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The Donors’ Education Collaborative
Request for Proposals

>>Download PDF of RFP

The Donors’ Education Collaborative (DEC)

DEC is a pooled fund of 13 local and national foundations committed to systemic reform of the New York City public school system.  Its members believe that effective school reform must be grounded in research and created and sustained in partnership with informed and engaged parents, students, educators, and members of the community.  It must also be guided by a vision of equity, opportunity, and excellence for all students – including those who face the greatest challenges to success.   

Since 1995, DEC has invested nearly $15 million in systemic education reform efforts that use research, grassroots organizing, constituency-building, and policy advocacy to bring the voices and concerns of diverse communities into the discourse around education reform.  With this support, DEC’s grantees have helped secure more equitable school finance systems, resources for middle schools serving high needs students, more transparent and effective accountability and teacher evaluation policies, and school discipline reforms, among other improvements.  

At this transitional moment in City government, DEC is once again inviting proposals for projects to advocate for system-wide policies that will increase equity, excellence, and collaboration among stakeholders in the New York City public school system and lead to better educational and social outcomes for the City’s public school students.

A Critical Time for Public Education Reform in New York City

In the last 12 years, the New York City public schools experienced rapid changes.  This time of renewed and sustained attention to public education brought innovative programs and new school models, resulting in some increases in graduation rates.  However, this period has also been marked by a weakening of the relationships between communities and schools, and will leave behind continuing achievement gaps and segregation by race, class, and academic ability.  
At the same time, the national education dialogue has redefined the goal of public education from ensuring high school graduation to preparing students for success in college and careers.  In response, New York is adopting more rigorous instructional standards and assessments, and implementing new systems of accountability and evaluation.  

Responding to these challenges and opportunities will require the collective wisdom, will, and creativity of all stakeholders.  Fortuitously, over the last decade, public school constituencies have grown more informed, engaged, and prepared to be part of proposing, creating, and implementing innovative solutions.  As a new mayoral administration begins in New York City and dramatic policy shifts continue at the state and federal levels, we have a rare opportunity to shape not only the priorities of the City’s school system but also the way in which those priorities are determined.  

DEC Grants to Increase Educational Equity, Excellence, and Collaboration

DEC invites proposals for projects that will help shape the education agenda for New York City; promote participation by informed and engaged communities and public school constituencies; and increase educational equity and excellence in the City’s public schools for all students.  In particular, DEC seeks to support organizations that have the ability to immediately take advantage of opportunities at both the city and state levels to advance policies that will improve the City’s school system.      
Projects may address a wide variety of issues within the framework of promoting educational equity, excellence, and collaboration.  The following topics are provided as examples, and applicants may address one or more of them, or others not listed here.  

  • Improving instruction and supports, particularly for student populations whose performance and outcomes lag behind their peers, such as low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities or special needs, or English language learners
  • Creating new structures and processes that ensure the inclusion of diverse parent, community, and/or student voices in decision-making
  • Increasing or improving the resources (e.g., time, training, collaboration, social and human capital, and funds) available to schools   
  • Building more pathways to careers and post-secondary training and education, particularly for over-age and under-credited and disconnected youth
  • Fostering a positive climate for learning in schools through reform of disciplinary policies, improved behavioral supports, increased social-emotional learning, or better assessment and accountability policies
  • Establishing new structures and policies that encourage and support collaboration, stronger connections between schools and their constituencies, and/or cross-system service delivery
  • Building structures or policies that increase equity and opportunity and reduce racial and/or socio-economic segregation in New York City schools 
Selected projects will receive one-year grants, with renewal support considered depending on funds available.  We expect grants to range from $75,000 to $125,000.  The majority of grants will be awarded according to the timeline below, but some grants may be awarded on a rolling basis after the deadline if funds allow.  

Essential Project Elements

To be considered for funding, projects must:  
  • Be grounded in research and use a combination of advocacy, grassroots organizing, and/or constituency-building strategies;
  • Advance specific systemic reforms or policies that are likely to  
  • Improve educational outcomes for students whose academic performance and outcomes typically lag behind those of their peers, such as students of color, immigrant students and English language learners, students from low-income families, or students with disabilities, or
  • Increase educational equity, quality, and opportunity in the City’s public school system;
  • Strengthen participation in education policy by diverse communities and constituencies, particularly those who are most directly affected by policy decisions and who have traditionally been excluded from decision-making;   
  • Contribute to a more informed and productive public dialogue about educational issues; and
  • Encourage coordination and collaboration among stakeholders around shared priorities.  
DEC does not fund model programs, schools, or direct services, nor does it support lobbying of any kind.  DEC also does not make grants for general operating support.  

How to Apply for a Grant   

  1. On or before January 17, 2014, complete an electronic proposal cover sheet, available at
  2. On or before January 17, 2014, submit an electronic copy of the proposal narrative and budget in a single PDF by email to
  3. Postmarked on or before January 21, 2014, submit a hard copy by mail of the proposal cover sheet, narrative, project budget, and total organizational budget addressed to:
Mary Gentile
The New York Community Trust
909 Third Avenue, 22nd Floor
New York, New York 10022

Please note that this is an open RFP, and an invitation to apply is not required.  DEC expects most grant awards to be made in early 2014.

Proposal Format

I.    Narrative.  Your proposal narrative should not exceed 10 double-spaced pages (no type smaller than 12 point; no margins less than 1"), and should address the following:

a.    Identify the specific policy goal(s) that you hope to achieve.  What is your specific policy goal for this proposal?  How does this connect to your broader vision?  What research supports your goal?  

b.    Systemic change.  How will your work lead to positive change across the City’s public education system?  How will this policy change advance education equity and excellence in the New York City public schools?  How will achieving your goal improve the lives of students who confront significant barriers to academic engagement and success?    

c.    Your work to date on this project.  How long has your organization/coalition been working on this issue?  Who are your constituents and/or target populations?  What do you see as your major accomplishments?  What challenges have you encountered?  

d.    Timeliness, urgency, and achievability of your policy goal.  Why is this goal important this year?  Is it achievable now or in the near future?  What can you realistically accomplish during this year to move your reforms forward?  Are there favorable conditions, opportunities, or new challenges that have recently emerged?  What environmental or other factors affect the likelihood of your success?    

e.    Your objectives, activities, and benchmarks.  Please be specific about what objectives you will seek to accomplish to achieve your policy goal, the activities you will undertake, any alternate or parallel plans and strategies that will increase your chances of success, and how DEC funding will help you execute your plan.  As you describe your plan, please address the following elements:
i.    Strategies and Activities:  What are your objectives for the year, and what activities will allow you to accomplish them?  If you encounter a roadblock, do you have an alternative or parallel plan or plans?  Will you pursue collaborative or non-cooperative strategies or both?  
ii.    Timing:  What is your approximate timeline and how will your activities be coordinated with events or activities of other education reform groups anticipated to occur during this period?
iii.    Policy Development and Dissemination:  How will policy analysis be integrated into the project?  How will your policy recommendations be developed and disseminated?  What, if any, partners do you plan to engage in policy development and dissemination?  
iv.    Advocacy and Support for Reform:  What outreach, communications, grassroots organizing, or other activities will you undertake to mobilize public support for your policy goal?  How will you build relationships with key stakeholders, decision-makers, and constituencies in the community and within the government?  How will you influence the City and/or State administration?  
v.    Benchmarks:  What benchmarks will you use to measure your success over the year?
f.    Capacity and Staff.  Do you currently have the capacity to execute this plan immediately?  If so, please describe.  If not, please explain what you would need to build the necessary capabilities and how you would use a portion of a DEC grant to do so.  Who are the key staff and/or consultants who will be involved in the project?  Please attach their resumes and job descriptions for the project.

g.  Documentation.  How will you document your activities and progress toward achieving the goals and benchmarks you have identified?

II.    Budget.  Provide both your total organizational budget and the budget for this project.

Your project budget for the grant period must include:

  • An itemization of individual salaries, consultant costs, subcontracts, and OTPS.  
  • If your budget includes "indirect costs", please specify what expenses are included.
  • If the work you propose is part of a larger project, please provide the overall project budget as well as the sources of additional income, matching funds, or in-kind support.  If you plan to approach additional funders, please list them.

Review Criteria

Proposals will be reviewed based on the following criteria:  

  • The identification of an achievable policy goal that is supported by research and increases educational equity, quality, and opportunity in the City’s school system;   
  • The ability to promote ongoing participation by informed and engaged communities and public school constituencies;     
  • The importance of addressing the particular issue(s) during the first year of the new City administration,  or at this particular time at the State level, and the project’s ability to take advantage of opportunities present during this critical year;  
  • The grant-seeker’s history of advancing systemic reforms or other evidence of capacity for executing the proposed work plan, and likelihood of making substantial progress toward the identified objectives, benchmarks, and reform(s); and
  • The potential for lasting improvement in the learning and life outcomes of students in the New York City public schools, particularly for the neediest students. 
An informational meeting will be held on Monday, December 16th from 3:30 to 5:00 at: 
The New York Community Trust
909 Third Avenue, 22nd Floor
New York, NY 10022.  

Grant-seekers may attend the meeting in person or participate via phone.  Attendance at the session is not required to apply for a grant.  Please RSVP to by Thursday, December 12th to receive call-in instructions or to reserve a seat.      

If you have any questions about this RFP or the grant application process, please contact Gisela Alvarez, Coordinator of DEC, at  

909 Third Avenue | New York, NY 10022 | P (212) 686-0010 | F (212) 532-8528 |
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The New York Community Trust is a 501(c)3 public charity.