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Planning Grant Application Guide

Pilot Initiative Participant Eligibility Criteria

Families participating in the services funded by the Tennessee Opportunity Pilot Initiative must meet certain eligibility requirements established by federal law. Specifically, participating families (parent/legal guardian with child(ren) under the age of 18) must meet Tennessee’s low-income eligibility criteria. "Low-Income Families" is defined as families who are:

  • Living at or below the Federal Poverty Level.
  • Eligible for Medicaid.
  • Recipients of, or eligible for, public benefits such as Families First (TANF) or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
  • Part of a coordinated entry system through Social Services agencies and meet the low-income criteria; unemployed or zero income verification.
  • Live in Section 8 housing or low rent public housing.
  • Be eligible for National School Lunch Program (free or reduced lunch).

Planning Grant Applicant Criteria

Collaborations of Tennessee-based entities that can administer services which are consistent with the Department’s mission and meet one of the four purposes of TANF are encouraged to apply during the Tennessee Opportunity Pilot Initiative Planning Grant application period. The following four types of entities should collaborate for the purpose of applying for Planning Grants:

  • A political subdivision of this state.
  • A nonprofit corporation, created pursuant to title 48.
  • A development district, created pursuant to the Development District Act of 1965, compiled in title 13, chapter 14.
  • A human resource agency, created pursuant to the Human Resource Agency Act of 1973, compiled in title 13, chapter 26.

Selection Criteria

The process for selecting which collaborations will be awarded Planning Grants will differ from the more robust process utilized when selecting recipients of Implementation Grants. However, certain criteria will remain constant throughout. For example, the list below includes a set of characteristics that recipients of Planning and Implementation Grants must possess. In addition to being a Tennessee-based collaboration of agencies/entities, applicants must also have:

  • Demonstrated an understanding of the challenges low-income families experience in their community, including those related to: Education; Health and well-being; Economic stability; Safe, stable, and nurturing relationships.
  • Implemented or developed community-based programs that have been proven to be effective even when subjected to third-party evaluation.
  • Demonstrated strong leadership and coordination of cross-sector partnerships.
  • Demonstrated a proven track record for providing services intended to help low-income families achieve economic mobility.
  • Identified a diverse set of resources, secured cross-sector partnerships, and developed a plan to deliver services from a family-led approach that is aligned with one or more of the four purposes of TANF.
  • Articulated long-term impact of the community’s approach, including applicable return on investment and cost-benefit analysis, to support and sustain delivery of services.
  • Articulated a desire to work in partnership with the Department, the Families First Community Advisory Board, community-based organizations, other stakeholders, and current and former customers to co-create solutions that address significant social problems.

Applications must demonstrate commitment and capacity to create a compelling plan for increasing economic advancement and family well-being. Applications must include a detailed description of how the applicant intends to engage a broad range of community partners and utilize evidence-based practices and evidence-informed practices, including but not limited to such focus areas as home visiting services, high-quality child care programs and child care provider networks, wrap-around services, one-on-one financial counseling, after school and summer learning programs with curricula approved by the Department of Education, workforce training and apprenticeship programs, etc.

Successful applicants will be selected based on the eligibility of the collaboration applying, the application’s alignment with the Department’s vision, the application’s alignment with the purposes of the TANF program, the collaboration’s demonstrated capacity for success, and other objective selection criteria including distribution of grants across a mix of urban, rural, and suburban populations in the state.

Application Instructions

Application materials must be submitted electronically through the provided web-portal Formstack:

Applicants must complete all required sections in Formstack. Documents must be converted to the PDF format and titled “Agency’s Name – FY2021 TN Opportunity Pilot Initiative Planning Grant Application.”

The application packet must be no more than 15 pages total and must include:

  • Abstract (5-page limit). See below for required components of the abstract.
  • Certificate of Acknowledgement (COA) – State form provided.
  • Conflict of Interest (COI) – Collaboration’s policy (if applicable) and a signed statement on official letterhead attesting that: based upon reasonable inquiry, neither the collaborative, affiliate entities/agencies,  employees of any affiliate entity/agency, nor any affiliated individual who will perform services under this potential contract, as a result of this application, have a possible or perceived conflict of interest.
  • Statement certifying entity meets the eligibility requirement as a political subdivision of the state, non-profit corporation, development district, or human resource agency and any supporting documents.
  • Resumes of any consultants or entities working with your collaboration during the planning grant period.
  • Completed budget form. (Excluded from application page limit. See note below.)

Note: Letters of support are optional and will count towards the application packet limit of 15 pages. Completed budget form pages are excluded from the count toward the application page limit. Budget forms can be listed in the appendix and included in the single .pdf submission.

All documents mentioned above must be submitted in Formstack by 5:00 p.m. Central Time on October 15, 2021 to be considered. Late or incomplete submissions will not be considered. It is the applicant’s sole responsibility to allow sufficient time to address all potential delays caused for any reason whatsoever including computer or technology problems.

All completed applications received by the deadline will be reviewed. No applicant obtains any right to a Planning or Implementation Grant based on submission of an application. The total available funds may not necessarily be divided equally among the applicants, nor will selected applicants be guaranteed the entire amount requested.

Application packets will be reviewed in three phases:

  • Phase I – Required Mandatory Standards Review.
  • Phase II – Families First Community Advisory Board Review of Applicant Packets.
  • Phase III – Recommendation.

While evaluating application responses, the Department and the Families First Community Advisory Board will also consider:

  • Qualifications of the applicant and its partner agencies/entities.
  • Applicant’s familiarity with and experience performing the services needed by the Department.
  • Applicant’s familiarity and experience creating and running programs, including the ability to perform the work in a timely manner.
  • Applicant’s and partnering agencies’ current or former contract performance history with the Department or other local governmental agencies.
  • Criteria as outlined in the application guidelines.

What Must be Included in the Planning Grant Application Abstract?

The Planning Grant Application Abstract is intended to provide a high-level overview of your collaboration’s vision for a Tennessee Opportunity Pilot that would effectively demonstrate how the safety net can serve as a mile marker in a family’s journey, rather than a destination unto itself.

The abstract must not exceed five (5) pages. Pages must be numbered. The abstract must be submitted on 8 ½ X 11” paper, doubled spaced, with 1” (2.54 cm) margins all around and at least 11pt. font. The size and/or style of graphics are not restricted and their use and style are at the applicant’s discretion, but will count towards the abstract page limit. The abstract must be outlined as identified below.

A. Overview of the program

Describe in 3-5 sentences the shared vision of the collaborative applying.

B. Collaborative’s Background and Partnerships

Discuss the organizations/entities/agencies involved in this application. Describe the work that the work that is currently underway, and the population, number of people, and relationships with those currently being served.

Describe any existing key partnerships with other community-based organizations, service providers, and sectors. Describe how your collaboration will maintain existing partnerships and secure new partnerships to promote collective impact practices and ensure a whole of Tennessee approach to serving families.

C. TANF and Program Purpose

Provide information on how the collaboration’s mission and vision align with at least one of the four purposes of TANF. Provide a brief but clear overview of the collaboration’s envisioned Opportunity Pilot program and how the Pilot will support the identified TANF purpose(s). Identify the community problem to be addressed and explain how this connects to the identified TANF purpose. Indicate how community involvement was obtained in identifying problems/needs and goals to be addressed. Describe how the Pilot is different from other coordinated services already in place in the community, or if the Pilot’s services will be unique to the community to address a specific need.

D. Target Population

Describe the community (target population) to be served by race, culture, ethnicity, age, geography, or other defining characteristics. Define the criteria for identifying low-income families to be served by the Pilot.

E. Scope of Work (SOW)

Describe the specific tasks that will be performed during the Planning Grant period. Describe how the collaborative will utilize Planning Grant funds for technical assistance in order to develop an Opportunity Pilot proposal. Planning Grant funds may be used for technical assistance activities including but not limited to:

1)     Stakeholder convening: Convening key community stakeholders (including the population to be served), service providers, and other partners across a wide range of sectors.

2)     Needs and gaps analysis: Identifying community needs, gaps in services, available resources, and partnerships to inform plan development.

3)     Common agenda: Developing a common agenda, including a common understanding of the problem and a shared vision for a theory of change.

4)     Governance: Establishing a governance structure with community buy-in, including well-resourced backbone support.

5)     Action plan: Developing an action plan and budget that will guide Pilot implementation, including proposed activities, implementation timelines, and responsible partners.

6)     Communication: Identifying methods for continuous communication.

7)     Measurement: Identifying existing data sources and systems, outputs and outcomes, and performance management processes to support shared accountability.

F. Performance Measures/Outcomes

Determining whether the applying collaborative can demonstrate capacity for success involves examining both the quality of evidence and the demonstrated impact on outcomes (i.e., positive, negative, no impact). The selected Opportunity Pilots will be required to undergo rigorous evaluation of their performance measures and outcomes. This may involve randomized control trials and systematic reviews.

Consider the Department’s outcomes listed above (see page 5), list and please describe how your collaborative utilizes evidence-based practices to prove the effectiveness of your program. This description should include information on any frameworks, models, rigorous evaluation, or criteria that is used to demonstrate successful performance measures and outcomes.

Evidence clearinghouses collect research on various topics and programs, assigning evidentiary ratings. The Results First Clearinghouse Database identifies thousands of programs that have been rigorously evaluated by one or more of the nine national clearinghouses.  If your program has been rigorously evaluated, please provide a link or an attachment of the evaluation. Applicants may also submit studies which have not been vetted by clearinghouses for review and consideration.

G. Detailed Proposed Budget

Provide a brief narrative of the budgeted costs for the Planning Grant period. Attach the budget breakdown for the areas within the scope of work on the provided budget form. (Note: The total grant award shall not exceed $500,000.)

H. Collaborative Structure

Provide an organizational chart for your collaborative that outlines key staff for the oversight, support, and delivery of the collaboration. Describe the current staffing structure/model and positions needed, if any. The description should include job titles and descriptions of roles and responsibilities of all key positions. Indicate any services that will be contracted out such as fiscal, audit, etc.

Tennessee Opportunity Planning Grant Application Guide

Collaboratives that are interested in pursuing this opportunity are encouraged to review the Tennessee Opportunity Pilot Initiative Planning Grant Application Guide in detail and follow instructions to submit an application.

Click here to access the Application Guide.

Certification of Acknowledgement

Budget Template

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