October 2019

Viewing posts from October , 2019

NSF Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Education and Human Resources (IUSE: EHR)


Application Deadline: NSF has announced multiple deadlines beginning December 2019 and February 2020. Review the full announcement for details on applicable deadlines.


NSF has announced a new version of its IUSE: EHR grant. The new announcement features two different grant tracks with three levels of grant competition in each track. The tracks and accompanying levels have different deadlines, with annual deadlines noted after the initial 2019 and 2020 deadlines. NSF expects that all grantees receiving awards under these new tracks and levels will increase the knowledge about effective STEM education. Successful applicants will demonstrate how their projects will have a widespread impact in STEM education in the areas of improved diversity among both students and faculty and professional development that meets the changing needs of students and promotes collaboration in research and development. NSF also states in the grant announcement that it welcomes proposals that also align with efforts of the NSF INCLUDES grant.

Tracks/Levels and Funding Amounts

NSF’s IUSE: EHR grant offers funding under two main categories: the Engaged Student Learning track and the Institutional and Community Transformation track. Three different “levels” are available for applicants in each track.

Under the Engaged Student Learning (ESL) track, NSF will award between $300,000 and $2 million over three to five years, depending on the level. Institutional and Community Transformation (ITC) grants will range from $150,000 for capacity building efforts to $3 million for multi-institutional collaborations, again, depending on the level.

Engaged Student Learning (ESL) Track

NSF offers funding under the ESL track to support projects that promote student engagement and learning, either directly or indirectly, in STEM. NSF will consider proposals that cover a wide range of research and development activities that are both evidence-based and knowledge-generating. Among other activities, NSF lists the following items as potential project concentrations:  

  • Innovative pedagogy and multi- and inter-disciplinary approaches,
  • Assessment efforts that track learning outcomes and the effectiveness of teaching methods,
  • Dissemination of information and resources to aid in STEM teaching and learning,
  • Professional development for faculty, and
  • Restructured learning environments.

The three ESL funding levels should reflect the scale (number of students, faculty, departments, institutions, or other groups involved) and scope (range of project components involved) of proposed projects as well as the organizational capacity to conduct the proposed study.

ESL Level 1 Projects

ESL Level 1 grantees can receive up to $300,000 over a maximum of three years. Level 1 projects should focus on early-stage or exploratory research projects or small-scale projects aimed at adapting teaching methods and incorporating novel environments. Under the Level 1 category, NSF will consider proposals from a single institution and projects may focus on small numbers of faculty members in a single discipline or across multiple disciplines. NSF will also consider small projects at this level that involve partnerships. The initial Level 1 deadlines are February 4, 2020, and August 4, 2020. Annual deadlines will be the first Tuesday in February and August moving forward.

ESL Level 2 Projects

The award range for ESL Level 2 project is slightly higher, at $300,001 to $600,000 over a maximum grant period of three years. NSF expects Level 2 projects to have a larger scale and scope than an ESL Level 1 project. For instance, a Level 2 project would support department-wide changes, interdisciplinary or multi-disciplinary collaborations, or multi-institutional partnerships such as partnerships between institutions of higher education (IHE) or between IHEs and industry or community partners. The initial deadline for ESL Level 2 proposal submission is December 4, 2019. After this initial deadline, applicants may submit ESL Level 2 proposals by the first Tuesday in December each year.

ESL Level 3 Projects

Projects that aim to benefit large numbers of students and have a far-reaching impact on large numbers of faulty and/or a large-scale multi-institutional impact are appropriate at this level of funding. In this category, NSF will award between $600,001 and $2 million for projects with a  maximum duration of five years. Proposals at this level should include detailed research plans and large-scale evaluation plans. NSF will consider proposals from single institutions, but anticipates that the scale and scope will likely result in applications at this level that involve multiple institutions. The initial Level 3 deadline is December 4, 2019, with annual proposals accepted yearly by the first Tuesday in December afterwards.

Institutional and Community Transformation (ITC) Track

NSF wants to fund projects under the ITC track that focus on systemic change that have a measurable impact at departmental, institutional, or multi-institutional levels or across larger communities of STEM educators and/or educational researchers. ITC track proposals should include at least one theory of change that guides the project. NSF lists a range of approaches that ITC track proposals might take, including the following items:

  • Including evidence-based teaching practices in high-enrollment, lower-division courses,
  • Developing teaching evaluation rubrics (disciplinary or interdisciplinary) with a common research-based framework,
  • Re-envisioning the learning environment and support networks that best aid faculty and students, and
  • Identifying common methods of supporting students from underrepresented groups to be successful in STEM studies.

ITC Capacity-Building Projects

NSF will consider both individual and collaborative projects under this category. Awards can be up to $150,000 for a single applicant or up to $300,000 for a collaborative effort; projects have a maximum duration of two years. This category provides funding for applicants to review previous institutional efforts and gauge institutional needs, develop buy-in across institutional sectors, build relevant partnerships, determine which theories of change are applicable to future work, and articulate plans to transform the institution and/or STEM community. Ideally, capacity-building projects will lead to a subsequent ITC Level 1 or Level 2 proposal. The initial deadlines for capacity-building proposal submission are February 4, 2020, and August 4, 2020. Applicants may submit proposals on an annual basis afterwards with a deadline of the first Tuesday in February and August.

ICT Level 1 Projects

Proposals at this level should involve early exploration or small- to mid-range projects that build on previous institutional work. Grantees can receive up to $300,000 over a maximum grant period of three years. The initial deadlines for Level 1 submissions are February 4, 2020, and August 4, 2020. Annual deadlines after this time frame will be the first Tuesday in February and August.

ICT Level 2 Projects

At this level, NSF expects grantees to carry out projects that include strong research plans with significant research questions or a large-scale evaluation and assessment of results and impact. NSF will fund between $300,001 and $2 million for projects from a single institution or up to $3 million for collaborative projects that involve two or more institutions or from research centers. Projects under this category have a maximum duration of five years. The initial deadline for Level 2 submissions is December 4, 2019. Annual deadlines afterwards will be the first Tuesday in December.

Application Guidelines

Applicants should refer to NSF-published guidelines for instructions on preparing proposals. Pertinent guidelines for submission of a proposal for IUSE: EHR grant funding are included in the NSF’s Proposal & Award Policies and Procedures Guide.

Gifts Versus Grants

Many in the nonprofit world use the terms “gifts” and “grants” interchangeably, so if you’re second-guessing yourself or are confused about the terminology many nonprofits and funders alike are using, you’re not alone. In fact, larger nonprofits have developed and published guidelines to help their staff distinguish between gifts and grants. JCCI has witnessed a growing number of private and corporate funders that previously offered “gifts” to nonprofits that are now moving to a grant model for their philanthropic support. We’ve also worked with clients who were making unsuccessful attempts to reshape their priorities to fit a grant’s stated goals and objectives. Gifts and grants are two distinct philosophies of giving, and—accounting principles aside—understanding the philosophical differences between the two can help you effectively research prospective donors and respond to funding opportunities. Here’s how JCCI distinguishes between gifts and grants.


Nonprofits benefit greatly from gifts that help them sustain general operations or special programming. A gift philosophy is one without strings attached—at least not in the way that grants have strings attached to the funds. Instead, donors who give gifts are supporting an organization without a preconceived expectation of specific outcomes. Gifts may be restricted to certain purposes, but within those constraints, gifts support organizational needs and priorities. Gifts don’t support a funder’s goals and priorities, though the funder’s goals and the nonprofit’s goals are usually closely aligned. While you may submit a stewardship report and let your donor know how your organization used the gifted funds, the organization isn’t held accountable for achieving funder-identified goals. You may also provide donors with a budget and breakdown of expenditures, but donors who provide gifts are typically more interested in overall impact rather than with detailed accounting and outcomes. Gifts are often smaller amounts than grants, but, collectively, gifts can be the mainstay of nonprofit operations.


A grant philosophy, on the other hand, is very much tied to a funder’s goals and objectives. Government grant programs, for instance, typically provide funding as a means of accomplishing specific identified goals that the government entity cannot accomplish independently. A grantor seeks an organization with the expertise and capacity to carry out work—work that the grantor is unable to carry out itself—that achieves the grantor’s goals rather than the grantee’s goals. As such, RFPs and other grant announcements include the rationale for offering grant funding and provide a detailed scope of work expected and identified goals and objectives that grantees should achieve. Ideally, applicants for grant funds share the funder’s goals and are already conducting work that aligns with those goals. Ultimately, though, grant funders expect grantees to make a pre-determined impact that accomplishes the funder’s agenda.

Grants are often large amounts, and grantors may provide funding for grantees to conduct projects over several years. Grant agreements stipulate reporting requirements that include a detailed accounting of all expenditures and demonstrate the impact of grant-funded activities. If grantees wish to use funds in a manner that is different from information in their initial proposal, grantors reserve the right to approve this type of change, and grantors may ask that grantees return funds if agreed-upon conditions are not met or if funds are unspent.

Mixed Messages

No wonder many in the nonprofit world are confused over terminology. Funders themselves are sending mixed messages. In the current climate, more and more funders have their own agendas. Many corporate and private foundations are developing giving programs that look and act much more like grants than gifts, though their donations are still, technically, gifts. While providing gifts to nonprofits, these funders are also adopting grant strategies such as pre-defined goals and objectives that they expect nonprofits to achieve. Additionally, many funders are now requesting components of proposals that typically appear in grant applications. For instance, more funders expect gift requests to include logic models, work plans and timelines, and evaluation plans. These items, when thoughtfully constructed, should strengthen a nonprofit’s development of specific projects and lead to improved outcomes, so having your team consider these application elements—whether requested or not—can often help you craft a better case for support whether through grants or gifts.

Finding the Right Fit

Since more funders are taking a mixed philosophical approach to funding and have more pre-defined agendas, nonprofits must take even more care to research the best prospects for funding. In an ideal world, nonprofits can identify projects and work already underway that aligns with philanthropic goals of both private and corporate foundations as well as government entities. Adhering to your organization’s mission rather than trying to develop projects that fit a funder’s priorities, though, will always be the best recipe for funding success.