RFQ for the Evaluation of NFWF's Administration of Grant Awards for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service

September 22, 2015

Requesting Organization: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, 1133 15th Street NW, Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20005.

1. OVERVIEW

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) seeks a qualified Contractor to evaluate the outcomes of grants awarded by NFWF for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The successful Offeror will be selected through a two stage competitive process. Stage One, Request for Qualifications (RFQ), invites qualified individuals or entities to submit Statements of Qualifications for an assessment of their organizational structure, staffing, understanding of the scope of work, and relevant experience. Stage Two, Request for Proposals (RFP), will be open only to those Offerors who have responded to the RFQ, and on the basis of their submissions, NFWF regards as being best qualified for further consideration. Those Offerors will be invited to submit more detailed information as part of the RFP process. Only one award will be made for this Contract. This notice constitutes Stage One, Request for Qualifications. The Contract Period of Performance is estimated to be 12-18 months.

2. PROGRAM BACKGROUND

NFWF has a long-standing relationship with NRCS under which the organizations have entered into Cooperative Agreements for NFWF to provide grant-management and administration services. NRCS and NFWF have entered into 37 cooperative agreements since 2008, including modifications of existing agreements. The total value of those agreements is approximately $55 Million. Cooperative agreements are made at the national, state, and program levels. See appendix 1 for a list of these agreements.

Under these agreements NFWF:

  • Issues Requests for Proposals and makes grant awards
  • Determines deliverables in concert with NRCS and grantees
  • Manages all contact with applicants and award recipients (grantees)
  • Ensures that projects are implemented in accordance with grant award requirements
  • Monitors grantee programmatic progress, evaluates reporting, and provides guidance
  • Provides programmatic and financial reporting to NRCS
  • Works with NRCS to evaluate success and conservation impact of subawards

The grant programs executed through the Cooperative Agreements result in additional technical assistance on the ground, subsequent enrollment in farm bill programs, and conservation outcomes that are desired by NRCS and NFWF. Providing additional NRCS staff capacity by funding “shared positions” has been a key grant activity. Shared positions include technical assistance providers and outreach coordinators that assist in enrolling individuals in farm bill programs, develop conservation plans for private landowners, and related activities. These individuals may be located in an NRCS field office or NRCS state office, and help the agency to fulfill its mission. NFWF has awarded 207 NRCS grants since 2008. Grants have ranged in size from $20,000 to $950,000 with an average award size of $208,000.

3. PRELIMINARY EVALUATION GOALS

The evaluation will seek to answer the following questions, although the selected Contractor will be tasked to refine and finalize them, with the consensus of NFWF and NRCS.

A. Has NFWF’s management of the Cooperative Agreements since 2008 met the requirements of the agreements?

B. What outcomes have been achieved by a subset of grants awarded under the Conservation Partners Program, State agreements, and Programmatic agreements?

C. What factors and practices have led to the most successful grant outcomes, and how can they be applied to other grants going forward? To what extent has locating “shared positions” in NRCS offices impacted the outcomes?

D. What factors and practices have hindered successful implementation of the grant awards and what steps can be taken to address them?

NFWF and NRCS will provide the selected contractor with the following information:

  • Copies of the cooperative agreements
  • Copies of the grant award Requests for Proposals
  • Records of grant awards and grantee information, including contact information;
  • Key points of contact at NRCS for each of the cooperative agreements; about 100 NRCS staff have been involved in the cooperative agreements
  • NRCS representatives at the national office and state offices for input on cross-cutting issues
  • NFWF financial and programmatic reports to NRCS, submitted quarterly, bi-annually, or annually depending on the terms of the Cooperative Agreement
  • Other information that will be pertinent to the evaluation

The final contract deliverables will include a draft report, a final report with recommendations for NFWF and NRCS, and a final presentation. The evaluator may also be asked to work with NRCS representatives to help prepare presentations and communication tools to share the information broadly across NRCS state and field offices.

4. STAGE ONE CRITERIA FOR COMPETITIVE APPLICATIONS

Statements of Qualifications will be evaluated and scored on the following criteria. Offerors should organize their Statement based on these sections:

A. Understanding of the Scope of Work. A statement of not more than one paragraph demonstrating an understanding of the activities involved in grant and program management and working with federal agencies.

B. Technical Approach. A description of no more than three pages of a proposed technical approach for conducting the evaluation, which must demonstrate familiarity and proficiency in using the various research methods and designs determined to be appropriate for conducting the investigation. For instance, this might include a description of methods for collecting and analyzing data, reviewing reports, and conducting interviews or surveys, as needed for answering the evaluation questions.

C. Qualifications of Proposed Personnel. Resumes and/or Vitae of the principal investigator(s) describing relevant professional experience in the following areas: (a) evaluation study design and implementation; (b) experience working with federal, state, and local governmental agencies, and national and local NGOs involved with conservation; (c) an understanding of grants administration and program management; (d) an understanding of conservation projects and outcomes; and (e) conducting and disseminating research involving humans as subjects.

D. Record of Past Performance/References. The Statement of Qualifications should identify at least three past engagements conducting similar evaluations for NFWF or other organizations, identifying the Offeror’s quality of work, timeliness, and cost control. The statement should also address communications experience writing reports, conducting webinars and delivering presentations to different types of audiences. Attach a copy of a previously conducted evaluation final report, if available. The Statement should include names, postal and email addresses, and telephone numbers of points of contact for the referenced engagements. If the Offeror anticipates retaining sub-contractors for this task, information should be provided that demonstrates their past performance as well.

E. Corporate Capability. The Offeror shall provide proof of financial stability in the form of financial statements or balance sheet.

5. ELIGIBLE OFFERORS/CONFLICT OF INTEREST

Eligible applicants are individuals, institutions of higher education, other nonprofits, commercial organizations, international organizations, and local, state and Indian tribal governments. If multiple institutions are involved, they should be handled through sub-awards and sub-contracts.

Offerors must notify NFWF in writing with this submission of any apparent or actual conflicts of interest, including organizational conflicts of interest, that are known at the time of this submission or that may arise during the life of this award, in the event an award is made. Conflicts of interest include any relationship or matter which might place the Contractor, the Contractor’s employees, or the Contractor’s subcontractors in a position of conflict, real or apparent, between their responsibilities under the award and any other outside interests, or otherwise. Conflicts of interest may also include, but are not limited to, direct or indirect financial interests, close personal relationships, positions of trust in outside organizations, consideration of future employment arrangements with a different organization, or decision-making affecting the award that would cause a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts to question the impartiality of the Offeror, the Offeror’s employees, or the Offeror’s future subcontractors in the matter. Upon receipt of such a notice, the NFWF Contracting Officer will determine if a conflict of interest exists and, if so, if there are any possible actions to be taken by the Offeror to reduce or resolve the conflict. Failure to resolve conflicts of interest in a manner that satisfies NFWF may result in the proposal not being selected for award.

By submitting a Statement of Qualifications in response to this solicitation, the Offeror warrants and represents that it is eligible for award of a Contract resulting from this solicitation and that it is not subject to any of the below circumstances:

Has any unpaid Federal tax liability that has been assessed, for which all judicial and administrative remedies have been exhausted or have lapsed, and that is not being paid in a timely manner pursuant to a Contract with the authority responsible for collecting the tax liability, where the awarding agency is aware of the unpaid tax liability, unless the agency has considered suspension or debarment of the corporation and made a determination that this further action is not necessary to protect the interests of the Government; or

Was convicted (or had an officer or agent of such corporation acting on behalf of the corporation convicted) of a felony criminal violation under any Federal or State law within the preceding 24 months, where the awarding agency is aware of the conviction, unless the agency has considered suspension or debarment of the corporation and made a determination that this further action is not necessary to protect the interests of the Government; or

Is listed on the General Services Administration’s, government-wide System for Award Management Exclusions (SAM Exclusions), in accordance with the OMB guidelines at 2 C.F.R Part 180 that implement E.O.s 12549 (3 C.F.R., 1986 Comp., p. 189) and 12689 (3 C.F.R., 1989 Comp., p. 235), “Debarment and Suspension, ” or intends to enter into any subaward, contract or other Contract using funds provided by NFWF with any party listed on the SAM Exclusions in accordance with Executive Orders 12549 and 12689. The SAM Exclusions can be found at https://www.sam.gov/portal/public/SAM/.

STATEMENT OF QUALIFICATIONS SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS AND RFQ/RFP DEADLINES

​Oct. 2, 2015 ​Deadline for questions about the RFQ to NFWF
Offerors should submit questions regarding this RFQ via email to Annamarie Lopata (annamarie.lopata@nfwf.org). NFWF will respond to all Offerors at the same time and with the same answers. In order to provide equitable responses, all questions must be received by NFWF no later than 11:59 PM EDT.
​Oct. 12, 2015 ​Statements of Qualifications must be submitted electronically as an email attachment to Annamarie Lopata (annamarie.lopata@nfwf.org) by 11:59 PM EDT.
Statements must be provided in Word format or searchable PDF.
​November 2015 ​NFWF will notify all RFQ Offerors of their status and successful Offerors will be issued a Request for Proposal (RFP)
​December 2015 ​Deadline for receipt by NFWF of invited RFPs
​December 2015 ​Interviews of selected finalists
​January 2016 ​Contract award to selected Offeror
 

 

Appendix 1: List of NRCS-NFWF Cooperative Agreements and Modifications

Conservation Innovation Grant Cooperative Agreements (national)
1. NRCS - CIG Grants 2008
2. NRCS - CIG Grants in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed 2008
3. NRCS - CIG Chesapeake 2011
4. NRCS - CIG Chesapeake Bay - SAM 2013
5. NRCS - CIG Longleaf Pine 2011
a. NRCS - CIG Longleaf Pine 2011 (Mod 1)
6. NRCS - CIG Water Transactions 2010
7. NRCS - CIG Nutrient Management NY 2011
8. NRCS - CIG Nutrient Management CT 2011
Conservation Partners Program Cooperative Agreements (national)
9. NRCS - Shared Biologist 2010
a. NRCS - Shared Biologist (Mod 1) 2010
10. NRCS - Shared Biologist 2010
11. NRCS - Shared Biologist 2010
12. NRCS - Conservation Partners Program - CRP 2011
13. NRCS - Conservation Partners Program - CTA 2011
14. NRCS - Conservation Partners Program FY12
15. NRCS - Conservation Partners Program FY14
a. NRCS - Conservation Partners Program FY14 (Mod 1)
State Level Cooperative Agreements
16. NRCS - Conservation Technical Assistance in CT FY14
17. NRCS - Central Kentucky 2013
a. NRCS - Central Kentucky 2013 (Mod 1)
18. NRCS - Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative WV 2013
a. NRCS - Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative WV 2013 (Mod 1)
b. NRCS - Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative WV 2013 (Mod 2)
19. NRCS - Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grants PA 2013
a. NRCS - Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grants PA 2013 (Mod 1)
20. NRCS - Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee 2013
a. NRCS - Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee 2013 (Mod 1)
21. NRCS - Cumberland Plateau of Alabama 2013
a. NRCS - Cumberland Plateau of Alabama 2013 (Mod 1)
22. NRCS - Gulf Coast TX 2013
23. NRCS - SWAT Longleaf Pine SC 2011
24. NRCS - Longleaf Pine Initiative in South Carolina 2012
a. NRCS - Longleaf Pine Initiative in South Carolina 2012 (Mod 1)
25. NRCS - SWAT Longleaf Pine FL 2011
a. NRCS - SWAT Longleaf Pine FL 2011 (Mod 1)
26. NRCS - SWAT Shortgrass Prairie NM 2011
a. NRCS - SWAT Shortgrass Prairie NM 2011 (Mod 1)
27. NRCS - SWAT Longleaf Pine GA 2011
a. NRCS - SWAT Longleaf Pine GA 2011 (Mod 1)
28. NRCS - Longleaf Pine Regions of Mississippi 2013
a. NRCS - Longleaf Pine Regions of Mississippi 2013 (Mod 1)
b. NRCS - Longleaf Pine Regions of Mississippi 2013 (Mod 2)
29. NRCS - Longleaf Pine Regions of Louisiana 2013
a. NRCS - Longleaf Pine Regions of Louisiana 2013 (Mod 1)
30. NRCS - North Dakota 2013
Programmatic Cooperative Agreements
31. NRCS - Coral Reef Task Force Partnership Initiative
32. NRCS - Coral Reefs Toolkit
a. NRCS - Coral Reefs Toolkit (Mod 1)
33. NRCS - Gulf of Mexico Restoration Project
34. NRCS - Michigan Farms and Forests Initiative
35. NRCS - New England Cottontail CT 2013
36. NRCS - Washington State Salmon Recovery
a. NRCS - Washington State Salmon Recovery (Mod 1)
37. NRCS - Western Lake Erie Basin Partnership
 

 Contact:

 
Annamarie Lopata (Evaluation Officer)
202-595-2613
 

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