IMPACT Grant Initiative

Improving Mississippi's Persistence and Completion Together

The Need

The Woodward Hines Education Foundation (WHEF) is a 501(c)3 organization committed to helping more Mississippians obtain the postsecondary degree, certification, or credential that will allow them to improve their qualities of life.  While we actively acknowledge and appreciate the rich history, culture and promise of our state, the stark reality is that 30% of our children live in poverty.  Our commitment to postsecondary education is rooted in research shows that a bachelor degree can shift a family from cyclical poverty to living wage work opportunities for generations.

In spring and summer 2019, WHEF began seeking intentional feedback from Mississippi’s higher education community through our University Success Program Scan research project. Those conversations shed light on the tremendous challenges faced by Mississippi's public university system to increase degree production, with fewer financial resources. 

In service to the work of Mississippi's colleges to increase retention, persistence, and college completion, WHEF is pleased to announce the Improving Mississippi’s Persistence and Completion Together (IMPACT) grant initiative. IMPACT is a multi-year, competitive grant opportunity to provide support to Mississippi's public universities in their pursuit of improved student outcomes.

The Opportunity

The purpose of IMPACT is to create a state-specific, facilitated community of practice for the exchange of findings, insights and ideas, as well as providing coordinated access to high-quality professional development opportunities for institutional faculty/staff, innovations in institutional data collection/usage and providing platforms for peer learning.

We are interested in partnering with higher education institutions that demonstrate a leadership commitment to producing equitable, innovative solutions for challenges to student success along the postsecondary pipeline. WHEF is seeking proposals from Mississippi public universities that provide data-informed solutions aimed at improving student outcomes for populations traditionally underrepresented in higher education.

We aim to support projects that create a collaborative learning environment and strengthen institutional capacity, in an effort to replicate and scale best practices amongst peers for systemic impact. To achieve these goals, WHEF is offering one of the following multi-year opportunities to eligible organizations:

• Innovation grants – up to $50,000 per year – for new and small-scale student success projects (or a new addition to an existing program) within institutions. Innovation grants allow universities to pilot best practices or establish baseline data for future expansion.

• Verification grants - up to $75,000 per year – for existing projects that have been piloted on a small scale and demonstrated measurable impact.  Verification grants allow the underlying assumptions and outcomes to be tested in a multi-year framework on larger segments or different at-risk student populations.

• Institutionalization grants – up to $100,000 per year – for proven projects and practices that have demonstrated meaningful impact upon underrepresented populations and can be scaled across the institution.

Who is Eligible to Apply

All institutions governed by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning are eligible to apply. 

IMPACT Grant Key Dates

Release of RFP application:     November 14, 2019
RFP informational webinar:      December 4, 2019
RFP application due date:        January 31, 2020
Decision announcements:        April 2020
IMPACT Convenings:                 Summer 2021, 2023, and 2025

Download the RFP

RFP Application Code: IMPACT

Recording of IMPACT Webinar Presentation

This is a recording of the informational webinar for Woodward Hines Education Foundation’s IMPACT grant opportunity that took place on December 4, 2019.

Download the Powerpoint from the Webinar

For more information about eligibility or project alignment, please contact WHEF Program Officer Shanell Watson at



How does WHEF define “underserved” or “underrepresented” students?

In general, populations that have been traditionally underrepresented (in enrollment, retention, persistence and/or completion) in institutions of higher learning are considered “underserved,” “at-risk,” or “underrepresented.”  These populations include, but are not limited to, students who are:

• From low-socioeconomic backgrounds (PELL-eligible);
• The first in their families to attend college;
• Members of racial, ethnic minority or undocumented immigrant groups;
• Transfers from community colleges or other four-year universities;
• From rural communities; 
• Enrolled in the institution part-time or working off-campus while enrolled;
• Supporting families while enrolled;
• Military veterans or active members of the armed forces;
• Re-entering higher education after a period of enrollment stop-out. 

While all Mississippi institutions are serving many of, if not all, these communities of students, it is strongly encouraged that an applying organization investigate its data insights and student needs to properly identify organizational capacity, total funding requirements, and the future sustainability and impact of a proposed project. 

Can our institution apply for funding for scholarships?

No.  We consider need- and merit-based scholarship aid to be a very important element for college students; however, to maximize our impact using limited resources, we must approach our grantmaking strategically so that many more students can be the beneficiaries of our partnerships and learning. 

Our institution is a private Mississippi-based four-year college. Are we eligible to apply for IMPACT selection?

Not at this time – however, we do invite our private institutions to reach out to our program team so that we can learn more about how to partner most effectively in supporting their underserved students.  We respect that our private colleges educate many of the same types of students and have unique needs, and we seek to craft funding opportunities that speak to those needs in the future.  

Can our institution apply for more than one type of funding opportunity in this RFP?

Eligible institutions may only submit one proposal for the applicable 4-year grant period and are asked to consider projects that exhibit the most potential for moving the needle on student success. 

If our institution requires a pre-award application review after the proposal is submitted, is there a presumption of funding approval?

No, the application review is merely a tool that allows WHEF program staff to lift on-the-ground insights that are not always readily available or easily shared in grant applications. To honor the time of our applicants, the application reviews will be limited to telephone interviews with key project personnel. 

Our institution is not prepared to submit a proposal at this time. Could we apply for IMPACT participation or Woodward Hines funding at a later date?

Yes.  WHEF will consider other future funding opportunities based upon available resources.  We will share those opportunities with interested parties at the appropriate time through the proper channels. If institutions have a special circumstance or limitation preventing participation in the 2019 RFP offering, they are encouraged to share those circumstances with the WHEF program officer, Shanell Watson.

How will our institution be notified of IMPACT application approval/decline?

Institutions will be individually notified of award decisions by email, which will include executive leadership and the project lead(s).  Additionally, a formal announcement will be posted to the Blog of in the spring of 2020.  Commitment letters detailing the terms and conditions of the grant will be delivered to each grantee via postal mail, and signed copies must be returned to WHEF prior to distribution of grant funds. 

Our institution has been selected for funding – are we required to participate in the IMPACT activities and convenings?

Yes. We will make the appropriate budgetary considerations so that our grantees may meaningfully engage in learning and sharing within the community of practice.  Should any grantee have programming or presentation suggestions to make participation more impactful for attendees, we welcome and actively seek that feedback.  Please send your learning event content and design recommendations to Program Officer Shanell Watson.  

Our institution submitted a proposal but was not selected for funding. Can our institution still participate in the IMPACT community of practice?

Yes.  As the details of the events are developed, we will share opportunities for participation with all IHLs, regardless of funding status. 

What is a cluster evaluation?

Cluster evaluation involves examining a group of projects that target a single theme. When several grants within an organization are related to a specific issue, a cluster evaluation can determine how effectively the projects are complimenting each other and is an ideal means for sharing best practices. In our effort to understand what impact our grantmaking has upon the state and within the broader context of the foundation’s investments, WHEF finds it beneficial to conduct a cluster evaluation for the IMPACT initiative.