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Content Area Specialist 
Request Submission and Contracting

Content Area Specialists - Guidance for Coaches

Accelerator is designed to provide support to Grantees in a variety of ways to ensure success.  In the Technical Assistance Plans, you and your Grantees identified specific areas of need; Content Area Specialists may be engaged on a limited basis to assist with these needs.  Fees for Content Area Specialists are paid directly by Community Solutions and are separate from the grant funds awarded to Grantees.

 

Funds available for Content Area Specialists are limited, so Coaches are encouraged to work with Grantees to prioritize technical assistance needs based on the organization’s Strategic Growth and Technical Assistance Plans. 

 

Community Solutions seeks to engage Content Area Specialists who not only have experience and expertise, but who also reflect the communities served by the Grantees. 

If your Grantee has a relationship with someone they would like to work with as a Content Area Specialist, please direct that individual to the Technical Assistance page on the website and ask them to fill out a Content Area Specialist Interest Form indicating their area of expertise.  After we have reviewed their Interest Form, their information will be added to our Content Area Specialist Directory.  At that time, they will be eligible to provide technical assistance to Grantees.

 

Grantees are responsible for selecting Content Area Specialists from the Content Area Specialist Directory that meet their technical assistance needs.  Community Solutions is not involved with the selection of Content Area Specialists for Grantees. As a Coach, you may support your Grantees with implementing a selection process; however, Grantees are empowered to decide for themselves what selection process they will use to hire Content Area Specialists.


While serving as a Coach does not preclude you from also serving as a Content Area Specialist, Coaches are expected to prioritize their coaching responsibilities over all else. Grantees may choose to get technical assistance from several Content Area Specialists – but they only get ONE coach.

 

  • The Coach’s role is to support Grantees in their efforts to prioritize TA needs, articulate the needs, select content area specialists, manage the contracting process, and oversee the work of the contractor to the Grantee’s satisfaction.

  • Supporting Grantees in learning how to navigate the process of effectively engaging consultants is a HUGE resource that the program seeks to provide to Grantees. Coaches should support Grantees in exploring options for TA providers – especially those local to them or connected to their community.

  • When a Coach takes on the additional role of Content Area Specialist with their own Grantee, that new role can put them at odds with their coaching role, because the Coach priority is always maximum benefit of Grantees. Coaches are on their Grantee’s side – they want the Grantee to get great service from any contractors they engage and can help them navigate tricky issues, like how to hold contractors accountable for their commitments in terms of timeline and tasks, what to do when they don’t feel like they are getting the level of quality they expect, how to handle conflict or address concerns about performance. If their Coach is also their TA provider, they don’t have a coach to turn to when things get tricky.

  • The Accelerator Initiative will continue to consider small, limited scope, need-specific requests for Coaches to serve as CAS on a case-by-case basis

    • Small? ~less than 10% of TA budget; Explanation for why the Coach is best or only person to provide the service should be provided

    • Limited Scope? Specific and short timeframe and finite/discreet tasks

    • Need Specific? Grantee needs help that can’t be addressed effectively by anyone else

 

Please reach out to the Accelerator team with any questions or to get additional clarification.

Guidance for Soliciting Services from Content Area Specialists

Engaging a Content Area Specialist is hiring an outside consultant to assist you with a defined area such as human resources, board development, financial management, etc. either because the organization doesn’t have the staff experience or time to do the work. Below are a few guidelines and suggestions to consider as grantees move forward to preparing, selecting, and engaging with Content Area Specialists (CAS).

While Grantees do not need to submit full proposal to request TA funding, we strongly encourage them to request full proposals from multiple Content Area Specialists when they are seeking technical assistance. Coaches should provide support to Grantees as they navigate this process (if support is desired).

Preparing to Engage a CAS:

A few things for grantees to consider prior to engaging with a CAS:

  • Allocate staff time to meet and work with the CAS throughout the project/tasks. Who will be the lead contact with the CAS?

  • Craft a clear set of goals and/or expectations that should be achieved as a result of the engagement.

    • What are you trying to change and/or improve?

    • What problem are you trying to solve?

    • How will the CAS report progress?

    • Are their cultural nuances important for the CAS to understand?

Outreach, Recruitment, and Selection of a CAS:

There are several approaches to selecting a CAS to engage that grantees can take that range from informal to very formal. How a grantee approaches selection can depend upon the subject matter, specialization, and timeline. Many grantees may have established relationships with local consultants that could influence the selection process.

As grantees are deciding how they will conduct their selection process, consider the benefits of working with a consultant you have never worked with before:

  • neutral third party with no previous experience with the organizational

  • expands the organization’s network to a new person/s and their circle of influence.

The Accelerator team has provided a CAS Directory as a starting point for identifying potential consultants who may be able to assist.

There are many ways that organizations may choose to gather information and select a CAS. Here are three commonly used approaches to serve as examples:

  1. Research and Interview: Grantees can research and compile a prospect list of consultants and conduct interviews based on this research. Prospects can be found by using the CAS Directory, contacting peer organizations or national/state coalitions or networks. While not all consultants will have website content, for those who do, it can provide insight on who they are and their experiences.

    Once a list of 2-4 potential consultants are compiled, interviews can be conducted to get a sense of their style, assess organizational fit and confirm they understand the project. Once a grantee decides they would like to move forward with a consultant, a scope of work should be developed (and is a requirement for Accelerator TA funds) as a part of the consulting contract.

     

  2. Request for Qualifications (RFQ): The RFQ approach is a more formal approach that focuses on consultants providing their experiences and qualifications rather than responding to a specific project. This approach can be useful if grantees are looking for consultants who have experience in the area needed but the grantee hasn’t decided about the details of their project or grantees would like a set of prescreened consultants ready for consideration.

    An RFQ asks for 1) a resume, 2) services description or marketing materials and 3) references. An interview can be added to this process as well.

    Once a grantee decides they would like to move forward with a consultant that has responded to a RFQ, a scope of work should be developed (and is a requirement for Accelerator TA funds) as a part of the consulting contract.

     

  3. Request for Proposal (RFP): The RFP proposal is also a more formal approach that focuses on a specific scope of work for consultants to respond to. In general, an RFP includes the following elements:
     

    • About Your Organization

      1. Background information about grantee, including mission and brief description of programs/services (or make reference to your website if you have one).

      2. Specific description of the project/services that consulting is needed

      3. Parameters such as proposal deadline, project timeline, scope and budget.

      4. Other requirements such as maximum page count, format or anything that may be a disqualifying factor.

    • About The Consultant

      1. Contact information and business name (if applicable)

      2. Describe their background and expertise

      3. Demonstrate capacity to complete the project

      4. Plan for completing the project, including a timeline

      5. Proposed fees and explanation of fee structure (hourly or project based, for example)

      6. References (recommend at least 3)

Typical RFP Selection Process

  1. Send RFP to consultant lists: grantees can use the CAS Directory, peer referrals or other networks to gather consultant names to it send to

  2. Review proposals: this process may yield many proposals, depending upon how many were sent the RFP. Grantees could involve other staff to help review proposals (depending upon the subject matter).

  3. Determine top 2-4 proposals:  a review of the proposals to select the top 2-4 proposals to conduct an interview.

  4. Interview top proposals: develop a set of 3-4 questions to ask each consultant so you can compare answers.

  5. Check references: it is important to check references and confirm the work consultant done for the organization and the satisfaction of the reference.

Engaging a CAS/Accessing the AI Technical Assistance Funds

To access TA funding through the Accelerator Initiative, grantees need complete the TA Request form, include the scope of work (description of the work to be performed, the timeframe during which it will be completed, any deliverables that will result from the work), and the total cost and the breakdown of the number of hours and hourly rate.

The standard contract that Community Solutions will issue on behalf of the Grantee will incorporate or attach the scope of services that has been described and outlines the payment terms. Contractors can bill monthly by providing an accounting of the hours spent, a description of activities completed, and a calculation of the monthly cost (number of hours worked multiplied by the hourly rate). They should attach any deliverables that were completed to the invoice, as well. Total payments will not exceed the estimated cost included in the scope of work and listed on the contract, which means that if the consultant exceeds the number of hours that they estimated, they still must complete the work that they committed to in the scope and contract but may not bill for additional hours.

Request Submission and Contracting

Once your Grantee has selected a Content Area Specialist, the Grantee needs to obtain from them a scope of work that outlines what services and deliverables they will provide to the Grantee organization and what their fees will be for those services and deliverables. This scope of work should be provided directly to the Grantee.  The Grantee will then submit a Technical Assistance Request to Community Solutions, listing the requested Content Area Specialist and their scope of work. 

 

Process for Requesting Technical Assistance

  1. Grantee completes the table below (click the table to download)

  2. Grantee copies and pastes the table into an email with the subject line, “Technical Assistance Request” and sends to Accelerator@CommunitySolutionsInc.net, copies (cc) you the Coach, and attaches the proposal/scope of services provided by the Content Area Specialist.

  3. Community Solutions will respond within 5 business days (Mon-Fri) of submission.

 

Once the Technical Assistance Request is approved, Community Solutions will contact the Content Area Specialist via email to begin the contract process.  Please note that the Contracts for Content Area Specialists are with Community Solutions and NOT with the Grantee organization.  Content Area Specialists will invoice Community Solutions directly for their work and will be paid directly by Community Solutions.  These funds are separate from the grant dollars awarded to Grantees.

 

Content Area Specialists are expected to provide copies of all deliverables to Community Solutions at the time they are provided to Grantees.  This will help to ensure that invoices are accurately reflecting the reported work completed without placing additional reporting burdens on the Grantee. 

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