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Developing and writing an educational grant can seem like a daunting process of where to begin, especially considering the level of detail that may need to be etched into each goal, objective, or outcome. In addition, it is also important to consider how aligned these goals, objectives, or outcomes are to the needs of the populations you are serving or the populations implementing the project. One tactic that may be useful is consulting stakeholders – students, project staff, faculty, teachers, school / university leadership – during the grant writing process to ensure that their voices and needs are represented early in the process.

Who is a Stakeholder?

Stakeholders are interested individuals or groups with an interest in your project’s implementation or outcomes. Stakeholders can be:

  • Implementers of the activities that are part of the project (e.g., teachers, faculty)

  • Advocates for sustaining the project based on successful outcomes (e.g., parents, business community)

  • Funders or authorizers who will support the continuation or expansion of the project (e.g., school board, regional foundation)

  • Beneficiaries of the project (e.g., students)

Tips for Inviting Stakeholder Feedback in the Grant Writing Process

1. Come to stakeholders with specific questions in mind. It may be a good idea to ask your various stakeholders tailored and detailed questions that aim to pull their needs forward (see table).


Example Questions

Staff implementing the project

We would like to implement this specific project: Is this feasible for us to implement within the timeframe we have specified? What would be the specific action steps needed to implement this program fully? (e.g., are there barriers for getting action steps approved by administrators?) Do staff have the time availability to help fully implement this project?

Project beneficiaries

We are considering implementing this project that you will be receiving: Is this something that you feel is needed? Do you have recommendations on delivering this program? Are there programmatic aspects / components that we are missing?

Funders or authorizers

We are seeking funding for this project: Is this project something that you feel is needed in our community? What type of evidence would you need to fund or authorize the continuation of this project in the future?

2. Make stakeholder groups aware of their roles, responsibilities, and expectations that you have laid out throughout the life of the grant. To help establish that this project is feasible, it is important to fully describe the intended project to stakeholders you are consulting. For example, teachers may be expected to deliver specific components of the program directly to their students, therefore it may be important for teacher feedback on the feasibility of the program to be considered.

3. Demonstrate your commitment to stakeholder participation by including a stakeholder advisory group in your project proposal. A stakeholder advisory group offers benefits across the life of your project, including community support and buy-in, advice and feedback on project implementation, and communication channels to disseminate the results of your project. In your grant application, identify the types of stakeholders you intend to recruit and the types of advice they will contribute across the term of the project.

By inviting the stakeholder groups early in the process, you are helping to enable teamwork, create buy-in, and de-silo the processes the project needs to go through within the grant’s life course. Engaging stakeholders early on helps to ensure project success.

By Stacy Hayden, SEG Research Associate

Shaffer Evaluation Group often is asked to support the development or refinement of grant goals, objectives, and activities. Clients are able to articulate the “why” behind a project, which often stems from a need they plan to address. The “why” is the first thing needed to write an appropriate goal statement. When SEG reviews grant goals in a grant application, we commonly observe that the alignment of the language between the goals, objectives, and activities often needs to be tighter and more well-defined. The example below for a Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) project demonstrates the connection between each of these three components.

Although some funders have specific requirements for the format of their goal statement, goals are generally broad, long-term, and achievable such as the example in italicized text.

By the end of the funding period, grades K-5 military-connected students will demonstrate increased science interest and/or achievement using qualitative and/or quantitative measures.

Objectives are directly linked to goals; however, they should be more specific and break down the approach supporting the goal into discrete strategies. For example, the goal presented above could be broken into three objectives.

  • Objective 1: Design a makerspace and engage students through school day or before/after school activities.

  • Objective 2: Engage students in STEM enrichment and/or extracurricular activities.

  • Objective 3: Develop and implement STEM professional learning for all school staff based on needs assessment.

While these objectives are specific, they also provide flexibility to allow for necessary changes. However, all objectives are designed to ensure successful progress towards the goal.

Finally, activities need to be developed. Activities are sometimes confused with objectives, as they are the steps in implementing a project and are necessary processes, actions, or events. Activities are linked directly to objectives. Some examples may include collaborating with partners, developing materials, conducting training, and analyzing data. For example, let’s look at objective 1.

Objective 1: Design a makerspace and engage students weekly either through school day or before/after school activities.

  • Activity 1.1: By the end of Year 1, establish makerspace planning committee and tour two local makerspaces.

  • Activity 1.2: By the end of Year 1, develop makerspace at elementary campus.

  • Activity 1.3: By the end of Year 2, engage students K-5 in weekly makerspace activities through school day or before/after school activities.

Each of the activities represents necessary steps that will be required to ensure the objective can be completed. The activities above represent processes (e.g., identify gaps), actions (e.g., assemble team), and events (e.g., engage students in activities).

When beginning to develop your goals, objectives/strategies, and activities, first start with the “why.” Once you’ve developed your goal statement, begin to think through what the objectives and activities might be as each build on the other.

The new Department of Defense Education Activity grant solicitation was released at the end of January. Shaffer Evaluation Group offers fee-based grant writing services as well as post-award support when selected as the external evaluator. We also offer limited complimentary services to support your grant application—please contact us about writing the evaluation section at no cost in exchange for being named as the evaluator in your grant application.

By Courtney Hagan, Ph.D., Research Associate

Congratulations for deciding to create and submit an application for a grant opportunity! While this is an exciting time, filled with multiple possibilities, it may also be a stressful time, filled with endless inquiries. The evaluator you have invited into the pre-award phase is here to help make this time period a little less stressful. As a project director shared,

"it's like having a thought partner with you through the process."

Below are five tips to work with your evaluator during the submission process.

Tip #1 - Contact the evaluator early in the process.

When you decide to pursue a funding opportunity, reach out to the evaluator to share your intention to submit a proposal. Inquire if the evaluator has time to support your proposal preparation by contributing the evaluation section that would be needed by a particular date. Remember to back that date up from the due date, as often it takes time to route a completed proposal through an organization’s various departments for signatures. Also, let the evaluator know when you anticipate having a solid draft of the goals, objectives, and project activities ready.

Tip #2 - Share your application materials.

To give your evaluator a sense of the scope of your project, the timeline, and the goals/objectives, send your evaluator your grant application materials as you are writing them. A well-developed abstract works quite well in combination with the funder's solicitation, especially the evaluation and reporting requirements. It can be useful to use a shared folder. This helps the evaluator to develop the evaluation approach and logic model (if the application calls for it).

Tip #3 - Check in frequently with your evaluator.

While this may be a hectic time trying to ensure that deadlines are met and that the application is well-written, periodic check-ins with your evaluator ensure communication pathways are open and strong for the dynamic process of the pre-award phase. This is especially vital if a significant change occurs to the planned goals that were previously communicated. As a long-time higher education SEG client reflected, these:

"Interactions are really helpful and valuable to think through what was going to happen and what kind of results we [would] get."

Tip #4 - Make the evaluator aware of deadlines and grant specifications.

Ensure that your evaluator knows your deadlines for their specified pieces of the grant application. Further, if there are grant award requirements or project-specific components that need to be highlighted, communicate that ahead of time to your evaluator as something to include throughout the application.

Tip #5 - Commit to contracting with the evaluator should your organization receive the grant.

If your evaluator is contributing their time and expertise to support your grant application, commit to contracting them should your organization receive a grant award. Request a cost proposal and negotiate their proposed post-award fee prior to finalizing your grant application budget. Always consult your procurement office before engaging an evaluator in the pre-award process.

Shaffer Evaluation Group is a trusted partner in evaluation. This partnership starts at pre-award and continues throughout the grant's life cycle. If you're planning to submit a grant application and require an evaluation partner, please contact us at

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