can review your application, polish the writing and make sure everything is submitted correctly. We can also review your reports throughout the life of the grant, so you’ll always have an extra set of eyes.
- Checkpoints: Once your grant is funded, our office will schedule regular meetings to keep the project on track and to ensure the college is following all rules and regulations.
12 places to find grants
One of the most frequent questions we get in the grants office is: Show me the money! Where can I find the grants?
We can tell you that there are plenty of opportunities out there, but you have to do a little digging
- Your peers
First, it might be as simple as talking to your colleagues, both in your department at Virginia Western and elsewhere.
- Professional groups
You could also research the professional associations in your subject matter area for examples of grant-funded projects.
- Virginia Western Educational Foundation, Inc.
One of the best ways to achieving grant glory is to start small. For starters, look for funding opportunities within our own school. The Virginia Western Educational Foundation offers Innovation Grants each spring. Faculty and staff are invited to propose innovative projects, novel approaches and creative activities that support the college’s mission.
- The VCCS
Virginia’s Community Colleges offers two types of grants through its Office of Professional Development: The Paul Lee Professional Development Grant can help pay for developing a course, collaborating with another school or the community, or travel to a professional conference. The Paul Lee Workshop Mini-Grant can help you organize a workshop or meeting for your colleagues.
- Foundation for Roanoke Valley
Applying for local grants will also help your chances of getting funded. The Community Foundation Serving Western Virginia awards grants for innovation solutions to help solve community problems. Funding a campus food pantry or student resource center might make a good proposal, for example.
- The Grantsmanship Center
At the state level, the Grantsmanship Center features a list of the top grantmaking foundations in Virginia. Find the list at www.tgci.com/funding-sources.
- The Nyquist report
The Thomas and Corinne Nyquist Foundation provides a free, web-based list of federal funding opportunities for two-year colleges. A new list is posted by the 15th of each month at www.nyquistfdtn.org.
The federal government offers a one-stop shop for all of its available grants programs at www.grants.gov. Note that most of the grants awarded to Virginia Western so far have been from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Department of Education. Each of those agencies has a website with plenty of resources available.
- Foundation Center
Not only does Foundation Center offer free webinars on the grant proposal process, but it features FDO quick Start, a free online search of all 100,000 United States foundations. The grants office subscribes to Foundation Center, so if more in-depth information is necessary, we can help. Start searching at foundationcenter.org.
- American Association of Community Colleges
You will find lots of ideas for grant-funded projects through the American Association of Community Colleges (www.aacc.nche.edu). Keep up with trends, community college data and other resources by bookmarking the Community College Daily, the AACC’s online newspaper, available at www.ccdaily.com.
Have you asked your friendly reference librarian for help? Check out the resources available in Virginia Western’s own Brown Library.
- The Grants Office
Finally, keep up with the latest sources of funding with Virginia Western’s Grants Development and Special Projects office. We can keep an eye out for funding opportunities specific to your idea. Bookmark www.virginiawestern.edu/grants to find the latest updates.
Ignore this step, and kiss your grant chances goodbye!
Jargon buster! How to speak the grant language like a pro.
Don’t be intimidated by the strange words you’ll find in grant applications and in your discussions with the grants office. We’ll have you speaking like a Grant Champion in no time.
Let’s start with the acronyms. Some of the most common you’ll hear include:
- RFP: This stands for “Request For Proposal.” Think of it as the grant’s formal invitation for applications, and it should have all of the instructions you need to apply.
- NSF: or the National Science Foundation, has awarded Virginia Western several high-profile grants in the last few years, and we expect our relationship will continue to grow. The NSF funds about a quarter of all federally supported research by America’s colleges and universities, and grants can be found in fields like engineering, math, computer science, economics and the social sciences.
- PI: or Principal Investigator, which is usually a faculty member who submitted the proposal and who’s responsible for managing the grant. You most often hear PIs and Co-PIs associated with NSF and NIH grants, short for National Institutes of Health.
- IRB: which refers to Virginia Western’s Institutional Review Board. If grant applicants intend to include students in the project or will conduct research involving human or animal subjects, they must get approval from the college’s IRB, in accordance with federal, institutional and ethical guidelines. More information on VWCC’s IRB process can be found here.
- Financial Disclosure: Now we tackle the longest term in our glossary: Financial Disclosure to Avoid Conflict of Interest in Federally Funded Programs. This explanation involves some of those acronyms, so let’s review:
Any PIs involved with projects granted by NSF or the NIH must complete a Financial Disclosure Report form provided by the grants office. The PI and Co-PIs must report any financial interests for herself, a spouse or dependent children that might appear to be affected by the project. In short, the PIs cannot personally profit from their federal grants.
- Leverage, aka “match”: This refers to other support available for the project in addition to grant funds. That support might be cash, often referred to as a cash match, or in-kind support, which can be equipment, space or services. Most grant-making agencies prefer proposals with leverage, but it’s not always required.
- Allowable costs: This is exactly as it sounds. Most grants clearly spell out what it can pay for, and what it can’t. Typically, food, entertainment costs, and promotional advertising items, referred to as “memorabilia,” are UN-allowable. Just make sure to understand what’s allowed early in the application process.
- Fringe: When you put together the budget for your grant, you will need to add personnel costs, which could include release time for faculty or a portion of a staff member’s time. But in addition to salaries, our Human Resources department will help you calculate the cost of fringe benefits, which usually includes Social Security (or F.I.C.A.), health insurance and retirement benefits.
- Indirect costs: These are overhead costs that Virginia Western can charge to the grant, and they pay for things including the physical space on campus and administrative salaries. The college has a federally negotiated indirect cost rate for on campus and off campus activities. Not all grant budgets allow indirect costs.
- Supplant vs. supplement: Supplant means to replace or “take the place of.” Supplement means to build upon … or to add something. Grant funds are to be used to supplement existing funds for program activities and may not be used to replace funds appropriated for the same purpose. Don’t supplant … SUPPLEMENT with grants!
- Uniform guidance: This is the shorthand term for a long title: The “Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards,” which was released by the Office of Management and Budget in December 2014. Basically it’s a streamlined rulebook that covers federal grant-making agencies. The purpose is to reduce the administrative and regulatory burden on award recipients and guard against the misuse of federal funds. You’ll find a link to the most current regulations at www.virginiawestern.edu/grants.
- Participant support costs: One of the aims of the Uniform Guidance framework is to direct the focus of audits to areas that are most at risk for waste, fraud and abuse. One area is a budget category referred to as participant support costs , which pay for non-college employees to attend workshops, conferences and other training activities. Virginia Western is extra careful classifying and spending participant support costs, and we follow a specific college policy, which is available at www.virginiawestern.edu/about/policies/.
- Time and Effort: One of the most common findings in audits is a lack of time records to support salary costs charged to the grant. This is why the grants office stresses the importance of submitting regular Time and Effort forms, often referred as T&E. Anyone whose salary or wages are paid by grant funds (or are counted as an in-kind contribution) must document their time and effort with these forms. This is in addition to tracking your time for payroll. The policy can be found at www.virginiawestern.edu/about/policies/.
- Subaward: This is an agreement with a third-party organization performing a portion of Virginia Western’s project. The terms of the relationship (sub-grant/subcontract) are influenced by the prime agreement, and subawards must be monitored to ensure that the subrecipient complies with these terms.
This is by no means a complete glossary of terms in the grants world, but you’re off to a good start. As always, you’ll find more helpful resources at www.virginiawestern.edu/grants.
The secret sauce: 10 questions to get your grant funded
So you have an idea … and you’re excited about it.
Yes! That’s the first step to success. But you’re a long way from the finish line.
The grants writing process is kind of like training for a marathon … and a way to refine your great idea as you go through each segment. It takes time, planning and dedication.
If you can answer these 10 questions, you’re more likely to get your idea funded.
- Has this idea been funded before? Doing some quick research can save you time down the road … and give you ideas for a stronger proposal.
- What partnerships and collaborations on campus (or off) might be possible? A team approach could be transformative.
- Does your project address a need? And do you have data to prove this?
- Does the project align with the mission of the funding agency? The agency wants to invest in strong, unique ideas with the best chance for success. Is your project a good fit for the funder … and a good bet? You’ll have to make a strong case.
- Does the project align with the mission of Virginia Western and our strategic plan? Virginia’s Community Colleges are aiming to triple the number of credentials awarded annually by 2021. How would your grant help Virginia Western achieve this goal?
- Does your budget tell a story? You might be surprised that we start the grant writing process with the budget. This is often the most time-consuming part of the process — and where you see your project priorities. You will have to get estimates for equipment, estimate release time and cost-out personnel. But don’t worry, we can help.
- What does success look like? And how will you measure that? The funding agency will want to see results, so start thinking about the measurable outcomes. Again, you’re not alone. More help is available through the Office of Institutional Effectiveness.
- Can you plot your project as a timeline? Sketching a timetable will organize your thoughts and help tell the story. A timeline is often required in grant applications as well.
- How will this project be sustained when the grant ends? Funding agencies typically want to invest in a project that can survive past the grant.
- Finally, what is your elevator pitch? Can you summarize your grant idea in a couple of sentences? How about a tweet? Be ready to tell the story of your idea as clearly and simply as possible.
Let’s huddle: 5 conversations that must happen before you apply for a grant
While writing a grant might seem like a solo sport, keep in mind that you’ll need an entire team to help make it successful. You’ll need to do some reporting and talk to some key people around campus to make it happen. Before you apply, you’ll need to have the following conversations:
- Have an honest conversation with yourself. Are you ready to be a project director? Can you commit to a multi-year project? What resources will you need to make this successful? And does the project support the mission and goals of the college?
- Discuss your idea with your dean or department head and vice president. They might have some ideas or critical information that could change the course of your project. Also, they must sign the grant application approval form before an application is submitted.
- Early in the process, ask to meet with the grants office, especially if matching funds are required. We can also help explain allowable and unallowable use of funds, and give a pep talk if you need one.
- Consult Human Resources and Finance if grant funds would pay for release time or involve hiring any personnel. Not only is this conversation critical to your grant budget, but HR can help you avoid future headaches if the grant is funded.
- Are you asking for money for new computers or software? Talk to Information and Educational Technologies. Is there an outreach/marketing/social media plan? Discuss with the marketing and communications staff. Does the grant involve building expenditures or require a physical space? Talk to Facilities Management Services or any other department that might be impacted by your grant.
Before you apply for the grant, you will need to submit the Grant Application Approval Form (PDF). As you huddle with appropriate department head to discuss your idea, be sure to ask for their signatures. These conversations — and the approval form — help keep everyone in the loop.
Now let’s get funded!
Congrats… but now what? 5 things to do as soon as your grant is funded
- Email the grants office and your dean or department head. The grants office will assist with the required paperwork and set up your first grant management meeting.
- Send a thank-you note to everyone who helped you. Remember, success depends on relationships and teamwork.
- Alert the marketing and communications staff, which can help share the good news through social media and news releases.
- Bookmark the Grants Management Handbook at www.virginiawestern.edu/grants. Reference it often. When you have questions — and you will — get in the habit of consulting the handbook first.
- Take a victory lap and celebrate … you’re now a Grant Champion! We won’t laugh if we see you skipping around campus.
Three tools for managing your grant like a pro
- Bookmark the Grants Management Handbook at www.virginiawestern.edu/grants. Reference it often. When you have questions — and you will — get in the habit of consulting the handbook first. The answers are probably there.
- Do you use an Outlook calendar? Or a Google calendar? Or an old-fashioned wall calendar? No matter what calendar you choose, just be sure to mark it with important grant deadlines. Here are a few common examples:
- The funding agency will want updates on your outcomes, so mark the dates of the required annual or quarterly reports on your calendar.
- Add a reminder to check your grant budget monthly to make sure you’re actually spending the money. Believe it or not, failure to spend money can become a problem.
- Time and Effort reports will also be due on a regular basis. Depending on the position, Time and Effort reports might be due monthly or at the end of each semester. Check the Grants Management Handbook for the schedule and mark your calendar accordingly
- Create a project resume, a one-sheet summary of your grant that will help you complete annual reports and quickly respond to requests for information. It can also help you apply for future funding. Start your resume with this helpful EvaluATE checklist (PDF). You can find a project resume example at https://evalu-ate.org/checklist/project-vita/.