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Comprehensive Community Initiatives, Improving the lives of youth and families through systems change, a toolkit for federal managers
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How the toolkit was created What is a CCI? CCI Tools for Federal Staff
Develop your CCI Project
Guidelines to plan funding
3. As you develop the funding structure and solicitation, take into account differing levels of community readiness to undertake a CCI.
How can I deal with differences among sites in their readiness to form and work in partnerships?
To accommodate differences in site readiness...
  • Determine what level of readiness you will require, and make that clear in the solicitation.
  • Offer supports to sites that are less ready--such as planning grants and mentors.
  • Be aware that site readiness is not always predictable.

Determine what level of readiness you will require of sites in order for them to take best advantage of the initiative funding. Make that requirement clear in the solicitation. Allow for some flexibility in the criteria used to assess readiness. For example, evidence of strong, visionary leadership in key organizations could partly compensate for a lack of established partnerships.

Offer support to sites that are less ready. Offer planning grants or build a planning phase into the solicitation. As an example of a site self-assessment tool that might be adapted, see Reclaiming Futures Readiness Assessment. Consider matching less experienced sites with mentor communities. (See Technical Assistance Guideline #6. See also below: "How can I make sure that communities with fewer resources have a chance of being funded and achieving their goals?")

Be aware that site readiness is not entirely predictable. The experience of CCI funders indicates that no matter how hard you work at the outset to assess site readiness, differences in capacity among sites will emerge further down the line. Set aside some funding so you'll be prepared to offer additional support to sites that need it.

How can I make sure that communities with fewer resources have a chance of being funded and achieving their goals?
To give less-resourced communities a chance...
  • Establish categories for applicants based on readiness.
  • Level the playing field.
  • Use two-stage funding (planning grants followed by implementation grants).
  • Offer mini-grants.
  • Connect applicants to Web-based TA and other resources.
  • Create a flexible funding structure.
  • Tailor funding packages.
  • Offer TA to communities whose applications were not funded.

Establish application categories for different levels of readiness so that communities compete with others at a similar level.

Level the playing field for applicants new to partnerships. For example, delay the requirement for interagency MOUs until after sites have developed partnerships.

Use a two-stage funding process. First award small capacity-development or planning grants (supplemented by TA and site visits) to support potential sites as they identify key partners and join with them to develop a plan. Review these plans as part of the selection process for larger implementation grants. (See also Technical Assistance Guideline #1.) Communities with fewer resources may need upfront help with forming partnerships.

Offer mini-grants for small projects as a way to assess and/or develop a community's ability to manage a larger implementation grant. (For an example, see the box below.)

Connect applicants to Web-based TA and other resources.

Create a flexible funding structure that allows each site to ramp up to full operation within an agreed-upon timeline.

Tailor funding packages to the site's planning needs, existing resources, level of community need, and readiness to undertake systems change. Depending on the site, funding may vary in dollar amount, years of funding committed, and rate of disbursement. If possible, allow grantees the flexibility to fit dollars to needs, instead of having to fit needs to the money available.

Offer TA to communities whose applications were not funded to help them prepare for future applications, and to give you an opportunity to further assess their challenges. Include them in the initiative's cross-site meetings. Assign each a mentor site and/or a TA provider.

Mini-grants as a way build capacity in inexperienced communities
The Annie E. Casey Foundation's New Futures initiative recognized that traditional funding requirements often favor the same communities and service providers, the same people using the same money to do the same kinds of things. They felt that communities and service providers with the capacity to use the funding are favored in the system. In an effort to include nontraditional partners within their initiative, one of the New Futures project sites developed a promising practice of awarding "mini-grants" to neighborhood groups and nonprofits to carry out small projects. "Mini-grants were a way to cultivate new providers-investing small amounts of money to see if new groups could expand their missions to work with youth" (Walsh, 2005, p. 16).

References

Walsh, J.The Eye of the Storm: Ten Years of the Front Lines of New Futures. Baltimore, MD: The Annie E.Casey Foundation.