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Making a Difference Mondays, October 10

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Grants Primer: Part I

Sources of Funding:

There are two primary sources of grant funds. Public funds are obtained from governmental units such as federal or state agencies. Private funds come from organizations involved in charitable giving such as foundations and corporate giving programs.

Even with the current cutbacks, the federal government remains the largest grant funding unit., the official website for federal grants, lists 26 agencies that offer over 1,000 funding opportunities. Federal grants are one way the federal government carries out legislative mandates. Simplistically speaking, the process begins when Congress passes a piece of legislation and authorizes one or more federal agencies to use a specified amount of United States funds to carry out the provisions within it. The federal agency then solicits grant applications in accordance with the legislation for things such as scientific research or the delivery services to targeted population groups. The availability of grant funds is announced in the federal register. This announcement is sometimes referred to as an RFP (Request for Proposals) or SGA (Solicitation of Grant Applications). Eligible applicants apply for one-time funding through a competitive process where the winners are determined based on predefined evaluation criteria by either federal agency personnel or peer reviewers. Federal grants are usually provided for a period of three years.

As with most things in life, there are pros and cons associated with public funding. Government grants, particularly federal grants, are usually for significant amounts of money. Funding ranges from $20,000 to millions of dollars. But the application process may be complex and the competition fierce, and once awarded, grant funds must be managed in accordance with the College’s and the funding agency’s regulations and the terms described in the grant solicitation. Government grants require willingness to attend to detail and patience for bureaucracy.

Private funding can be obtained from foundations or corporations. Some corporations have a foundation and a corporate giving program, each with distinct missions. Foundations and corporations fund non-profit organizations that address their areas of interest (e.g., cancer research, nursing education, or disaster relief) or benefit a particular population (e.g., company employees and their dependents, at-risk populations, or people living in a particular geographic region). Some foundations and corporations also give to individuals to cover specific expenses, like scholarships to cover college tuition or paid fellowships that allow faculty to conduct research. Overall, most private funders don’t have the rigorous compliance and reporting requirements associated with government grants. The application process is also simpler, but the funding amounts are usually much smaller.

Grants in public higher education are best used to develop new programs or initiatives that, once established, are sustainable without additional grant funds. Sustainability requirements vary by project type, but in general, grant proposals from public colleges seeking funding to cover operating costs are rarely competitive.

Alumni Spotlight: Carole McKenzie
Career Change Builds Confidence for Community Leader

Carole McKenzie was working as a legal assistant when she decided to change careers. She had previously attended college, but marriage and family had taken priority over finishing her degree. As a non-traditional student who also needed to work full time, Polk State College was the logical choice for her education. According to Carole, “My husband kept hearing me talk about not being fulfilled in my job and wanting to pursue something different, and one day he challenged me to ‘quit talking about it and do something about it.’ I had already checked into classes at Polk State College, and his comment really motivated me to take the next step and enroll.”

Courage and confidence are two skills that Carole attained during her time at Polk State. She notes that a fellow student commented on her low math placement test scores, so she decided to take an English class during her first semester to build confidence since she enjoyed that subject. She did well in the class and gained the courage to tackle courses that seemed more challenging to her, such as mathematics. This early lesson has helped to remind her that no matter what the challenge, you have to focus on the next step, do your best, have courage, and persevere. Carole received her Polk State College Associate of Arts in Communications in 2001; she then graduated from Florida Southern College in 2003.

Today, Carole serves as Executive Director for the Polk County Farm Bureau. As one of the largest county farm bureaus in Florida with 4,100 members, Carole is responsible for representing the association in political, public, and educational forums. Coming from a family that had citrus and cattle operations in Polk and DeSoto counties, she knows firsthand the importance of commercial agriculture in the history and economy of Polk County.

During college and throughout her career, Carole has provided service to her community. She has been a Phi Theta Kappa member, editor of the student newspaper, and managing editor of the yearbook in college, and has also served on the Polk State College Foundation Board of Directors, the Corporate College Board of Directors, and has held numerous memberships and board positions in the community. Education, leadership, and a strong sense of community have helped Carole work to enhance the lives of all residents of Polk County.

Donor Spotlight: Dr. Eileen Holden
President, Polk State College

My role at the College allows me the opportunity to work with community members, faculty, staff, and students in pursuit of Polk State College’s vision. This affords me a unique perspective in terms of seeing our mission in action and our actions to fruition. Over the years, the College has grown not just in size, but also in its services, opportunities, and offerings for students. This is particularly evident in the success of the Foundation’s Employee Giving Campaign, which has raised over $25,000 in 2011 for student scholarships. In this troubled economy, the kindness and philanthropy of our employees is truly inspiring. Students see each day that we believe in the educational mission of the College, and this personal and financial sacrifice provides tangible evidence of our belief in their dreams for higher education. Our actions send a powerful message that student success is our top priority.

I give to the Polk State College Foundation because I believe in our vision, mission, and core values. Throughout my personal and professional life, I have seen how education transforms lives. From the time I can remember, my parents encouraged me to attend college. They made great financial sacrifices so that I could realize my dreams of becoming a teacher and, much later, a college president. Thanks to them, I am fortunate to be able to “give back” and help our students who do not have the financial resources to achieve their dreams. I know that my contributions are directly benefiting our students, and I am proud to play a small part in their success. For me, Graduation Day is the best day of the year! We all come together to celebrate the accomplishments of our students and take pride in the completion of their degrees and certificates. To know that I have played a small part in someone’s educational journey through my donations to the Foundation makes the day even more special. Soar, Eagles!

Executive Director’s Greetings

Greetings Colleagues!

The Polk State College family has much to celebrate—the student success achieved through all of our important works, the elevation of our community, the creation of an awesome place to work, the generosity of employees, and so much more. I am amazed each and every day by the greatness of the College environment that surrounds me, motivates me, and contributes so fully and generously to the College’s and Foundation’s tremendous growth and successes.

The Foundation Board of Directors and Team celebrate not because the Employee Giving Campaign has exceeded its fundraising goal for the fifth straight year, but because of the students we are able to help because of your generosity.  I am extremely proud to report that the 2011 campaign has raised $25,871.61 for student scholarships! I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, again, and again – words do not adequately express my heartfelt gratitude for your contributions that are truly lifesavers for our students. We at the Foundation regularly witness events where scholarships are the determining factor of students’ ability to attend Polk State College. Whether it’s Emergency Scholarships, or scholarships for books or tuition, without a hand-up from our College family and the people and companies of the Polk community, many of our students would be on a different path that would not include higher education.

Thank you for making a positive impact with your everyday work, and for further making a meaningful difference by directing a portion of your philanthropy to help students fulfill their dreams of a college education. Soar Eagles!

All the very best,

Tracy M. Porter,
Executive Director, Polk State College Foundation

Student Spotlight: Tyler Heverly
Vaulting to a Higher Education

Tyler Heverly’s first time on the campus of Polk State College was in 2002, when he participated in the Kids at College Program for children ages 5 to 14. Eight years later, he graduated from the Winter Haven Campus’s Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School and started college classes.

Born and raised in Winter Haven, Tyler had no desire to leave the area to pursue his college degree. “I still live in the same house I grew up in,” explains Tyler, “and while many of my friends were leaving to go to school, I felt Polk was the best place for me to be.”

Tyler did not have the ability to pay for college, but still had the desire to be financially independent. He signed up for the College’s tuition payment plan, but soon realized that he still would not be able to pay for classes. He started to question if a college degree was part of his path in life. According to Tyler, he was at a precipice. “I was literally asking God for some kind of sign to show that I was supposed to be at Polk State College. Within 48 hours, I had received a scholarship and two job offers!”

Tyler’s participation in Track and Field at Winter Haven High School was the catalyst for receiving a scholarship. Formally third in the State of Florida for pole vaulting and currently an assistant coach for the school’s Track and Field Team, Tyler’s athletic experience enabled him to meet and befriend Luke Kendall. The Kendall Family Scholarship recipient is chosen by the donor, and through this personal friendship and the recommendations of coaches at Winter Haven High School, the family chose Tyler for the scholarship.

Even with the burden of paying for classes alleviated, Tyler still works four jobs along with taking college classes. He is driven to use his talents and remain financially independent. In addition to coaching, he works at the Winter Haven YMCA, helps with catering jobs through Arthur’s Catering, and sells high quality kitchen cutlery through Vector Marketing. Tyler’s strong work ethic and determination has propelled him to be one of the top sellers at Vector, and he is currently in the running to receive an All American Scholarship from the company.

Receiving the Kendall Family Scholarship has provided Tyler with the opportunity to continue his education without any gap in time incurred from lacking finances. His part-time jobs allow him to pay for his books and supplies. “When someone gives you something like a scholarship, I believe it’s important to meet them halfway and pay for books,” explains Tyler. “The scholarship has allowed me to spend less time worrying about how to pay for school, and I work a little harder because I know that someone else has sacrificed in order for me to get my degree.”

With a goal to graduate from Polk State College in December 2012, Tyler has decided to pursue a business degree with an eye on a career in sales. He hopes that one day he can “pay it forward” and help a struggling student, just as the Kendall family has helped him.