NASPA Innovation Grants Program

What would you do with a $1,000 - 5,000 innovation grant? 

Innovation: Continuously seeking improvement through new and creative approaches. 

How often have you had a new and creative idea for your campus, but the funds are not there? NASPA, in partnership with the NASPA Foundation, is excited to announce the Innovation Grants Program for just this reason. Conferred twice a year and to be used immediately, the Innovation Grants provide awards to support innovation, exploration, and development for NASPA members, regardless of campus membership affiliation. With three levels of grants of application round, ranging from up to $1,000, $1,000 - $3,000, and $3,000 - $5,000, these funds are intended to provide the scaffolding for NASPA members to implement innovative ideas that lead to student learning and success. 

NASPA strives to be a champion and role model of innovation for higher education and student affairs associations. As such, this program is informed by NASPA's Strategic Plan, as well as our four guiding principles of integrity, innovation, inclusion, and inquiry. All submissions, regardless of funding level, should relate to the NASPA Strategic Plan.

Please provide a Letter of Intent no later than September 15, 2019.
Submissions for the Fall 2019 Innovation Grants here. Applications are requested by October 1, 2019.
Reviewer applications are requested by September 17, 2019. Apply to be a reviewer here.
Evaluation Criteria

The intent of this grant program is to help successfully implement new ideas. However, we understand that not every innovative idea becomes an innovation. Many fail. That’s the nature of experimentation. Therefore, while our goal is innovation, what we’re really looking for is innovative ideas — along with a plan to apply those ideas. We’re encouraging campuses and individuals to try new things.

If you are wondering whether your new program or process qualifies as an “innovative idea,” consider these questions:

1. Does it seem innovative to you?

2. Do you hope it will create new opportunities or significantly improve ways of operating?

3. Is it new for you or your campus — and also not standard practice in the student affairs and higher education community? (If others have tried something similar, with any degree of success, that’s okay with us, as long as it’s new and not commonplace. In fact, you might build on the concepts of innovative project you’re observing elsewhere.)

If your answer to all three questions is yes, your idea will probably sound innovative to our review committee as well. As you can see, we’re not defining this narrowly because we don’t want to limit your creativity.

When reviewing applications, we also consider:

  • Significance
    In looking at a proposal’s potential significance, we examine how well the project plan addresses either the NASPA Strategic Plan or the relative importance of the issues addressed in relation to the NASPA Guiding Principles of integrity, innovation, inclusion, and inquiry.
  • Project Design and Practicality
    The project design should state specifically the actions and process by which the project will address the underlying need and achieve the objectives. In order to evaluate the design, we must have a good sense of what you intend to do and how you intend to accomplish your tasks. We look for a vision, a plan for integration, and projected next steps that are carefully considered and clearly articulated. The methods for achieving project objectives, the desired outcomes, and the process for evaluating plan objectives should all be well-defined and understood.
  • Applicability and Transferability
    Although each campus community is unique, a common tie throughout all of our campuses is the advancing of student learning and success. A core element for this program moving forward is funding projects that can serve as inspiration for other campus communities facing similar challenges, problems, or opportunities. These grants intend to grow innovation in the higher education and student affairs community but it also seek to share models for innovative efforts. Therefore, we examine each proposal with regard to broader application, adaptation, and transferability.
  • Impact
    We are looking for projects that will have long-term effects for your institution and students. We look for projects that can potentially disrupt the status quo by implementing new ideas, creating new models of engagement, and transforming campus culture. Additionally, we take into account the project’s potential for far-reaching impact and/or appeal to other institutions of higher learning.

In addition to the above major criteria, reviewers also look at the project’s objectives, the applicant’s potential and commitment to innovation, the clarity of the application, the project management plan and budget, and the organizational commitment and resources.

  • Who is eligible to apply for the grants?
    The intended audience for the Innovation Grants Program is the creative individual working at any level and at any institutional type. Therefore, individuals from all professional levels, including students, and from any institutional type, including but not limited to Community Colleges, Small Colleges and Universities, and Minority-Serving Institutions, are eligible to apply. All applicants or applicant teams must include at least one NASPA member.
  • What types of grants are available?
    Awards are available in three categories: under $1,000, $1,001 to $3,000, and $3,001 to $5,000. Applications will be reviewed against other applications of the same category; however, the selection committee has the authority and permission to move an application into another category.
  • Can the grant funds be used for expenses like staff training and consultants?
    Yes. The key is to provide sound justification for use of grant funds for any proposed expenses in your application. You should use the budget section of your application to explain how each expense and its expected outcome will contribute to your project’s overall implementation and success.
  • What is the "Letter of Intent"?
    Though it is not required, you are encouraged to submit a letter declaring your intention to submit a proposal. The Letter of Intent should include the point of contact for your project, the contact’s title, the organization name, and the type of grant you intend to request. The letter should be sent via email to or by postal mail to: Innovation Grants Program, Colleen Dougherty, 111 K Street, NE 10th Floor, Washington, DC 20002
  • I've missed the “Letter of Intent” deadline? Can I still apply?
    Yes, you are welcome to apply to the Innovation Grants Program even if you did not submit a Letter of Intent by the deadline, though we encourage you to submit a Letter of Intent ahead of your application. If you have any questions about the program, please do not hesitate to contact us at
  • Who “owns” the grant?
    Although there must be a staff member to serve as the grant administrator, the grant is conferred to the institution. If the staff member leaves the institution, a new grant administrator must be identified within 30 days or the grant may be forfeited by the institution.
  • Does the grant expire? Are there any stipulations on the grant?
    All funds must be used with 12 months of conferral. Once the project is completed, recipients are expected to do a NASPA Poster session at the NASPA Annual Conference

Apply today