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Low-Cost Randomized Controlled Trials to Drive Effective Social Spending

Grants to USA Organizations to Evaluate
Domestic Social Spending Programs

Agency Type:

Foundation / Corporation

Funding Source:

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Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF)

LOI Date:


Deadline Date:



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Grants to USA nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and IHEs for low-cost randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to build actionable evidence related to USA social spending and the effectiveness of social programs in the USA. Letters of inquiry are due by May 31. Funding is intended to implement trials using data that are already collected for other purposes and for initiatives that are being implemented anyway.

Selection criteria:

Importance: Is the applicant proposing to evaluate an intervention –

- That is backed by highly-promising prior evidence, suggesting it could produce sizable impacts on outcomes of recognized policy importance – such as educational achievement, workforce earnings, criminal arrests, hospitalizations, child maltreatment, and government spending. For example, the Foundation specifically encouraged applications seeking to replicate findings from prior rigorous evaluations that are especially promising but not yet conclusive (e.g., due to only short-term follow-up, a single-site study design, or well-matched comparison groups but not randomization). As a threshold condition for “highly promising” evidence, applicants should show that the intervention can be or (preferably) has been successfully delivered under real-world implementation conditions.
- For which there are other compelling reasons to evaluate its effectiveness – e.g., it is, or soon will be, widely implemented with significant taxpayer investment, and its impact on its targeted outcomes is currently unknown.

Please note that, to meet this criterion, it is not sufficient to establish that the study addresses an important problem; applicants must also present compelling reasons to evaluate the specific intervention.

Experienced Researcher: Does the applicant’s team include at least one researcher in a key substantive role who has previously carried out a well-conducted RCT (even if not low cost)? A well-conducted RCT is characterized, for example, by low sample attrition, sufficient sample size, close adherence to random assignment, and valid outcome measures and statistical analyses. To address this criterion, applicants should submit reports from prior RCTs that the researcher has conducted (please send the full study reports as email attachments to the letter of interest – no more than two reports in all). Reviewers will rely primarily on these reports in assessing this selection criterion.

Study design: Is the applicant’s proposed RCT design –

- Valid? In other words, does it have a sufficiently large sample (as shown through a power analysis) and other elements needed to generate credible evidence about the intervention’s impact on one or more targeted outcomes of high policy importance? The Foundation strongly encourages designs that measure such outcomes in both the short and longer term, as appropriate for the type of intervention and study, to determine whether the effects endure long enough to constitute meaningful improvement in people’s lives. Reviewers, in assessing an applicant’s proposed design, will use Key Items to Get Right When Conducting RCTs of Social Programs as a reference.
- Low cost? Such low cost may be achieved, for example, by (a) embedding random assignment in an intervention that government or philanthropic organizations are already funding or planning to fund; and/or (b) measuring key outcomes using administrative data that are already collected for other purposes and are of reasonable quality.

Applicants, as part of their discussion of this criterion, should specify the study’s primary outcome(s) of interest, how they will measure the outcome(s) and over what length of time, and what analyses they plan to conduct (e.g., any subgroups to be examined, regression methods to be used).

Partners: Does the applicant’s team include all parties needed to conduct the RCT? Examples of necessary parties include: researcher(s), an agency delivering the intervention, and an agency housing the administrative data. To verify the existence of such partnership, the reviewers will look for attached letters or other communication showing, for example, that (a) a social service agency that delivers the intervention has agreed to participate in the study, including random assignment; and (b) a data agency has agreed to provide the researcher(s) with access to the administrative data needed to measure study outcomes.

LJAF permits grantees to request funding for all of the direct costs associated with a project, including salaries and federally required benefits for employees, travel, meetings and conferences, data access fees, and payments to third-party consultants and sub-grantees that are directly attributable to or created specifically for the purpose supported by a particular grant.

The Policy permits institutions of higher education, including community colleges, to receive an indirect cost rate of 15 percent of total direct project costs; all other organizations (e.g., non-profit, governmental, for-profit, etc.) may receive an indirect cost rate of 20 percent of total direct project costs

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 150301

Estimated Size of Grant:

The targeted award amount is up to $150,000, and awards of up to $300,000 will be allowed if the additional cost can be justified.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Applicants should specify the proposed recipient of the grant award, which is generally expected to be a tax-exempt organization (e.g., nonprofit organization, university, or governmental unit). If an organization is not tax-exempt and wishes to apply, please contact the Foundation (see contact information below).

Direct and indirect costs awarded to grantees may only be used for charitable, educational, and/or scientific purposes as such purposes are generally defined by those authorities interpreting the provisions of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and may not be used to carry on propaganda, influence legislation, fund any political campaign, influence the outcome of any election, carry on any voter registration drives, or violate any applicable local, state, federal, or foreign law.

Pre-Application Information:


- All prospective applicants are asked to submit a letter of interest (maximum three pages) by May 31, 2018.
- Applicants will be notified whether they are invited to submit a full proposal (full proposals must be invited) by July 13, 2018.
- Invited applicants submit a full proposal (maximum six pages) by August 24, 2018.
- Applicants will be notified whether they have been selected for award by October 5, 2018.
- Grants will be awarded November-December 2018.

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Letters of interest and invited full proposals should be submitted to

For questions, please contact:
David Anderson, Director of Evidence-Based Policy

For questions regarding budget and what is or is not funded, please contact:
Bridget Williamson, Grants Budget Manager

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming