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A timeline indicates when the work of a project or initiative will occur. It defines when key events will happen and when key processes will begin and end. A timeline may define time in terms of days, weeks, months, or any other standard units. Timelines form part of a Work Plan or Plan of Action; they govern goals, objectives, activities, and strategies.

A timeline should state the deadlines or target dates for all key phases and activities of a project or initiative. It should also state deadlines or target dates for interim and final evaluation reports and for all required financial reports.

One way to represent a timeline is to use a chart. Two common types are a Milestone Chart and a Gantt Chart. A Milestone Chart (or event timeline) depicts an activity (event) at a single point in time. A third type is a Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) Chart (not illustrated here).

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A Gantt Chart (or process timeline) depicts an activity (process) over a span of time.

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In ordinary practice, a grant maker may require grant seekers to assign specific calendar dates to activities presented in a timeline. Examples: August 23, 2012 or October 1, 2012 through May 17, 2013. Applicants may present such dates in a table as part of the narrative.

Using Timelines:

In planning to describe a Timeline in a proposal, several questions prove useful:

Fiscal Year: What is the fiscal year for the funding program? Is it the same as a calendar year or a school year? Is it the same as a project year? Is it the same as the organization uses? Is the same as the grant maker uses?

Charts: When will major events or accomplishments occur? Will most activities be processes (spans of time) e.g., like product development or classroom instruction? Will most activities be events (points in time) e.g., like a single day or a single workshop? Will you need a chart or table to represent your timeline?

Feasibility: Does the timeline allow enough time to complete major tasks? Does the timeline represent a single year or multiple years of funding?

Significance: Does the timeline capture only the key events or processes? Does it capture all of the funder’s deadlines (e.g., for attending grantee conferences or filing evaluation reports)?

This post is one in a series about questions useful in planning competitive grant proposals.

A strategy is a way of implementing a method, plan, or series of action steps leading to accomplishing an objective, achieving a goal, or obtaining a result. Clearly defined problems and well-documented needs often lead to better-selected strategies. Strategies form part of a Work Plan or Plan of Action; they are subordinate to objectives.

Existing models of research-based best practices across every knowledge domain are a critical resource for finding and adopting effective strategies. Professional peer-reviewed journals, research reports, long-range plans, and special studies often discuss and recommend strategies.

Surveys, focus groups, public forums, working groups, and task forces can identify and propose strategies popular in a community experiencing a problem or evidencing an unmet need. Front-line service providers often have hands-on experience with strategies that have proven to be effective or ineffective in local settings.

Available personnel, infrastructure, and financial resources will constrain choices among otherwise available strategies. Judiciously selected technology can support a project or initiative as a way to put proposed strategies into action.

 

Describing Strategies:

In planning to describe strategies in a proposal, several questions prove useful:

  1. What has worked in other places?
  2. What do experts say will work?
  3. What do direct service providers say will work?
  4. What does the affected community say will work?
  5. What do the intended beneficiaries say will work?
  6. How will you know the strategy worked?
  7. How will you adjust strategies if your original ones prove not to work?
  8. Who will implement the strategy?
  9. Who will support the strategy?
  10. What role can technology play in the strategy?
  11. How much will the strategy cost?

 

This post is one in a series about questions useful in planning competitive grant proposals.

An activity is one or more action steps that lead to achieving one or more objectives. It is specific, observable, and measurable. An activity is neither a goal (a desired end result) nor an objective (a specific target increment of change). Activities form part of a Work Plan or Plan of Action; they are subordinate to objectives and allied with strategies.

Each activity is one of a logical sequence of steps leading to a desired result. It may be a unique event (e.g., a concert recital) or an extended process (e.g., learning the violin). It may occur at the same time as other activities in a project or initiative (e.g., the same day), or it may occur across time (e.g., during several months or years).

An activity statement clearly describes the expected performance or behavior. It states what will be done (performance), how well it will be done (criteria), who and how many will do it (participants and personnel), and when and how often it will be done (conditions). Each activity should relate clearly to an applicant’s needs, goals, and objectives.

Every action step leading to a desired result implies a set of costs. As an applicant, you need to account for the costs of your core activities in your budget.

Selecting Activities:

In planning to describe activities in proposals, several questions prove useful:

Needs: How does your activity relate to your needs assessment? How does it relate to your problem statement?

Results: How does your activity relate to your project or initiative’s expected results?

Components: How does your activity relate to objectives, goals, timeline, and other components in your proposal’s program design?

Time Frames: How long will the activity occur? Can it be completed within your available time frame?

Personnel: Who will conduct the activity? Will it be part of anyone’s position description?

Evaluation: How will the activity lead to attaining your goal? How will you measure its usefulness and effectiveness in achieving it?

Costs: How much will it cost to conduct the activity? What source of funding will you use to support it? Will you use grant funds or non-grant funds or both for it?

This post is one in a series about questions useful in planning competitive grant proposals.

An objective is a time-bound, specific, short-term, and measurable accomplishment. It states what will be done, who will do it, how it will be done, by when it will be done, and with what result. It describes what will change, who will change, how much change will occur, and when the change will occur.

 

An objective is neither a goal (a general or overall direction of change) nor a strategy (a means or approach for accomplishing an objective). Objectives form part of a Work Plan or Plan of Action. Objectives are subordinate to a goal.

 

Every objective has a cost. It directly impacts the budget. Its degree of ambition – in terms of scope and magnitude and feasibility within an available timeframe – also directly impact a proposal’s credibility.

 

Example: ‘By the end of each project year, 90% of regularly participating 11th graders will demonstrate increased knowledge of post-secondary educational and career options, as measured by project-developed pre-post surveys.’

 

Defining Objectives:

In planning to define an objective in a proposal, several questions prove useful:

Results: Where do you want to see change occur? Where do you want to see improvements?

 

Indicators: What aspects of the desired change can be quantified?

 

Criteria: How much change do you want? In what direction do you want to see the change occur?

 

Timeline: Within what timeframe do you want to see change occur? By what deadline do you want to see it?

 

Documentation: How will you record and report evidence or progress in accomplishing desired increments of change within the desired timeframe?

 

Personnel: Who will measure and report progress in accomplishing desired increments of change within the desired timeframe?

 

Evaluation: How will you monitor, measure, record, analyze, and report change among participants and beneficiaries in your project or initiative? What evaluation instruments are available?

 

Costs: How much will it cost to measure and accomplish the desired increments of change within the desired timeframe? What funding sources will support and defray these costs?

 

This post is one in a series about questions useful in planning competitive grant proposals.

A Work Plan (or Plan of Action) is the unique way an applicant proposes to solve a problem or address an unmet need. It forms the core of a proposal and is its rationale for funding. A Work Plan answers who, what, how, where, when, how often, why, and so what.

At a minimum, a Work Plan embraces goals, objectives, activities, strategies, and timelines. By implication, it also embraces personnel, management, resources, evaluation, marketing, and budget. Its proposed approaches often build upon and extend scientifically based and/or statistical research on effective practices.

In ordinary practice, an applicant’s general desire for more external funding may precede its decision to seek a grant from a specific source. In addition, an incomplete or ineffective plan of action may precede its efforts to document needs and to adopt more effective strategies.

Devising a Work Plan:

In planning to describe a Work Plan in a proposal, several questions prove useful:

Goals: How many goals and objectives will you propose? How will you derive them? How will you formulate them as time-delimited statements?

Activities: What activities will be appropriate to your goals and objectives? In what logical sequence must the activities occur? At what points will you monitor your progress?

Personnel: Who will do the work? What qualifications will you require? What duties and responsibilities will the positions perform? How much time and effort will they contribute?

Management: Who will administer and supervise the project or initiative? Who will be the funder’s primary contact? Where will program management fit in your organizational plan? Will you form an advisory group? Where will any partners or partnerships fit?

Evaluation: How will you measure whether you have reached your goals? What valid and reliable instruments will you use to monitor and measure progress and outcomes?

Marketing: What role will marketing and dissemination play in the success of your project or initiative? Who will perform these tasks? How will you know you have reached your target audiences?

Logic Models: Have you aligned and interrelated your goals, objectives, activities, timeline, personnel, evaluation, and budget in a single, comprehensive logic model?

This post is one in a series about questions useful in planning competitive grant proposals. Later posts will discuss goals, objectives, activities, strategies, and timelines – among other topics.

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