New on the Federal Grant Scene: Promise Neighborhoods and i3 Federal Grants

Posted by Narric Rome, Jul 15, 2011 0 comments

Narric Rome

Many Americans for the Arts members and friends may be most familiar with the grant programs of the National Endowment for the Arts, which distributes about 2,400 grants annually to arts organizations. But less familiar are the grants located at other federal agencies that represent a more non-traditional source of funding that can benefit arts organizations as well.

Over the past few years we’ve tried to capture some of these non-traditional sources by providing Federal Resource Guides that examine different agencies and grant programs that are either hidden deep in the bureaucracy, or appear to be so off topic that any time spent investigating would be a fool’s errand.

Currently there are two federal programs at the U.S. Department of Education that are relatively new and present clear and immediate possibilities for the right approach in providing support for the arts in an educational setting.

Promise Neighborhoods – Application Deadline September 6

A new initiative of the Obama Administration is the Promise Neighborhoods program – built to help support projects similar to the Harlem Children’s Zone model. The grant is meant to help identify and increase the capacity of local organizations that are focused on achieving results for youth throughout an entire neighborhood, and will commit resources to build and strengthen partnerships and sustain and scale up what works.

Last year, the Promise Neighborhoods grant awarded 21 grants from a total of $10 million in funding. This current competition is funded with $30 million and looks to make about 14 new grants in two categories, planning and implementation.

This year, the arts are listed as one of four competitive priorities in the competition. The addition of this priority was guided by the recommendations of the recent Reinvesting in Arts Education report by the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities, which proposes that the arts be used as a solution for schools looking to close the achievement gap, increase student engagement, and boost test scores. Since the grants go to broad community partnerships, however, arts organizations should consider how they can be the arts partner within the larger applicant vehicle.

Investing in Innovation – Application Deadline August 2

Out of the $100 billion in stimulus funding the U.S. Department of Education received through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act was a new competitive grant program titled the Investing in Innovation fund (i3). The program’s first round in 2010 resulted in 49 grants in three categories: Scale Up, Validation and Development grants. Three arts education projects were awarded about $4.3 million apiece in the Development grant category – ensuring that the arts would be represented in this key administration initiative.

When the program was first designed in the fall of 2009, Americans for the Arts filed comments with the Department of Education that made suggestions to improve the program with arts education in mind. We began by noting how thankful we were for these new resources and highlighted public comments by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Jim Shelton, emphasizing that arts education is an eligible use of funds and is effective in improving student achievement and school performance.

However there are two significant hurdles in applying for i3 funding: research and funding match requirements. Both require substantial attention in meeting the application requirements, although the funding match has been lowered from the first round thresholds.

The fact is, Investing in Innovation is the most substantial competitive grant that the federal government has to support arts education.

Winning an I3 award is hard, and I salute the three arts education organizations that accomplished this in the first round – and look forward to seeing more awardees join them soon!

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