7 Tips for Writing a Successful VSA Program Contract Proposal

StephanieBy Stephanie Litvak
Manager, VSA Affiliates
Office of VSA and Accessibility at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is seeking contract proposals from eligible and qualified US organizations to perform the VSA programs that provide arts education experiences to students with disabilities. To view the eight Requests for Contract Proposals (RFP) for specific program details and to download the Contract Proposal Form, please visit http://www.kennedy-center.org/education/vsa/programs/requests_for_proposals.cfm

  1. Contracts not grants. This is a contract for hire process, rather than the grant process that many nonprofit organizations are used to. These are contracts to deliver VSA Programs (services) for the Kennedy Center. It is a competitive process. We are NOT providing grants to organizations to support their programs. We are seeking to hire organizations that have the best qualifications and are cost effective. We want our VSA Programs to affect as many students with disabilities as possible. Think of the contact as bringing your expertise to deliver VSA Programs to our constituency in your community. You can use your existing program structures or frameworks and existing funding sources to expand your services to the Kennedy Center.
  2. Read the Requests for Contract Proposals (RFP) thoroughly, especially the core program components on page 2, and the eligibility requirements on page 4. These sections are similar, but are not the same in every RFP.Use the narrative spaces wisely. Make your proposal as strong as possible by focusing your efforts on the narrative sections where you describe your services. Have a strong summary description. Tell us how you will deliver the VSA Program: goals and objectives, strategies, learning objectives, assessment and evaluation. Explain how you will achieve the VSA Program’s goals and objectives in your community. Since this is a contract proposal instead of a grant application, you don’t have to waste space on justifying the need for the program. Make sure your narrative is within the word limits per section (noted in each section of the form) and overall page limit (RFP page 3). Carefully review your proposal for errors before submitting.
  3. Don’t assume that we have prior knowledge of your work. Even if we have worked with you before, take the time to describe your structures, frameworks, strategies and methodologies where asked. This is not the time to rely on us being familiar with an existing program name or waste space expounding excessively on past accomplishments.
  4. Remember to describe how students with disabilities are specifically being served. Describe how your services specifically address the learning needs of students with disabilities, especially if you are working in an inclusive environment. Make it clear that you have thoughtfully developed these strategies, frameworks, and/or methodologies with students with disabilities in mind.
  5. Estimate your number of participants carefully. Using past experiences, you should be able to make a reasonable estimation of the number of participants (with and without disabilities). You can also use school demographics to help determine the number of students with disabilities typically attending. If schools are helping you, clarify with them if the number is for the entire school, or only the number of classrooms you will work with. Also, consider the total impact of your services, but don’t inflate the number of participants. Tell us about your services’ total scope and breadth of reach. For example, if you are proposing to deliver a VSA Arts Connect All Workshop/Residency Program and you have an existing school residency program, think about describing both of these programs together to expand your reach and maximize the contract fee with a larger capacity than you originally thought. Either way, estimate as best you can your number of participants, but make sure the estimate is one that you can commit to. If you are awarded a contract, you will be required to meet this number of participants.
  6. Provide justification of the proposed contract fee. Create a budget that provides sufficient transparency into the calculation of the proposal contract fee. The budget should allow us to understand how your proposed services tie to the accomplishment of VSA Program goals and help us to understand how you have calculated the contract fee. Use the expense categories provided in the Contract Proposal Form. Remember to look at the list of unallowable expenses on page 3 number 8 of the RFP. You are not required to outline other sources of income in your proposal.

Proposal Submission Deadline: February 25, 2015 at 11:59 pm (Eastern Standard Time)
Notification: Selected recipients will be notified on a rolling basis or by May 29, 2015.
For questions or information: Please contact Stephanie Litvak at sslitvak@kennedy-center.org.

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