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Transcript of the FY24 Tribal Victim Services Set-Aside Formula Program Webinar Series: Completing the TVSSA Program Narrative Checklist Webinar

May 14, 2024

View the Recorded Webinar

Melissa Lopez: I'm Melissa Lopez with the Office for Victims of Crime, Tribal Victim Services Training and Technical Assistance Program, T-VSTTA. 

Our presenters today are from the Office for Victims of Crime, Tribal Division. And you'll be hearing from Ramesa Pitts, grants management specialist, Bonnie Robertson, grants management specialist, and Kimberly Woodard, Senior Tribal Affairs specialist. Now I'll turn it over to Ramesa to begin the presentation. 

Bonnie Robertson: Actually, it's coming to me. Hello everybody, my name is Bonnie Robertson, and I am a grant manager in the Tribal Division at the Office for Victims of Crime. And welcome today. So what's our goal for today? Let's take a moment to review OVC's overarching goals for today's webinar. 

The primary audience for this webinar are applicants who plan to complete the program checklist on their own. And we recognize that we may have some applicants who have scheduled an interview or who plan to write a traditional program narrative. But regardless of how you plan to create your program narrative, we want applicants to prepare robust, detailed narratives. 

And I'm going to take myself off camera here so we can focus on the slides. If your program narrative is clear and easy to understand, it helps to foster a shared understanding between OVC and the grantee about what the grantee is authorized to do with the funding. It also helps the individual responsible for the development and implementing the project with an understanding what OVC has authorized you to do with your fiscal year 24 TVSSA funding. Next, we're going to find out a little bit more about your plans for fiscal year 2024. 

It's time for a poll. In the next minute and a half, let us know which of the three program narrative options your Tribe or organization has chosen for fiscal year 2024. All right, let's look at the results. So, most of you are participating in an interview this year. That's great. Some of you will be completing your program narrative on your own and some choose to do the traditional narrative. Now we're going to look at what we hope you will take away from our time together today. 

As we begin, make sure you have a copy of the fiscal year 2024 program narrative checklist open in another screen during today's webinar. That will make it easier for you to follow with the presentation. And there's a link to the checklist in the Chat if you need it. 

We'll talk about how to create a logical thread through key sections of the program narrative so that your narrative is cohesive and easy to understand. We want you to understand why it's important to make sure your program narrative sufficiently addresses the solicitation requirements. 

The TVSSA program is not a competitive grant award program. Your program narrative will not be scored. However, OVC has a responsibility to ensure that your program narrative fully addresses all of the solicitation requirements like the subheadings and the related bulleted criteria. 

This is something that our auditors look for, and the best means of satisfying them is to make sure that your responses are detailed and specific. And finally, we want you to understand what OVC staff consider when they assess your program narrative. This should help you prepare a solid program narrative. 

Now we're going to pause again for another quick poll. Help us understand your prior experience preparing a TVSSA program narrative. Please enter in your responses to the poll in the next minute and a half. Please go ahead and close the poll. 

Okay, we have a quite a few people who have never had any experience in developing a program narrative, so 34%. 28% have done the traditional narrative. 32% have completed the program narrative on their own, and 26% had done an interview with an OVC staff person. Okay, now we're going to take a look at what you need to do to write a strong program narrative. Next slide, please.

 So we will not be reviewing every section of the program narrative today. Rather, we'll be looking at key sections where applicants have struggled in the past to provide a sufficient level of detail. Again, we strongly encourage you to have a copy of this year's checklist open. We'll be using some shorthand for some of the questions in the checklist, but you should be able to follow along. 

Let's get started. So imagine for a moment that you're planning a road trip. One essential piece of information you'll need is your destination, where are you going. Once you know where you're headed, you can make some projections and do some planning. For example, you can map out the trip and estimate how long it'll take, and you can identify what resources you'll need and how much the trip will cost. 

Let's take a moment to consider what might happen if you don't know where you're headed. What might happen if you don't know where you're going or how you plan to get there? Enter your responses into the Chat. We'll give you about a minute and a half for folks to enter in, and then we'll take a look at your responses. 

There's some really great answers in here. A lot of people said, you'll get lost, you'll get stressed, you'll get exhausted. You'll end up in a destination that you don't want to be in. You fail to help the ones that you're aiming to help. You might experience emotional distress. You might miss out on everything and get lost. And another good one is, when you have no direction or how to start planning. So, great answers. 

So what does a road trip have to do with the development of a program narrative? As most of you probably figured out, it's a metaphor for developing your program narrative. Just as when you're planning a road trip, if you don't know your ultimate destination, you cannot properly prepare a project that meets your needs. 

It's true whether you're writing your program narrative on your own, or participating in an interview with OVC staff. For example, if you do not have a destination or goals and objectives in mind before you show up for your interview, there's a good chance you'll design a project that does not meet your community's needs, that is not adequately resourced, or that does not have a realistic timeline. 

Your long-term goals tell you your destination. Your objectives are like driving directions, while your project timeline lets you know step-by-step what needs to be done and how long it'll take you to reach your destination. Your primary resource is your fiscal year 24 TVSSA allocation. 

It's up to you to use that funding to cover the cost of the project. That includes personnel cost, travel, supplies, equipment, et cetera. We'll return to this metaphor later on in this presentation. But now I'm going to turn things over to Ramesa, and we'll look at some of the preliminary concerns. Ramesa? 

Ramesa Pitts: Yes and thank you for that, Bonnie. So welcome to everyone in today's presentation. Again, my name is Ramesa Pitts. I am a grant manager in the Tribal Division. And like Bonnie said, I will turn off my camera, but I did want to introduce myself so that you can put a face to my name. But I'll turn off the camera so that you can better focus on the slide deck. 

So first things first, you must use the FY 2024 TVSSA resources. That would include the solicitation, the program narrative checklist, the allocation table, and the allowable/unallowable costs chart. So if you do not have a copy of the resources, the link to OVC TVSSA website is in the Chat or it will be placed in the Chat. So please take a look at the Chat for that information. It is important to know that these resources are updated annually. 

So please be mindful that if you use a checklist from a previous fiscal year, it may not be responsive to this year's solicitation. Please do not copy and paste information from another application into your checklist or narrative. If you do, it may raise questions about duplication of efforts or activities. 

So please also keep in mind that what you copy and paste may have no relevancy to anything else in the program narrative or your proposed budget. And now with that said, we are now ready to look at the key sections of the program narrative. Next slide, please. 

So assistance, which Tribe or Tribes will be served by the proposed project? So I will say that unless you are applying for funding as a Tribal consortia, or an authorized designee, do not identify any other federally recognized Tribe other than your own in this section of the narrative. 

On this slide, as you can see, you can apply as an individual federally recognized Tribe, Tribal consortia, which is a partnership between two or more Tribes that work together, or as an authorized designee who is applying on behalf of your Tribe. Next slide, please. 

So the primary activities. If you're completing the checklist on your own or preparing for an interview with OVC staff, do not check off the box in this particular section unless you are actually planning to use your TVSSA allocation to support the activity. Next slide, please. 

So how to describe your community. This is a section where we find that a lot of the applicants struggle. We encourage you to write this section as if the reader has never been to your community and knows very little about your community. Your job is to paint a picture of what it looks like. This is also the section where you start to lay the groundwork for looking at the needs and/or challenges and how you want to use the FY'24 funding to address those areas of concerns. 

If your community or service area is extremely rural or otherwise geographically isolated, you want to let the reader know by specifically describing the physical barriers, such as mountains or bodies of water that must be crossed to reach your service population, or by explaining gaps in the infrastructure. For example, if the infrastructure includes, like the lack of road, an abundance of unpaved road or no public transportation. 

So more specifically, there is demographic information everyone should share, and that includes things, such as the total number of people in your service population. But other details should be narrowly tailored to support your proposed project. 

That would include the number of the total number of elders, for an example, how you define elders if you're proposing to use the funds to address elder abuse. So please, again, do not include demographic information that is not relevant to your proposed project.

For example, if you're not including, like the total number of individuals under the age of 18, unless you are proposing a project that addresses child abuse. So make it very specific. Next slide, please. 

So now let's look at how you should describe your existing victim services. The purpose of this section is to help OVC understand what services are currently available to crime victims in your community or service area, what the gaps are, and the challenges victims face in accessing existing services. 

This section represents your second opportunity to lay the foundation for justifying the victims' needs and/or challenges that you propose to address in the next section of the program narrative. The first thing you should address in this particular section is whether your Tribe or organization currently offers services to crime victims. 

To the extent that you have an established victim services program, it will be very beneficial and helpful for OVC to understand its current capacity, the number of full and part-time employees, and the summary of the services it currently offers. It should also include a summary of services that victims need or that the victims need, but your program currently cannot provide if you are proposing to use your FY'24 allocation to close that particular gap. 

If you're writing about services outside of your community, we would like for you to name the provider, the city where it's located, and let us know how far away it is from your community that will be served by your project. Next slide, please. 

So moving right along. Now let's take a look at the first opportunity you have to tell us about how you plan to use your FY'24 allocation. So this section is more or less where you would justify your plans for how you'd like to use the allocation. As we just went over, you should have laid the foundation for the justification in the previous two sections. 

So do not recycle needs or challenges from a previous grant application unless, and I add stress, unless you are proposing to use your FY'24 allocation to continue to sustain existing program activities that are funded by a previous TVSSA award or grant from another source that is soon to expire. 

For example, if you have an existing shelter advocate position and you'd like to continue paying for the position with this funding, then you should identify, for an example, operating a domestic violence shelter as a current need in this particular section. 

But please do not identify needs that you are not proposing to use your funding to address. And please do not identify needs that are not relevant to this program, and that will be any needs that are unrelated to serving crime victims. Next slide, please. 

So it is important to know that you should only identify populations that you are proposing to actually serve. If you are not developing services specific to an underserved population, do not identify that population in this section. Next slide, please. 

So next, we will talk about how to identify the types of victimization you are proposing to address. If you are proposing activities that do not include addressing sexual assault, for an example, once again, do not identify it as a form of crime victimization that will be addressed with this particular funding. 

So I think you kind of get the gist of where we're going with this. Only include those activities or specific program activities that will be included in your particular program. 

So next, we are going to pause for a couple of minutes to see if there are any questions in the Q&A, or if those questions were also included in the Chat. So Bonnie, we can pause here. Do we have any questions? 

Bonnie Robertson: Not yet. We're good. 

Ramesa Pitts: Well, that's a good thing. So thank you, Bonnie. And so now I will turn the next portion of the presentation over to my colleague, Kimberly. 

Kimberly Woodard: Thanks Ramesa. My name's Kimberly Woodard, I'm OVC's Senior Tribal Affairs Specialist, and I will be speaking with you for the next several minutes about developing program goals and objectives. But before we get to that, I do want to go over one question that came in in the Q&A that I answered previously. 

There may be other participants who have the same question. And the question is, "what is the difference between the traditional narrative and submitting the narrative on your own?" So when we are referring to completing the narrative checklist on your own, what we're referring to is completing the narrative checklist on your own as opposed to participating in an interview with an OVC staff member who will complete the checklist for you based on your responses. 

Completing a traditional narrative is relevant to applicants who will not use the checklist at all, but will instead write a standard program narrative. So with that being said, I'm going to get right into talking about developing goals and objectives. Even if you are preparing for an interview with OVC staff, you will need to think these through before the interview. Next slide, please. 

Many people use the terms goals and objectives interchangeably, but they are actually not the same. Generally, a goal should be broadly stated as a desired long-term outcome. Objectives are much more specific and are short-term actions that you can take to work towards a goal. 

Returning to our road trip metaphor, the goals can be considered your destination and the objectives are your roadmap that gives you the directions to your destination. So let's take a look at SMART goals. Next slide, please. 

SMART goals are a little different than the generic definition of goals that we just reviewed. The acronym stands for, Specific. Your goal needs to be specific and answer three questions. What do I want to accomplish? Will achieving this goal have an important impact? What actions will I need to take? 

M is for measurable. Your goal should allow you to measure your progress towards achieving your goal. This component of the goal should have a clear benchmark or benchmarks you can use to track your progress towards your goal. 

A is for attainable. Your goal should be realistic based on your resources and capacity. For example, a community with a total population of 150, which does not have an existing victim services program, but sets a goal of serving 50 victims in a 24-month period, may not be creating an attainable goal. 

That particular community might want to consider how comfortable victims in such a small community might feel seeking services in the community, how long it might take to build trust and rapport with community members, or how much they currently know about what victims in their community need or want. 

R is for relevant. Your goals must be related to serving victims of crime. 

T is for time-based. Your goal should have a specific time deadline. For example, the end of your 24-month award period, that would be an example of a SMART goal that meets the T standard. Next slide, please. Here's what a SMART goal looks like. 

It has specificity. What is specified here is that they will, the applicant will increase access to services in remote communities. It has a measurable benchmark, specifically hiring a full-time advocate. Whether it's attainable depends on whether the applicant has the capacity, meaning the human resources, the supplies, and the equipment to design, plan, and carry out quarterly community awareness activities and serve victims of crime. 

This can be evaluated by looking at the detailed description of existing services as well as the objectives to support the goal. For example, will the applicant use its FY'24 funding allocation to develop its capacity to carry out these activities. The community awareness activities and assisting crime victims are both relevant to the purpose of the Set-Aside Program. 

And this goal is time-based. The timeline to accomplish the goal is 24 months. Next up, let's take a look at an example of some good objectives for this SMART goal. You'll notice that this slide has not just objectives, but also includes related task and activities. 

These details illustrate that the applicant has considered the activities that will need to take place before it can accomplish the objective. Taken as a whole, the objectives offer step-by-step directions on how to accomplish the ultimate goal. Now, it's your turn to practice. Next slide, please. 

How would you make this into a SMART goal? So what we have as a goal is to expand community outreach and awareness activities. So take a couple of minutes to think this over and please enter your response in the Chat. 

You don't need to write out a full SMART goal, but just explain some things that might make it closer to a SMART goal. So, does it have specificity, is it measurable, is it attainable, is it relevant, and is it time-bound. 

Okay, so I see, when responses come in, it is to facilitate bimonthly community outreach and awareness events in each community of the service area. So that definitely makes it much more specific, and it is measurable because we know that the measurement is, "Will we be able to do this bimonthly?" Thank you. Any other ideas? 

Okay, I see another one that came in. Oh, they're coming in fast now. Create an event, to the community what the event will provide, when it will happen, and who can participate. Yes. Thank you so much, Renee, for that. Those are definitely some things that can be added to what we already have to flesh that out and make it closer to a SMART goal. 

I also see, over the next two years, BDVP will expand community outreach with six events and three outlying communities and awareness activities. Very good, that makes it measurable and time-bound. 

Let's see. Oh, they're coming in pretty fast now, so I apologize if I don't get to read yours out loud. Conduct... Let me go back up for a second. Conduct for community. Ooh, this is moving pretty quickly here. Okay. 

Hire a full-time outreach advocate to develop and present activities within remote communities. That definitely has more specificity. It is measurable in the sense that you are talking about hiring a full-time outreach advocate. 

Schedule monthly outreach at each of the 12 villages on the Hopi Reservation. That is measurable, so that is good. That would definitely help it out. 

Our program will hire one of our elders in the community to help teach beading as a therapeutic outreach program. That is measurable, you're going to hire an elder. 

Attend monthly general meetings to the community to provide outreach and awareness activities dealing with various types of victimization. So that is measurable, you're going to attend monthly general meetings. Okay. 

Community outreach activities, measurable, to reach 20% of the population through three years in three events in the year. Task or post on Facebook. Develop flyers and poster. Have a sign-in sheet to measure those who attend. Those are all great ideas and it also expands into related activities. 

One thing I will say about adding quantifiable measurements like that 20% of the population, that is probably something that should be reserved for communities that already have an established program. Particularly if you already have funding from OVC, you can look at your performance measurements that you've collected and reported on in your current award. 

That will give you a baseline for determining how much you can expand. For a community who does not have that type of data readily available, it might be more difficult to set goals like that. Okay. 

So I see some more coming in. These are all great ideas. I really appreciate you all taking the opportunity to try this out, but we're going to move on to the next slide. 

All right. So when we talk about products, and you'll see that in the checklist, there's a section for that. A product which can also be referred to as a deliverable, refers to a document or other media that grantees must submit for review and approval per the conditions of their award or their approved projects, goals, and objectives. 

There are no mandatory products or deliverables for all Set-Aside grantees. Whether you should identify products in your program narrative depends on whether you are proposing to create products with your funds. 

This slide includes some examples of tangible products that require post-award OVC review and approval. You should plan to submit products to OVC for review and approval at least 60 days before you plan to disseminate them. So now we'll take a look at your project timeline requirements. Next slide, please. 

The timeline and the fillable PDF version of the checklist permits you to show quarter-by-quarter, year-by-year how you will develop and implement the project. We're returning to our road trip metaphor. Again, the timeline has mile markers or other visual aids that help you navigate and assess your progress towards your ultimate destination or your goals. 

The timeline is also important to your SMART goals. Your timeline should be realistic and allow you plenty of opportunity to make adjustments to your goals regarding whether they are still relevant, how specific they are, and whether or not they are attainable. 

So post-award, you will have an opportunity to make adjustments by speaking with your assigned grant manager and preparing a grant adjustment modification if necessary. If you are finding that you are not able to stick to the goals you originally envisioned or if you're having difficulty with your timeline. So we also have some tips for you on how to complete the timeline. Next slide, please. 

Again, you want to be realistic about how long it will take you to accomplish your objectives. For example, if you know that it takes you an average of six months to advertise a vacancy, interview candidates, and hire someone to fill that vacancy, it would not be realistic to state in your timeline that you would be able to accomplish that in a single quarter. 

We recommend starting by filling in the objectives and activities that will only take place one time. For example, purchasing a major piece of equipment, like a vehicle. Next, enter the activities that will take place periodically throughout the award period, such as preparing and submitting federal financial reports and performance measurement reports within 30 days of the end of the reporting quarter. 

Then copy and paste that information for the remaining quarters in the award period. Build in sufficient time. Again, it needs to be at least 60 days for OVC to review and approve any products or to complete a NEPA assessment for construction projects in your timeline. Let's look at how you should enter that information about project staff. Next slide, please. 

If you are proposing to use your FY'24 Set-Aside allocation to sustain existing staff positions, please enter the information for each of those individuals in this section. We're asking that you write in complete sentences and include a detailed but concise summary of the assigned duties and qualifications of those individuals who are already in place.

 We also strongly encourage you to attach position descriptions and resumes to your application submission. That way, you do not have to spend an inordinate amount of time writing narrative in this section. Make sure the proposed assigned duties match the goals and objectives of the project. Now let's take a look at how to describe new proposed positions. Next slide, please. 

If you're proposing to create a new position that does not currently exist, enter that information in this section. Again, the summary of the assigned duties must reflect the proposed goals and objectives. Next, we'll take a look at the section on supervisors. 

We need to know who the grant-funded staff members will report to regardless of whether the position is new or existing. We do not need to know how much time and effort the supervisor will spend on the proposed funded project unless their time or effort would be covered by funds from your FY'24 Set-Aside allocation. Next, we're going to take a very quick look at consultants, contractors, and subrecipients. 

Most important here, if you already have an individual or an organization in mind, please include their name in this section. Please keep in mind that adding the name to the program narrative does not mean the individual or organization has been approved. 

There may be additional steps to obtain approval post-award if you are proposing to compensate a consultant at a rate that exceeds $650 per day or $81.25 per hour. There may also be an additional step post-award if you are proposing to make a sole source award or a procurement action that exceeds $250,000. Again, if you are proposing to make a subrecipient award, there will be additional steps to take post-award before you are able to move forward and get formal approval on that funding. 

Now we're going to take a look at how OVC evaluates your program narrative. And for this section, I'm going to turn things back over to Ramesa. 

Ramesa Pitts: Yes. Thank you, Kimberly. We can go to the very next slide please. So for those of you who may not know, the Set-Aside Program is a non-competitive award program. However, as we mentioned earlier today, OVC has a responsibility to review or evaluate your application in its entirety. 

This slide, as you can see, offers a broad summary of the criteria we use to evaluate your program narrative. If it falls short of these standards, you may receive an award with a special condition that prohibits your Tribe or organization from obligating, expending, or drawing down on any funding until you make revisions to your program narrative. Next slide, please.

So we've pretty much come to the end of our journey together today. And we surely hope that you will use the information that we have provided to guide you in developing your FY'24 TVSSA program narrative. 

This slide outlines some steps that you can take right away regardless of how you are planning to develop your program narrative. Clearly mapping out your destination and how you will get there will vary from one applicant to the next, but keep in mind that we have resources to help you as you plan your proposal. Next slide, please. 

If you have questions about the Tribal Set-Aside Program requirements, please email OVC's Tribal Division using our Set-Aside email account, which is on the slide. If you're preparing your program narrative on your own, help is available through OVC's Tribal Victim Services Training and Technical Assistance provider, also known as T-VSTTA. And that information is in the slide deck as well. 

And if you want help preparing your budget, we encourage you to register for tomorrow's pre-application webinar. The registration link is in the Chat or will be placed in the Chat. You can also contact OVC's Tribal Financial Management Center, also known as TFMC for help. 

Now we are ready to have any final questions that may be in the Chat or in the Q&A. And I will turn things back over to my colleague, Bonnie, to see if we have any final questions. 

Bonnie Robertson: There's no questions that have come in, but I would like to just share that there's a lot of good links that just got entered into the Chat. So if you have questions that you may think of after this presentation, you can send them to the Tribal Set-Aside email address. And then also, the links for assistance for the program narrative and preparing your budget. 

Ramesa Pitts: Thank you for that, Bonnie. And since we don't have any additional questions, once again, we would like to thank everyone for attending today's program narrative pre-application webinar. 

And once again, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to your OVC grant manager if you know who that person is, or email the Tribal Set-Aside email inbox to let us know if you have any additional questions. And if we have nothing else, I think that concludes today's webinar. And thanks again.