The Application Period for OVW Grants is Open!

For those of us who work in the campus sexual- and gender-based violence prevention and response world, late January is a moment of both excitement, and dread–it’s RFP time. And as it has for the past twenty years, the request for proposals for new funding through the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) at the Department of Justice has now been issued. For those campuses who are eligible, this funding, up to$300,000 for individual campuses and $750,000 for large consortia projects, can be the rocket fuel your campus needs to launch effective and comprehensive prevention and response programs for students who have experienced sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and stalking.

As the former director of an OVW campus grant program, as someone who has delivered training to campuses with active grants, and who has written campus grants, I know that landing an OVW campus grant requires a LOT of work. But there are a few strategies that can increase your institution’s likelihood for success. Here are my top tips for landing the big grant.

Six Tips for Applying for OVW Grant

  1. Decide whether to apply as an individual campus or as a consortium of campuses. Consortia grant applications can have strong advantage, especially for campuses that are geographically adjacent to each other and already have strong working relationships. HOWEVER, if these components are not in place already, now is the time to either start working on those relationships for the next funding opportunity or to submit as an individual campus.
  2. Make sure that your campus has taken all of the early steps to ensure that you’re able to successfully apply for the grant. Check with your Office for Sponsored Programs or other grant office to make sure that you’re set up to submit through the Grants.gov site. And while you’re speaking to them, find out what the internal process and timeline is for review and submission, and who is designated at your institution to apply for federal funds. It is very common for grant offices to have internal deadlines that are a week or more prior to the final submission date.
  3. Keep in mind that this grant program is intended to support capacity-building. It is ideal for campuses that have already begun seeking to address these issues, but need short-term, intensive support (both in technical assistance as well as funding dollars) to really institutionalize prevention and survivor support efforts. As you’re writing this grant, focus on the positive efforts that your campus has already begun, and articulate the likelihood that your campus will continue the program after grant funding ends. Some examples that you can draw on include senior leader messaging related to these issues, student activism and engagement, or efforts to understand the scope of the issue through campus climate surveys or other evaluation and assessment data.
  4. And speaking of data, make sure that you’re basing your purpose of application in campus-specific, or local domestic violence or law enforcement data (or, ideally, all three) so that you present a clear picture of the nature of these issues on the campus, but also illustrate that your institution already has capacity for using data to support a program. Data and evidence should also be used to support why you have chosen specific interventions, activities or approaches over other options. By using both data and other evidence to explain your choices, you demonstrate that you understand the importance of tailoring the effort to your specific campus needs and to different student communities.
  5. Pay close attention to the confidentiality and victim safety provisos in the RFP, and make sure that your institutional policies and procedures are aligned (or can be aligned) to these requirements. Some campuses institute mutual no-contact orders for both parties when a report is made, or make separation arrangements without consulting the student who has been harmed. These are prohibited activities under the grant and can make you ineligible for funding or cause other problems post award. Another common issue is that campuses may have universal reporting mandates in place for all faculty and staff, which can conflict with the requirements for victim confidentiality encoded in this grant.
  6. As in life, so in OVW grants, strong relationships are the key to success.  Approach your intended external and internal partners whose participation is required on the grant. Ideally, you’ll already have these partnerships in place that the External Memorandum of Understanding (EMOU) can be formalized. If not, reach out now to the local law enforcement agency and the community victim services provider that is best positioned to support the specific activities in the grant. Make sure that you’re including them in the development of the grant activities, and that you’re forging equitable relationships with appropriate financial support for their contributions. Also, make sure that you leave PLENTY of time to gather all of the internal MOU signatures. Schedule signature meetings ahead of time–the last thing you want is to be one signature short because the President or Provost is out of the country.

Finally, it probably goes without saying that you need to pay specific attention to all of the formatting and page limitations and respond to all of the requirements outlined in the proposal. Whether you use ten or twelve-point font can make the difference in whether you are funded or not (and, by the way, use 12-point Times New Roman). The deadline for submission through Grants.gov is 11:59 pm March 14. So, brew the coffee, cancel weekend plans, and gear up for the next six weeks of an intense, but hopefully rewarding (and rewarded!), effort for your campus. Good luck!