Most grant proposals involve describing the way in which clients from the target population/target area will be made aware of the new service/program and encouraged to participate (and some programs, like the Street Outreach Program, are composed entirely of outreach). This is usually referred to as the “outreach campaign,” which is a key aspect of any grant proposal, since the funder must believe that the applicant can actually find and engage clients.
If the funder doesn’t believe the applicant can find and engage clients, the proposal will likely lose enough points to miss the funding threshold. Not every proposal needs an outreach effort: some programs will have a captive client input stream, like ex-offenders being released from a specific correctional facility, court-referred families involved in child neglect issues, etc.
RFPs that mandate outreach plans have always seemed like an odd requirement, since they’re almost always the same, and they usually include:
- If the budget is large enough, hire one or more dedicated Outreach Workers. Be careful, however, about the position name—don’t use Community Outreach Workers (“COW”s), particularly for a program reaching female clients. Don’t use Peer Outwork Workers (“POWs”) for a program reaching veterans. One neat trick in a tight budget is to create a position called Outreach/Intake Specialist to handle both the outreach effort and client intake.
- Since it’s important that outreach staff actually relate to the target population, make these “non-professional” positions to be filled by peers with the street cred/life experience to relate to the target population. For example, in conducting outreach to engage at-risk youth in danger of gang involvement, propose hiring ex-gang bangers in the same age range or slightly older than the target population. For peer staff, propose FTE (full-time equivalent) hourly positions.*
- Traditional outreach strategies include conducting street-based outreach wherever the target population is likely to be found (e.g., public housing developments**, parks, community centers, liquor store parking lots, etc.); sending press releases to local print media; making staff available for appearances on local radio/TV programs; making presentations to service providers, schools, churches, etc.; snail mail mailers; distributing flyers and posters throughout the target area; social media / smartphone-based outreach; and so on.Sometimes it may make sense to lease a van for street-based outreach, with project name/logos on the sides and equipped with literature and other program specific stuff (e.g., emergency food and clothing for outreach to the homeless, rapid HIV test kits for outreach to injection drug users, etc.). If you want to take the time tunnel back to the ’70s, you can propose using the van for pop-up street theater presentations at community celebrations, health fairs and the like.
- Digital-age outreach strategies should, as noted above, focus on social media. Use FaceBook, SnapChat, YouTube, Instagram, WhatsApp and text/email blasts. There is no digital divide; virtually every American has a smartphone or, at the least a “lifeline phone,” which are often referred to on the street as an “Obama phone.”
- Always state that outreach services will be culturally and linguistically appropriate.
* There are 2,080 person hours in a work year, so one hourly FTE @ $20/hour = $40,160 for budgeting purposes.
** Even though anyone who grew up in or near (like I did) a public housing project call them “the projects,” in grant writing, never use the term “projects, ” call them “public housing developments.”