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Preparation Checklist for Section 1115 and Special Improvement Project (SIP) Grants

Published: July 12, 2011
Information About:
Special Improvement Project (SIP) Grants, 1115 Grants
Grants, Guides/Publications/Reports


  • Are you eligible to apply for a grant? Note that 1115s are open only to State Title IV-D agencies or their umbrella agencies.
  • SIPs are open to state and local public agencies, non-profit agencies (including faith-based organizations), and tribal organizations. Preference will be given to applicants representing child support enforcement agencies and applicant organizations that have letters of commitment or cooperative agreements with CSE agencies.
  • Read the OCSE grant announcements carefully to determine if your proposed project is a good fit with the current year’s funding priorities. Information about SIP and 1115 grants can be found under Grants on the OCSE website: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocsp.
  • Keep in mind that projects funded by OCSE must be designed to contribute to improvements in some aspect of child support administration.
  • To find grant opportunities, learn how to apply for grants and track your application, register with http://www.grants.gov/ early—registration may take more than a week.
  • Improve your skills in writing a grant proposal. There are many places to turn for advice: local junior or community colleges, and community resources, on-line resources, and university websites.
  • Involve stakeholders, evaluators, and project partners at the beginning of the application process to ensure their roles and responsibilities will be fully and accurately represented in the application. Early involvement also helps to ensure buy-in and a smoother start-up if you are awarded a grant.
  • Review state/agency procurement laws and human resources hiring guidelines to ensure project feasibility.
  • Consider assigning an experienced project manager to oversee the process from development to implementation. The process is more complicated than it may seem and a seasoned manager can either prevent problems from arising or overcome them quickly.


  • Read the OCSE grant announcement closely. Create your own application checklist to ensure that all of the requested criteria are addressed in your application.
  • Before you begin writing, plan the project fully. Consider the project intervention strategy in terms of its intended impact. Get a clear idea of the project’s objectives, goals, and activities.
  • Review and re-review your recruitment and retention strategies, and address them in the proposal. The success or failure of a project often hinges on the methods to engage participants.
  • Consider using a logic model to develop your proposal. Logic models help you ask questions to make your interventions better fit your goals.
  • If an Institutional Review Board (IRB) will need to approve the evaluation build in time for their review.
  • Develop a project timeline that addresses all steps of project implementation and evaluation.


  • Your application will be reviewed and rated by independent reviewers who are not familiar with your organization or your project. When writing the application, keep the reader in mind. Make sure that the application flows in a logical progression (the order of the application criteria should be maintained), and that the language is clear and understandable. Consider asking a colleague not involved in writing the application to critique it.
  • When citing research or statistics, include a reference to the source, including the year of publication. The more current data are, the more useful they will be.


  • Obtain and include all other supporting documents, e.g., staff résumés.
  • Obtain and include letters of commitment from all project partners, including State and local government agencies, and community- and faith-based organizations.


  • Be sure you do not exceed the project funding ceiling or your application will be rejected.
  • Consider the project’s cost-effectiveness in relation to project activities such as number of participants to be served or outcomes/results to be achieved.
  • Complete your forms accurately. See attached (424, 424A and 424B). Note that the 1115 guidance differs significantly from the SIP.
  • Ensure that your budget narrative matches your 424A form.


  • Be sure to meet or exceed the application due date to ensure timely receipt. A late application will be rejected. Electronic submissions can take more time so start early.
  • Communicate with your stakeholders and partners during the waiting period to help enable a quick start if your application is awarded a grant.


  • Keep a log of ideas for projects you would like to try. Then match them to future grant opportunities.