Propose your solution to strengthen American democracy.
Thank you for participating in the Stronger Democracy Award.
We recommend reading all requirements for this application before you begin. We encourage you to review the Scoring Rubric that will be used to assess all valid applications. Applications must be submitted in English. Your application may be published online and will be shared with others during the evaluation process. Please visit the Bold Solutions Network to see what information is displayed from Lever for Change competitions.
Be sure to review your application as it will appear after it’s been submitted (link at the bottom of the page) and confirm your changes have been saved. When you have completed all of the requirements, a message will be displayed on the screen. At that point, you can submit your final application. Once you have submitted the application, you will no longer be able to make changes and the status on your dashboard will confirm submission (you will not receive an automated email confirmation).
You must submit your application no later than Thursday, July 22, 2021 at 5:00 PM Pacific.
A. QUICK PITCH
This is your opportunity to make a strong first impression. Offer a brief and compelling overview of your proposal. Avoid using jargon, abbreviations, or language that a layperson may not understand. The information in this section is likely to be made publicly available in a variety of online settings and will be viewed by peers and judges of the competition.
Project Title (10 words)
Provide the title of your project. Choose a name that easily identifies your solution and distinguishes it from any other project.
Project Description (25 words)
Provide a short description of your project in one sentence.
Executive Summary (150 words)
Write a one-paragraph overview of your project that answers the following three questions:
What is a brief description of the problem that you are trying to solve?
How will you solve it?
What are your intended outcomes? How will your solution address the lives of the people you wish to serve, including historically marginalized people within that population?
Your Executive Summary should be a stand-alone statement of the problem and solution. It should not require any other context to clearly explain what you are seeking to accomplish.
B. VIDEO PRESENTATION
You are required to submit a video that captures your project and describes why it should be funded. The video is an opportunity to showcase your passion and to pitch your story in a succinct format. We want you to share your vision with the judges in a way that is different from the written proposal format. This DOES NOT need to be a professionally produced video; video shot on a smartphone is acceptable.
In order to complete this part of your application, your team will upload a short digital film using YouTube.
Set the Privacy Settings on your video to Public or Unlisted – do not set them to Private. This will be viewed by peers and judges of the competition.
Your video may be extracted from your submission and made available to the public and other donors. Appeal to a broad audience. Video submissions should follow these guidelines or else it will render the application ineligible:
A length of no more than 90 seconds.
Your pitch must be in English, or if in another language, subtitled in English.
Your video must be captioned. See instructions here on how to caption YouTube videos.
Your video should not contain any images of identifiable children (under age 18) without express parental consent.
Your video should not include any copyrighted material (including, but not limited to, music) for which you do not have a license.
Here are general suggestions for delivering a high-quality video pitch:
Introduce yourself and your organization(s) and/or team.
Describe the problem that you are committed to solving.
Explain your solution.
Explain what is unique about your solution.
Describe how you would plan to measure success and achieve broad but meaningful impact.
Examples of videos from past competitions can be found on our Video Supports page.
C. YOUR TEAM
Now that you’ve provided a brief overview of your project, focus on the talent and management of your team. This section will be viewed by peers and judges of the competition.
During registration, you identified the Lead Applicant responsible for receiving and taking accountability for any grant funds, as well as providing the direction, control, and supervision for the project. If the Lead Applicant has changed, please Edit Registration Form from the Profile menu to update this information.
Project Website or Social Media Page (5 words)
Provide us with a URL to your project website or social media page of choice if one exists. Having a project website or preferred social media page is not a requirement for the competition and will not impact your eligibility. If you have not created a project website or a social media page, insert “Not Applicable.“
Primary Area of Expertise for the Lead Applicant
Please select the primary area of expertise for the Lead Applicant.
Does your team consist of two or more organizations with an executed memorandum of understanding (MOU) (signed and dated by all parties, including the lead organization submitting this proposal)?
o Team consists of two or more organizations but there is not an executed (signed and dated) MOU
o Team consists of two or more organizations and has an executed (signed and dated) MOU
o Team does not consist of two or more organizations
If your team consists of two or more organizations, please list them using the legal name of each partner. If your team does not consist of two or more partners, please enter “Not Applicable.”
Why Your Team (250 words)
Describe your team’s leadership, its members, and its collaborators or partners. If relevant, include details about how and why the collaboration was formed. Explain how your team is uniquely positioned to deliver results, and why you are the best choice to solve this problem. Emphasize that you have the right capabilities, experience, commitment, and authority to adopt the proposed solution and execute your project. We encourage collaboration, coalitions, and partnerships that can together present a credible and actionable reform path to strengthen US democracy. Lead applicants who are 501(c)(4) organizations are required to include, as part of the project team, a 501(c)(3) organization that is eligible to receive funds from a Donor Advised Fund (DAF).
Biographies of Key Staff
For each of the top three managers responsible for the success of the project, please provide a name (First/Last), the name of the organization the manager is affiliated with, and a brief biographical statement of up to 100 words. The biographical statement should include the title of the manager and emphasize those credentials and experiences which are most relevant to the project.
D. THE CHALLENGE
This section provides the opportunity for you to more fully explain the challenge you intend to solve and show
that you understand the nuances of the challenge that have informed your strategy. This section will be viewed by peers and judges of the competition.
Challenge Statement (250 words)
Describe the specific challenges that your solution will address, using non-expert language. Focus on setting the stage for your solution (versus describing how you intend to solve it) and discuss who is impacted by the problem and why the problem exists.
Who is impacted by the problem or challenges identified?
Why does the problem exist in the current environment?
What are the most influential ways to affect the necessary change, and where are the leverage points where the smallest change can have the biggest impact?
E. YOUR SOLUTION
This section provides the opportunity for you to more fully explain how you to intend to solve the challenge you have outlined above. This section will be viewed by peers and judges of the competition.
Solution Overview (250 words)
We are seeking solutions that drive structural reforms to help our government fully and competently represent its citizens. Strong solutions will address systemic barriers and advance structural reforms in policymaking, voting and elections, and/or civic engagement with the objective of incenting the government to be more responsive to the broader electorate and ensure government is staffed with high quality/high functioning institutions and people. Describe what your solution is or does, how it meaningfully contributes to solving the problem, and the short and long-term impact that your solution will have.
Describe who will benefit from your intervention and the benefits or outcomes of your intervention.
How does your solution meaningfully contribute to resolving the chosen problem?
How will you know that you are making progress?
Describe the impact that your solution will have on the chosen problem over an up to five-year grant period. Will it have broad impact on a large population or geography, or will it have deep and intense impact on a small population or geography?
Theory of Change (200 words)
State your project’s theory of change and the underlying evidence that supports the results you want to achieve. Emphasize the methodologies that you intend to employ and how they create a causal link to your shorter-term, intermediate, and longer-term goals. As you develop your response, consider these Theory of Change resources.
Innovation (200 words)
Share how your approach will more efficiently and/or more effectively lead to the intended outcomes for your target beneficiaries, and how it differs from, improves upon, and/or bolsters existing methods/practices. Highlight any unique features and any other information demonstrating creativity and innovation in your approach and proposed solution.
Select the priority population(s) as the primary beneficiaries for your solution. You must select at least one priority population, and you are welcome to provide up to three.
Stakeholder & Community Engagement (250 words)
In order to be effective, solutions need support from the impacted community including funders, local leaders, decision-makers, residents, media, and others. Describe which stakeholders you have engaged in the design of your solution and how you will continue to engage relevant decision makers, beneficiaries, and other stakeholders at different levels—whether local, state, or federal—to ensure your solution successfully achieves your goals. Please identify any relevant stakeholders you do not plan to engage and the rationale behind your decision.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (250 words)
Compelling proposals will fully demonstrate a commitment to the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Not only do we expect teams to be thoughtful about working with a range of beneficiaries, but we also expect teams to think carefully about how to actively plan for and include the most marginalized and/or vulnerable from within those populations in solutions design, program planning, and ongoing work. Explain how you will ensure, or have ensured, that the design and implementation of your solution authentically embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion across all aspects, including persons with disabilities, religious or ethnic minorities, people of color, native/Indigenous peoples, women, gender identity and sexual orientation. Provide additional details on how you will provide opportunities and reasonable accommodations for those populations to either engage with and/or benefit from your solution, including as staff, advisors, partners, et al.
Lobbying Activities (200 words)
Does your project involve any efforts to affect public policy through changes in existing legislation or the enactment of new legislation, and does your project require lobbying activities with respect to a specific legislative proposal?
If your project does involve any lobbying activities, then explain how the project involves any lobbying activities (as defined in the Lobbying Policy).
Lobbying activities must constitute less than 50% of the $10 million budget. Please note: Advocacy activities are not considered lobbying and are an eligible use of funds with no budget limitations or requirements. Refer to our Lobbying Policy for clarification.
If your project does not involve any lobbying activities, then simply enter “Not Applicable.”
F. SUBJECT AREA AND LOCATION OF WORK
We will use primary subject area, locations of current work, and key words to tag your project in the Bold Solutions Network, making it possible for other funders to identify projects they might find interesting to support. This section will be viewed by peers and judges of the competition.
Primary Subject Area
Select the primary subject area of the solution that you and your team are proposing.
Key Words and Phrases
Provide a list of up to 5 key words or phrases that can best be used to describe your project [ex. Social-enterprise, vocation, internship, training]. Choose key words that capture the essence of your project and its intended outcomes. The key words should be different from the selected “primary subject area.”
Location of Current Work
Where are you currently implementing your solution? Select up to five locations that apply. If your work is national or regional, please select locations that best represent the work your organization does. If you are not currently implementing your project, you may select NOT APPLICABLE.
Location of Future Work
Where do you plan to implement your solution if awarded this grant? Select up to five locations that apply. These locations may or may not be the same as the locations where you are currently implementing your solution.
G. PROJECTED IMPACT
This section provides the opportunity for you to provide evidence that supports your solution. This section will be viewed by peers and judges of the competition.
Evidence of Effectiveness (250 words)
What evidence do you have or why do you believe the solution you propose will work? Present any internal or formal academic evidence you may have, including any results from complementary or previous work. If necessary, you may cite academic literature or papers. Use brackets and numbers to indicate relevant citations [#], which you can later clarify in a separate Bibliography section. The purpose of providing citations throughout the application is to affirm that any claims have been investigated and/or verified by a credible source or authority.
Ability to Scale (250 words)
Describe your plan for scaling your solution and its benefits. Scale may mean expanding to new populations or geographies, or it may mean how you intend to amplify your impact more deeply in one geography or population or context. If appropriate, explain whether and how you will need to tailor and adapt your solution for scaling and/or amplifying impact. What is the evidence, or why do you believe your results can be replicated? As you prepare your response, read MSI's Scaling-Up: Tools & Techniques for Practitioners and Scaling-Up: Management Framework for Practitioners.
Timeline and Milestones (250 words)
What is your expected timeline for project completion and what outcomes or milestones will you track to know if you are successful or on track to be successful? You may find these evaluation resources helpful.
Measurement of Results (250 words)
How do you plan to measure the effectiveness of your proposed project? You may find these evaluation resources helpful.
Barrier Assessment and Risk Mitigation (150 words)
How will you ensure your initiative is feasible and will work? Describe any barriers to success of the initiative, as well as any unintended consequences, and your plan to address those barriers. Discuss your experience and capacity to manage technical or logistical barriers.
Bibliography (200 words)
If you included citations [#s] in the Evidence of Effectiveness section of your application, provide your bibliography with a corresponding bracketed number [#] for each citation. If you did not insert citations, offer a list of resources that may be used to validate general claims made in your application. Please link to any articles that may be accessed online, even if behind a paywall. We recognize there are many standards for writing a bibliography, and we do not enforce any particular format. It is your responsibility to make those citations easy-to-understand. If not applicable, please insert “Not Applicable.”
Other Considerations (150 words)
This is your final opportunity to raise any other considerations. Here, you may emphasize or expand upon a previous point or provide new information, as necessary.
H. RESOURCE REQUIREMENTS
Indicate and describe the financial resources required to successfully implement your project. This section will be viewed by peers and judges of the competition.
Total Projected Costs
Share the total cost to implement your team’s project (in US dollars); this can include costs beyond the total amount of the grant.
Budget Narrative (250 words)
Offer a general overview for how your team would use the $10 million (USD) grant, including the projected needs by category. You may include any explanations of existing resources you have already secured. Please explain what portion of the budget, if any, is expected to be spent on capacity building (a perfectly acceptable use of funds) to ensure effective execution on the project. Please also specify what portion of the budget is expected to be spent on measurement and evaluation of results.
Provide specific line items from the budget narrative (above) for your work. To help us understand your priorities, please provide a detailed budget for how the $10 million (USD) grant would be spent. Please make sure that any funds identified in this table reflect and clarify your general explanations provided in the budget narrative above. Budget should follow these guidelines or risk ineligibility:
Your budget must total to $10 million (USD).
Lobbying activities must constitute less than 50% of the $10 million budget.
Your budget must allocate funds to support Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning activities. Typically costs for these activities require anywhere from 3-15% of the total projected total costs. Review our Guidance for Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning for more context.
Familiarize yourself with the Indirect Cost Policy and represent how you intend to address any indirect cost categories.
Your budget must afford reasonable accommodations to make your project accessible to people with disabilities, as implementors, participants, and beneficiaries. Estimates frequently used for an inclusive (i.e. non-disability-specific) project are 1-3% of administrative costs and 5-7% of program costs. Review this Guidance on Budgeting for Inclusion for more context.
Total Resource Requirements (100 words)
If your total projected costs exceed $10 million (USD), explain how you have secured (or plan to secure) the balance of any necessary funds and provide an overview of how those funds will be used. You may find financial sustainability resources helpful.
If your total projected costs do not exceed $10 million (USD), insert “Not Applicable.”
I. ADMINISTRATIVE INFORMATION
In this section, please provide additional information about the Lead Applicant. Before answering, use the Organizational Readiness Tool to understand your ability to be competitive according to the size of your annual operating budget. This section will be viewed by peers and judges of the competition.
Employer Identification Number (EIN)
Enter your Employer Identification Number.
Annual Operating Budget
What is the annual operating budget in United States Dollars (USD) of the Lead Applicant?
o Less than $1 Million
o $1.0 to 5.0 Million
o $5.1 to 10 Million
o $10.1 to 25 Million
o $25.1 to 50 Million
o $50.1 to 100 Million
o $100.1 to 500 Million
o $500.1 Million to $1 Billion
o $1 Billion +
Number of Employees
How many full-time employees does the Lead Applicant employ?
o Fewer than 10 Full-time Employees
o 10 to 25 Full-time Employees
o 26 to 50 Full-time Employees
o 51 to 100 Full-time Employees
o 101 to 300 Full-time Employees
o 301 to 500 Full-time Employees
o 501 to 1,000 Full-time Employees
o 1,000+ Full-time Employees
J. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION TO BE PROVIDED
If your team is invited to participate in any future phases of this competition, you may be required to provide additional information (refer to the Rules and Timeline), including but not limited to:
A fully revised proposal based on feedback received and a comprehensive set of questions that will be provided. This will include: a robust project and scaling plan; a comprehensive Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Plan; and a detailed budget.
The revised proposal process will be supported by a strategic advisor that will be provided to your team should you be named a Finalist.
~A Tax Determination Letter
~Audited/Updated Audited Financial Statements
~Articles of Incorporation, Charter, or similar documentation.
~Existing policies, if any, addressing conflicts of interest, whistleblower, internal controls, anti-money laundering, intellectual property, human subjects research, code of conduct, ethics, gifts, and any similar policies governing the organization
Lever for Change and/or the Stronger Democracy Award team reserves the right to perform background checks on key individuals associated with the project, and the refusal by the key individuals to provide necessary authorizations will give reason to reject any application for further consideration. Background information and the results of any background checks will be kept confidential.
Join Us in Supporting the Finalists
If you would like to support a Finalist team, please contact us.