The Drug Free Communities (DFC) funding opportunity announcement dropped! SNF Writing Solutions is looking to extend our 4-year win streak working with coalitions on their applications. Leave a comment or email us if interested in learning how the SNF Writing Solutions team can help your coalition apply. Please share if you know a group doing good work in their community to reduce youth substance use.
New software programs and apps can make life wonderful for organizations. In addition to just rolling out the new system with the software company, there are other items to keep in mind.
Even with the greatest software, the human element still exists. Users and Admins alike will experience tremendous change through the new system! System champions must be ready with FAQs, training, and detailed documentation on how to perform job-specific tasks within the new system. Expect some fear, resistance, and slower reception from staff.
Software systems are wonderful tools for automation and efficiency. Nay times the new system will eliminate tasks done manually. There are also times a new system will modify or add new outside-the-system tasks. To ease the transition, prepare to discuss and document the modifications to manual tasks. This can be achieved through a FAQ or in documentation manual side notes.
Related to outside-the-system tasks, the overall business processes will be modified with the implementation of the new system. It’s okay and to be expected that the new system disrupts the status quo. Manage the chaos and ease all affected staff with good current state (pre) and new state (post) workflows and stepwise manuals. For tasks that are overly simple or only come up every once in a while, use a one to two-page Quick Reference Guide (QRG) to document the task. Create this documentation while you have access to the developer or a software representative that can provide demonstrations and answer questions.
When you started your software finding mission, or when you began the implementation with the software company, you most likely created a list of business requirements. Be sure to review this list of requirements periodically as the implementation rolls out. “But we know the requirements; why do we have to review them?” For several reasons, foremost are:
- Ensuring the software, as delivered, will meet your needs.
- Identify which business sectors/divisions will be impacted by the new software implementation.
- Guide the documentation creation efforts.
- Aid in developing communication planning for roll-out and change management efforts.
Training & Documentation
Whether provided by software company, internal resources, or a third party, training on the new system is critical. New, shiny software will be absolutely useless without a trained staff to implement the new system. The training dshould include a walk-through of the basic system navigation, and then a series of sessions on how to complete job-specific tasks. Each session should reference documentation tools available to the staff as they work post-rollout.
The training and documentation should be captured and stored in a way that can be used in the future for onboarding new staff and as a reference for staff needing a refresher or transitioning to a new job function.
In the excitement of implementing a new software, the change-management elements can often be forgotten. Include these elements in the planning stage and work on them throughout the implementation.
I wish you well on your software implementation. Should you have questions or need more information or help on any of these topics, leave a comment below, or you can email or call me.
Stacy Fitzsimmons is the Founder and CEO of SNF Writing Solutions, LLC
I was recently asked what the number one challenge is for local governments. As a former employee of a city in Indiana, I know without a doubt that the answer is property tax caps.
These caps were first introduced in 2009 and were meant to help taxpayers. While the caps have certainly accomplished that goal, they have had a dramatic effect on local governments, especially those that are not experiencing growth. This has led to lost revenue for many communities.
According to a December, 2015 Indianapolis Business Journal report, DeBoer and retired Community Research Institute director John Stafford stated that property tax caps have hit older, industrial cities hard, while the growing Indianapolis suburbs and thriving college towns are faring quite well.
I’ve witnessed the work of top officials at many cities, towns, and counties as they cut costs and slash budgets. I understand that everyone wants governments to work as efficiently and lean as possible. I believe most are accomplishing that goal.
However, the tax caps have still caused some unexpected damage. For example, neighboring school districts are seeing drastically different property tax revenues per student due to coverage areas. And I think we’re just beginning to see tax cap consequences like these.
So what can local governments do in order to keep providing vital services to their communities? Some, like the Central Indiana municipality I recently worked for, are looking at alternative funding such as trash fees. While every other city and town in the county has charged a trash fee, this city is still facing quite a battle to implement one.
Communities are also taking a closer look at local option income taxes for new revenue. As budgets continue to get squeezed, local government staff members will work to apply for more federal, state, corporate, and foundation grants.
New crowd funding campaigns, like those led by Citizinvestor http://www.citizinvestor.com/, are popping up for community projects such as dog parks, public art, and trails. These have been successful for some local governments as long as they invest the time and effort to promote the campaigns.
Like many organizations and businesses, local governments are being asked to do more with less. Alternative funding sources and grass roots community support will hopefully help us all continue to benefit from public safety services, parks, strong infrastructure, and more.
Amy Shankland is a former Associate with SNF Writing Solutions, LLC and guest blogger.
It’s that scary beast: the budget! It’s the part of the application that the program implementers and the innovative visionaries often dread. It’s where details are important and you have to remember the dreaded math.
Here’s some advice from the budget trenches to help you along the way.
1) Read the Guidance
The guidance is the most important tool you will have at your disposal for preparing a winning proposal. It contains specific information that will outline how you should address the funder’s expectations of the budget contents and in some cases a specific format may be required. The guidance may require that matching funds are incorporated into the budget or that specific breakdowns for items like travel are provided.
In some cases, you may find clues (or even direct language) as to what they want or don’t want you to spend the money on. Use these as your guide in developing your budget outline.
2) Determine Allowable Costs
Allowable costs are the items and activities (to include Direct and Indirect Cost) that the funder will consider as an acceptable cost in delivering the grant objectives. All cost should be reasonable and necessary. In the federal grant space, the acceptable costs are outlined in the 2 CFR 200 “Supercircular.” There is usually also a section in the NOFA/FOA/RFP that indicates what the particular program will or won’t fund. Read the content behind the links. If you are unsure, check with your legal team or a grant professional that has federal funding expertise.
On the foundation side, each funder may have their own restrictions on what they will or won’t fund. Be sure to research their giving guidelines before creating the application budget.
When in doubt, ask the funder. If you have a specific line item you are questioning, call the funder’s representative and talk to them about that specific item’s eligibility as part of the program budget. On the federal side, there is always a budget person listed for questions. They won’t bite, give them a call!
3) Do the math
Computer programs and templates are great tools but, not perfect. Take time to check the calculations before you submit. Be sure to use current fringe, travel and indirect rates. If you really struggle in this area, you may want to seek outside assistance for the budget from your accounting staff or a grant professional experienced in grant budgeting and managing grant funds post-award.
Nothing is worse as a reviewer than having a budget that doesn’t add up. It’s hard to trust real dollars to someone you aren’t confident can do basic math!
4) Consider Equipment vs Supplies
Equipment is defined as an item of property that has an acquisition cost of $5,000 or more (unless the organization has established lower levels) and an expected service life of more than one year. If the item does not meet both criteria, then it should be listed in Supplies section. Be sure to talk with your accounting division to determine the threshold established for equipment acquisition. If your threshold is less than that of the federal government, you will need to explain the difference in your budget narrative.
5) Does Budget = Narrative?
Cross-check the project description, narrative and budget to ensure all items discussed do not conflict with each other and that the numbers are consistent throughout. Many times, as the budget comes together numbers change. Go back through all documents and adjust numbers so that all match. It is really important that your top-level budget matches the quotes and subcontractor/subawardee budgets (yes, quotes and sub-budgets are very helpful in getting to the “numbers” part!). This is especially important when it comes to number served and cost per person calculations. Readers will pick up on differences and questions what the real number is supposed to be.
The budget does not have to be the scary monster hiding under your desk. Take your time, develop it as you do the narrative, and, when in doubt, seek assistance.
May the numbers always be in your favor!
Stacy N. Fitzsimmons, MBA is the Owner of SNF Writing Solutions, LLC a business services consultancy. This post was written with the substantial contribution from Leighe Disbro, SNF Writing Solutions Associate.
An attitude of gratitude for grant professionals everywhere.
Coming off of the heels of the Grant Professional Association 2015 National Conference and in contemplating the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I find myself reflecting on all that I am thankful for in my personal and professional life.
Personally, it’s easy to know what I am thankful for. I just had a beautiful baby boy that made his entrance at the end of September. His entry into the world brought together a symphony of caring from family and friends supporting me through a trimester of bed rest. I could not be more thankful for each and every one of them.
On a professional note, I find myself very thankful for an industry of professionals dedicated to the advancement of social issues. In an era when the news seems more and more bleak every day, there is an army waging war against the many atrocities and disparities facing our world. I am thankful for those that create the programs, craft the proposals for funding, offer the funding channels, manage the funds, execute the programs, and seek the answers to “what works best.” Grant professionals wear many of these hats.
No matter how much or how little we think we are responsible for, we are all part of the greater movement to find a path to a brighter future, for us and for generations to come.
For this, I am thankful.