I’m Jacqueline Rearick, and I am a Grants Specialist at Virginia Western Community College where I support our NSF/ATE projects and sub-awards, among other grants. I’m also an evaluation advocate and can get a bit overzealous about logic models, outcomes, surveys, and assessments. Recently, our grants office had to work through the process of procurement to secure evaluation services for our ATE project. Although we referenced an external evaluator in the project design, the policies and procedures of our individual state procurement regulations trumped the grant proposal and became the focus of a steep learning curve for all involved.
Because we have different priorities it may appear that the grants office and the procurement office can be in direct opposition with one another. Grant proposals that require evaluation services, like ATE, work best when the evaluator is part of the process and can assist with developing the plan and then execute the evaluation. Procurement regulations at your individual institution could require a bid process; which may or may not result in securing the evaluator who helped you write the initial evaluation plan.
Hot Tip: Invite the procurement office to the table early
Securing evaluation services for your ATE project is important; so is following internal procurement rules. Touch base with your procurement office early in the evaluation development process. Are there local or state regulations that will require a bid process? If your ATE evaluator assists with the writing of your evaluation section in the proposal, will you be able to use that same evaluator if the grant is funded? Have an honest conversation with your evaluator about the procurement process.
Hot Tip: Levels of procurement, when the rules change
While working through the procurement process, we discovered that state rules change when the procurement of goods or services reach different funding levels. What was a simple evaluation procurement for our first small ATE grant ($200k) turned into much larger scale procurement for our second ATE project grant ($900k), based on our state guidelines. Check with your institution to determine thresholds and the required guidelines for consultant services at various funding levels.
Lesson Learned: All’s well that ends well
The process of securing evaluation services through procurement is designed to be one that allows the PI to review all competitors to determine quality evaluation services at a reasonable price. The evaluator who helped write our evaluation in the proposal was encouraged to bid on the project. What’s even better, this evaluator is now set up as a vendor in our state system and will be available to other colleges in the state as they seek quality ATE evaluation services.