Planning Grant Success: Make a Plan before You Plan

LCAN Spotlight: Clinton County

MCAN supports the creation and development of local college access networks (LCANs) through grants, technical assistance and professional devleopment. Often it is a Planning Grant that kicks off the strategic planning process to organize and initiate a community-based local college access network. Clinton County was recently awarded a Planning Grant and this spotlight highlights their pre-planning grant process.

Often one organization will initially start the conversation and facilitate the grant writing process until a more formal structure and leadership team is in place. This was also true in Clinton County, with initial conversations spurred by the Clinton County RESA.

Before formal invitations were sent to convene community leaders with MCAN staff to discuss if an LCAN should be formed, individual invitations were sent to build awareness and provide a brief explanation of the intent of the formal community meeting. This also provided a safe space for leaders to respond on an individual level before committing to a larger gathering. Invitations were sent to leaders from all sectors in the community including Superintendents of every district in Clinton County, CEO and Director-level leaders from economic development, city and county offices, local business, higher education, philanthropy and nonprofits.

It is not uncommon for a community to invite MCAN to the initial introductory meeting to provide background information about the Michigan College Access Netwrok and guidance of what it means to be an LCAN. We typically come armed with local data and are able to share what we have learned from other LCANs across the state.

After reviewing local data, the community leaders were easily convinced applying for a Planning Grant was the best thing to do. The Clinton County RESA came prepared to the first meeting with letters of commitment that each organization signed before leaving. This helped keep the group on task so time was not lost trying to track down letters of commitment for weeks and sometimes months after the initial meeting.

Throughout the grant-writing process, the team wasn't shy reaching out to MCAN staff for assistance in determining timelines, budgets and relevant data to include.

"MCAN was a huge support during the grant writing process," said Denise Palmer, Clinton County LCAN coordinator and Clinton County RESA instructional services assistant. "We submitted a draft of our grant in advance for them to proof and offer suggestions and guidance. Our leaders had many questions about the data we should be submitting and MCAN was instrumental in helping to provide the data resources we needed."

Clinton County leaders first met in April 2014 and submitted their final grant application to MCAN in July 2014. With the right leaders in place all committed to building a college access network, the grant writing process can move quickly and easily.

Charting the Course cover for web

"It's vital that the community leaders are at the initial meeting or presentation to ask questions among their peers and address any concerns up front," said Denise Palmer. "If someone was unable to attend, we quickly followed up and provided all meeting materials to ensure that leader was up to speed and ready to engage so our network wouldn't lose momentum in the grant writing process."

If your community is considering applying for a Planning Grant, reach out to MCAN for support and consider contacting other LCANs in your region. To learn more about the available MCAN grants, visit You may also download our LCAN implementation guidebook, Charting the Course: A community's guide for increasing educational attainment through the lens of collective impact.

Lisa King headshot 2013Author: Lisa King, public relations consultant for the Michigan College Access Network

Posted: September 18, 2014

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