Ed Eval TIG Week: Using Tables Effectively in Grant Proposals by Kate LaVelle and Judith Rhodes

Greetings! We are Kate LaVelle, Research Associate, and Judith Rhodes, Associate Professor of Research, from the Office of Social Service Research and Development (OSSRD) at Louisiana State University. At OSSRD we write large federal grants to support educational, place-based initiatives for school districts and communities with significant need in southern Louisiana. In this post, we share our lessons learned and tips based on our grant writing experiences.

Hot Tip: Grant applications require a description of the need being addressed; however, applications vary in how much direction they give for presenting information on needs. For example, some applications ask for results from a completed needs assessment or segmentation analysis. Other applications require you to discuss needs within preset categories, such as academic, health, or community needs. To cover these common requirements, we find it helpful to create a Gaps and Solutions table. This concisely presents evidence-based specific gaps that are linked to particular solutions, providing a clear justification for proposed services based on identified needs.

Here is an excerpt from a sample Gaps and Solutions table:

Hot Tip: When writing grant applications that incorporate complex approaches, we find it useful to develop an Intervention Design table that includes the detailed information that funding agencies typically want to know. For example, the table below contains information about who and how many individuals will be served, the cost of services per participant, plans for scaling up services over time, and the funding sources for each planned strategy. We include a list of key partners to show the important collaborations, as well as research-based evidence backing the proposed strategies. This table can also be helpful for communicating the intervention design to colleagues working on other parts of the grant, such as the budget or evaluation sections.

Lessons Learned:

  • Be purposeful in where you place tables in the grant application. For example, we have found that a Gaps and Solutions table works well at the end of the Needs section as a way to summarize key gaps and solutions, as well as provide a transition into the Program Design section, which typically follows. However, a more detailed Intervention Design table might be best placed in the Appendix if page space is limited, assuming that the table is sufficiently referred to in the narrative.
  • If feasible, hire a graphic designer (or graphic design student if cost is an issue) to create a logo specifically for your proposed initiative. We find having a professional logo adds a polished look to the application, as well as provides a visual branding that potential funders may be more likely to remember.

Rad Resource: Grants.gov is a helpful resource for exploring different types of education grants. Federal departmental websites also have previously-awarded proposals available to view, which can provide more ideas of ways to effectively present your next grant proposal. After all, if previously used strategies were successful for another applicant, they might work for you!

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Ed Eval TIG Week with our colleagues in the PreK-12 Educational Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our Ed Eval TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.



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