This companion document to the RFP answers key questions, as well as many specific items raised by comments from community members, students, staff, and faculty. Any updates or clarifications will be communicated on this webpage; we encourage you to check it regularly. If you still have additional questions, you may email innovationfund@jhu.edu

Logistical questions on the RFP

When is the RFP response due?

February 25, 2021 at 5pm local time

How can I submit the RFP response?

Information on how to submit the application and the appendices can be found here. Hard copy submissions must be received by the application deadline and sent to JHU Innovation Fund RFP c/o Office of Economic Development, 1101 E. 33rd Street, Suite D300, Baltimore, Maryland 21218.

Are all the supplementary materials due with the response?

Yes, please submit the application and the appendices by the due date.

Will there be an opportunity to ask questions before submitting the application?

There will be a virtual Q&A session held via Zoom on January 19, 2021, from 5-6pm local time where we will be answering any technical and logistical questions about the RFP process. If you are interested in attending, you can register here.

What is the partner matching session and do I need to attend? 

The partner matching session will be a curated forum where applicants may connect with interested JHU affiliates and/or community-based organizations with the goal of securing a proposal partner. The virtual session will be held via Zoom on January 25, 2021, from 5-6pm local time. It is intended solely for applicants who are looking for a JHU affiliate and/or community-based organization to partner with. If this describes you, please register here.

Questions regarding the focus areas and geographic areas

Can we propose a project that involves the Baltimore City Police Department?

Yes, the RFP states that public agencies can be partners to these projects. A letter of support from the Police Department would be required as one of your letters of support.

Mayor Scott has made focused deterrence the cornerstone of his public safety plan along with Commissioner Harrison. A large part of the program relies on building capacity in communities for them to respond to violence with programming and services. Can the fund support efforts that are related to this city project?  

Yes, as long as the proposals follow the guidelines in the RFP, projects may be integrated with the city’s anti-violence efforts.

How does the RFP define youth?

Youth can include individuals 16-24 years of age, or some subset of these individuals.

Why doesn’t this RFP cover all of Baltimore City?

Johns Hopkins has a special relationship with its surrounding communities. The RFP contains language permitting some activities to be available around the city, as long as there is a focus in the geographic areas outlined in the map. The Innovation Fund is also supporting and participating in BMore Invested, a separate citywide effort on violence reduction.

Can trauma-informed interventions be considered for funding?

Yes, as part of an application in one or more of the focus areas. Regardless of whether there is specific mention in the application, technical assistance may be available to grantees on making services trauma-informed.

Questions regarding partners from Johns Hopkins

What roles might students, staff, or faculty from Johns Hopkins play in the project?

Johns Hopkins students, staff, and faculty can be integrated as part of the projects team or play a discrete role. Such roles might include:

  • Advising or designing a data management strategy;
  • Assisting with performance management;
  • Writing for additional grants to build on the effort;
  • Other technical assistance.

All of the partners should be in agreement with the roles of various partners, including the Johns Hopkins partners.

Should an application propose that specific Johns Hopkins students, faculty, or staff evaluate the project?

No. The plan for an evaluation of the project will be determined collaboratively after selection. The reason that the Fund has pulled evaluation out of the application itself is that the Fund may work with one or more evaluators across the portfolio of projects.

What if I do not have a Johns Hopkins partner to work with?

It is preferable for applicants to find partners at Johns Hopkins before applying. On January 25th, the Fund is hosting a session to match community partners with interested students, staff, and faculty. You can sign up here. If it is not possible to find a partner, it is still possible to apply without a partner, and the Fund may attempt to find a good match with you during the selection process.

What if I both work with a community-based nonprofit organization and am a student, staff, or faculty member at Johns Hopkins?

If you are applying through your work with the community-based nonprofit organization, then you should find other students, faculty, or staff to work with on the project, rather than double count yourself.

Questions regarding the role of the community-based nonprofit organization that is the lead applicant for the grant

Does each application have to be submitted by a lead community-based, nonprofit organization?

Yes.

Can a religious institution be a lead applicant?

Yes. If it is a nonprofit, community-based organization.

I am not working with a nonprofit, community-based organization. Can I be matched with one that can be the lead applicant for the grant?

On January 25th, the Fund is hosting a session to help small organizations or individuals find a community-based nonprofit organization to work with on the application. Because only nonprofit, community-based organizations can apply, it is necessary to find such an organization to apply.

What is the lead community-based nonprofit organization responsible for?

The applicant organization is responsible for the accuracy of the application, for the management and oversight of the grant spending, and for providing required reports and other deliverables back to the Fund. The applicant can provide funds to other organizations and partners, but should oversee how these funds are used to be sure they are used appropriately.

Is this the same as “fiscal sponsor”?

The term “fiscal sponsor” means different things to different people, so we have not used this term in the RFP. See above for what’s required for the applicant community-based nonprofit organization above.

Can the lead community-based nonprofit organization change during the course of the project?

With the approval of the Fund, the lead organization may change. If there is a likelihood of such a change, please note in the application.

Questions regarding the budget

Can the grant pay community members, including youth?

Yes.

Can the funds be used for training?

Yes.

Can the funds be used for capital costs?

Yes. However, if the request is for a capital investment that otherwise would be the purview of a public agency, the public agency must give permission.

What else can the funds be used for?

We’re interested in hearing about how funds might be used to have the greatest impact. You can propose the specific use of funds and justify them in the application. The applications will be judged in part on appropriate use of funds, and there may be further negotiation on the budget during the selection process.

How will the grant support administrative costs?

Each application can have a total of 20% for administrative costs, otherwise known as indirect costs. These costs should include utilities and rent, fiscal oversight, administrative staff, legal and other professional services, and equipment rental. These funds can be distributed across the various partners, with the exception of Johns Hopkins students, staff, and faculty.

Should the budget presented include administrative costs, or is that an extra amount on top of the request?

The budget presented should include all costs, including administrative costs. There are no funds beyond those requested and ultimately awarded.

Additional questions posted on February 2, 2021

Questions about the Fund

What is the timeline for year one funding?

Our current hope is to announce awardees sometime in April, which would begin the year of funding. 

Will there be yearly calls for proposals?

We do not know if there will be future calls for proposals. It will depend on how much of the Fund is committed after this call for proposals.

How long can the project last? Can there be a multi-year aspect to it?

Funding will be available for up to four years.

Would you seriously consider a small budget project?

Yes.

For newer projects with documented success metrics and need, is seed funding available?

Yes, just apply for a grant through the Fund.

Can funding be used for program, salary, internships and renovation expenses?

Yes. The applicant will justify the funding in the budget narrative.

Is the funding (source funding) using federal passthrough dollars?

No. This funding is from Johns Hopkins University.

What projects have you funded in the past? 

This is a new Fund, so there have been no prior grants.

How will the impact of these projects be reported to the community?  Is this a form of participatory research where a White Paper of some sort will be published?

We hope to share lessons learned with other parts of the city and citywide. This will be one of the goals of the evaluation component.

Questions about fiscal sponsorship and financial audits

I am a community-based organization with a longstanding relationship with a fiscal sponsor. In this case, can I be the lead applicant?

Yes. We previously said that all lead applicants had to be community-based nonprofit organizations that oversee the funding for the projects. Based on feedback received after the initial release of the RFP, we are making the following change: A fiscally-sponsored community-based organization may be the lead applicant if there is a written agreement between the fiscal sponsor and the community-based organization. A fiscally-sponsored community-based organization should provide a copy of the written agreement between the fiscal sponsor and the community-based organization, and the written agreement should be in existence for at least three years (i.e. February 25, 2018) prior to the submission of a proposal for funding. Additionally, the fiscally-sponsored organization should provide a copy of their fiscal sponsor’s most recent financial audit along with a letter from the fiscal sponsor stating that they have reviewed the application and are prepared to handle the finances for the project. 

Can I submit a financial review instead of a full financial audit?

Based on feedback received after the initial release of the RFP, we are modifying the requirement for a financial audit: community-based organizations that will be serving as lead applicants, regardless of whether they are a fiscally-sponsored organization, should submit the review audit or completed audit required under Maryland law based on their annual revenue. For organizations who are not legally required to undergo an audit due to a gross income below the State threshold, please read below as well for guidance based on your gross income bracket. 

For organizations with a gross income of at least $750,000 in the most recently completed fiscal year, a completed audit by an independent certified public accountant is required. Organizations with a gross income between $300,000 – $750,000 in the most recently completed fiscal year will be required to submit a review audit by an independent certified public accountant. For organizations with a gross income less than $300,000, they must submit the most recent financial audit from their fiscal sponsor along with a letter from the fiscal sponsor stating that they have reviewed the application and are prepared to handle the finances for the project. 

Questions about the budget

Can you supply a template for the budget and budget narrative?

At our feedback session after the initial release of the RFP, several people requested a template or example for the budget and budget narrative. A suggested budget format has been provided on page 7 of the revised RFP which can be found on the RFP application webpage.

What level of detail do you expect around the budget narrative?

Enough to explain where the money is being spent. Please see the revised RFP for additional guidance.

How will a community organization pay a JHU partner?

We will identify a mechanism to support the JHU partner that is not burdensome for community organizations.

In the RFA it is stated that “Yes, there is an expectation for collaboration with Johns Hopkins students, staff or faculty. Each application should include a budget allocation for the collaborator of at least 10%. ” Can the application have more than one JHU faculty/staff?

Yes.

In the budget, how should applicants describe expenses related to their JHU partner? 

At this stage in the process, we are looking for applicants to disclose the total amount of funding requested and a brief description of what it will be used for. Please see the revised RFP for additional guidance.

Questions about the applicant team

Can a JHU partner work with multiple organizations?

Yes.

How many partners can we have for this grant? Can we include our police district as being a part of this?

There is no limit to the number of partners, and the Police District may be a partner.

Questions about submitting the application

Are organizations allowed to submit more than one proposal for the RFP?

Yes

This is a procedural question: does one complete both the Online Application Form (SurveyMonkey) as well as the Document Upload or is that redundant?

Applicants should apply once– either the form or the upload or, if necessary, the hard copy.

Will there be someone at the 33rd Street location to accept a hard copy of the application on 2/25/2021?

Yes. An applicant can leave the application at the front desk. It is preferred, however, to submit the application electronically.

If we choose to do the survey application,  how long can the answers be in the text boxes? 

Applicants should aim for their total application to be about 5 pages. One way to do this is to put the answers in a word document that should be 5 pages, then cut and paste the text into the online survey. 

The RFP states “The Fund anticipates hiring one or more technical assistance partners and an evaluation team” – does this mean that we should not include as part of the proposal an evaluation component?

Correct. Applicants should not include evaluation in the proposal.

Questions about the geographic areas

Is it necessary to have site control at the time of application submission if your project is falling under Focus Area 1?

No, but the applicant should explain the plan for implementation in the proposal. 

The target areas do not overlap with Baltimore neighborhoods. Can we submit a grant for the entirety of a neighborhood that overlaps with the target area?

Yes, but the applicant should explain how the project’s work can focus in the target area in the application.

For Focus Area 1 (Environmental improvements) – can these be in process already that still need additional funding (or perhaps this project would provide desired enhancements to the site that were not included in the original budget)?

Yes. These funds can expand on existing work.

Our organization serves a single zip code. Part of the zip code absolutely is in the target area, but much of it is not. Are we okay to submit a proposal for the zip code in its entirety?

Yes. Further explanation as to the broader geographic area should be clearly stated as well as the purpose of the out of bounds area to be included.

Is it okay to focus on just one of the geographic areas? 

Yes, it is fine to focus on just one of the areas.

Other questions

When and how can I apply to be on the selection advisory committee for these grants?

Information about how to apply for the selection advisory committee will be made available on January 19th.

What if I have other questions not answered above?

Please email these questions to innovationfund@jhu.edu. We will post answers to additional questions on February 2.