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[Funding Opportunity] EducationUSA Virtual Student Advisor – Aktau
June 9, 2021

Department of State Embassy of the United States in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan

Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO)

Program Office: Public Affairs Section, Embassy Nur-Sultan
Funding Opportunity Title: EducationUSA Virtual Student Advisor – Aktau
Announcement Type: Cooperative Agreement
Funding Opportunity Number: DOS-KAZ-NS-PAS-21-013
Deadline for Applications: Friday, July 9, 2021, 18:00 Almaty/Nur-Sultan time (GMT +6)
CFDA Number: 19.040 – Public Diplomacy Programs


  • For assistance with the requirements of this solicitation, contact KZ-PAS-Proposals@state.gov
  • To inquire about the process for obtaining a Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreement (NICRA) contact Donald Hunter at HunterDS@state.gov.

Authorization to submit proposals through KZ-PAS-Proposals@state.gov is a multi-step process that requires prior successful registration with three separate sites: DUNSNCAGESAM. Please begin the registration processes immediately to ensure the registrations are completed well in advance of the submission deadline. The process can require up to six weeks for the registrations to be validated and confirmed. See Section D: Submission Requirements for further details.

Due to the volume of applicants and inquiries, the Public Affairs Section (PAS) does not accept letters of intent, concept papers, or requests for meetings or phone calls prior to application.

It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that the application package has been received in its entirety. Incomplete applications will be considered ineligible. Applicants are urged to begin the application process well before the submission deadline. No exceptions will be made for organizations that have not completed the necessary steps.

A. Funding Opportunity Description Summary

Executive Summary:

The U.S. Embassy Nur-Sultan Public Affairs Section is pleased to announce a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the following program: EducationUSA Virtual Student Advisor – Aktau. Based on funding availability, this project will expand EducationUSA advising services for students in Aktau and other areas of western Kazakhstan.


To increase student mobility between Kazakhstan and the United States, the U.S. Department of State currently operates EducationUSA advising centers in Almaty, Karaganda, Nur-Sultan, and Shymkent. EducationUSA is a network of over 400 international student advising centers in more than 170 countries. The network promotes U.S. higher education to students around the world by offering accurate, comprehensive, and current information about opportunities to study at accredited postsecondary institutions in the United States. In addition, EducationUSA assists the U.S. higher education community in their overseas enrollment outreach and recruitment strategies and provides information on the complex U.S. higher education system to foreign governments and institutions.

This funding opportunity seeks to expand EducationUSA’s services in Kazakhstan to better serve the needs of students in Aktau, Mangystau, and all of Western Kazakhstan. Building on the success of virtual advising activities that were delivered for students throughout Kazakhstan during the COVID-19 pandemic, EducationUSA advising in Aktau will be carried out virtually. A transition to some in-person advising services may be considered in the future.

Project Goal: Increase the number of Kazakhstani students studying in the United States by providing students in Aktau, Mangystau, and other areas in Western Kazakhstan access to U.S. higher education opportunities.

Project Audiences: Target audiences in Aktau, Mangystau, and Western Kazakhstan are:

  • high school students preparing for college and interested in attending higher education institutions in the United States, as well as their parents;
  • high school teachers, administrators, and guidance counselors;
  • current college students who seek to transfer to a U.S. institution or to study abroad short-term at a U.S. institution; and
  • students seeking information and assistance applying to graduate programs in the United States.

Project Objectives

  1. Ensure students have access to accurate, comprehensive, and current information about opportunities to study at accredited postsecondary institutions in the United States.
  2. Establish and encourage network building between departing student, returning student and alumni grantees.

Project Details:

The selected grantee/implementer will be expected to carry out the following virtual activities, in cooperation with the EducationUSA advising centers in Almaty, Karaganda, Nur-Sultan, and Shymkent; the Regional EducationUSA Advising Coordinator (REAC); and the U.S. Embassy Nur-Sultan Public Affairs Section:

  • Provide accurate, comprehensive, and current information on higher education in the United States to students, scholars, and professionals seeking to study in the United States. Information will be provided virtually, via approved social networks, in both local languages (Kazakh and Russian) and English. Virtual advising services will include, but not be limited to, group orientation sessions for the public, individual consultations, and assistance with all aspects of the college/university admissions process.
  • Conduct outreach to students in Western Kazakhstan who may be interested in learning more about studying in the United States and will benefit from EducationUSA’s services.
  • Develop and implement outreach, as well as maintain connections with secondary school counselors and university offices.
  • Work with EducationUSA advising centers in Almaty, Karaganda, Nur-Sultan, and Shymkent to plan, implement, and ensure participation of students from Western Kazakhstan in EducationUSA activities for students nationwide such as the annual college fair, virtual summer camp, and college prep club.
  • Foster opportunities for virtual interaction between departing and returning students and scholars; develop activities and programs to use returning grantees and alumni as resources.
  • Develop and monitor social networking groups as needed and maintain the EducationUSA website for Aktau.
  • Maintain regular contact with the current EducationUSA advising centers in Kazakhstan, the REAC, and the U.S. Embassy regarding EducationUSA development and strategy in Kazakhstan.
  • Link EducationUSA Aktau to other relevant organizations and programs (e.g. American Corners/Centers, the College Board, Educational Testing Service, Overseas Association of College Admissions Counselors, U.S. government exchange programs, U.S. institutions of higher education, and education tour providers).
  • Stay abreast of information pertaining to U.S. higher education and the profession of educational advising. Remain up to date on technology related to and used for educational advising and digital outreach to students.
  • Complete the EducationUSA training process and ensure compliance with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs’ website and statistics-reporting requirements.

The Public Affairs Section anticipates that this will be a part-time advising position, i.e. requiring a level of effort of no more than 20 hours per week.

B. Federal Award Information

Funding Mechanism Type: Cooperative Agreement
Estimated Award Ceiling: $15,500
Estimated Award Floor: $10,000
Length of Project Period: One year
Anticipated program start date: August 2021

The Public Affairs Section reserves the right to award less or more than the funds described under circumstances deemed to be in the best interest of the U.S. government, pending the availability of funds and approval of the designated grants officer.

C. Eligibility Information

  1. The following organizations are eligible to apply:
    • Not-for-profit organizations
    • Civil society/non-governmental organizations
    • Think tanks
    • Public and private educational institutions
    • Individuals
  1. Organizations may sub-contract with other entities, but only one, non-profit, non-governmental entity can be the prime recipient of the award. When sub-contracting with other entities, the responsibilities of each entity must be clearly defined in the proposal.
    1. Cost sharing or matching is not required for this funding opportunity.
      1. Pre-award costs are not an allowable expense for this funding opportunity.
        1. In order to be eligible to receive an award, all organizations must have a unique entity identifier (Data Universal Numbering System/DUNS number from Dun & Bradstreet), as well as a valid registration on www.SAM.gov. Please see Section D. Required Registrations on how to obtain these registrations. Individuals are not required to have a unique entity identifier or be registered in SAM.gov.
          1. This award does not allow:
            • Projects relating to partisan political activity;
            • Charitable or development activities;
            • Construction projects;
            • Projects that support specific religious activities;
            • Fund-raising campaigns;
            • Lobbying for specific legislation or programs;
            • Scientific research or surveys;
            • Commercial projects;
            • Projects intended primarily for the growth or institutional development of the organization;
            • Projects that duplicate existing projects; or
            • Illegal activities

D. Application and Submission Information:

Please follow all instructions below carefully. Proposals that do not meet the requirements of this announcement or fail to comply with the stated requirements will be ineligible.

Content and Form of Application Submission

Please ensure:

  1. Proposal clearly addresses the goals, audiences, and objectives of this notice.
  2. All documents are in English.
  3. All budgets are in U.S. dollars.
  4. All pages are numbered.
  5. All documents are formatted to 8 ½ x 11 paper.
  6. All Microsoft Word documents are single-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font, with a minimum of 1-inch margins.
  7. All applicant authorized signatures are provided where indicated on the various, required forms.

Application Deadline: All applications must be received by July 9, 2021. For the purposes of determining if an award is submitted on time, the Embassy Public Affairs Section will utilize the time-stamp provided by Grants.gov. This deadline is firm and is not a rolling deadline. If organizations fail to meet the deadline noted above their application will be considered ineligible and will not be considered for funding.

Application Submission Process:  Submitting all application materials directly to the following email address: KZ-PAS-Proposals@state.gov. Applicants must include the Funding Opportunity Title and Funding Opportunity Number in the subject line of the email.

Required Registrations

Any applicant listed on the Excluded Parties List System (EPLS) in the System for Award Management (SAM) is not eligible to apply for an assistance award in accordance with the OMB guidelines at 2 CFR 180 that implement Executive Orders 12549 (3 CFR, 1986 Comp., p. 189) and 12689 (3 CFR, 1989 Comp., p. 235), “Debarment and Suspension.” Additionally, no entity listed on the EPLS can participate in any activities under an award. All applicants are strongly encouraged to review the EPLS in SAM to ensure that no ineligible entity is included.

All organizations applying for grants (except individuals) must obtain these registrations. All are free of charge:

  • Unique entity identifier from Dun & Bradstreet (DUNS number)
  • NCAGE/CAGE code
  • www.SAM.gov registration

Follow the steps outlined below to obtain the required registrations:

  1. Step 1: Apply for a DUNS number and an NCAGE number (these can be completed simultaneously)
    1. DUNS application: Organizations must have a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number from Dun & Bradstreet, if your organization does not have one already, you may obtain one by calling 1-866-705-5711 or visiting http://fedgov.dnb.com/webform
    2. NCAGE application: Application page here (but need to click magnifying glass and then scroll down to click new registration) https://eportal.nspa.nato.int/AC135Public/scage/CageList.aspx
      1. Instructions for the NCAGE application process:https://eportal.nspa.nato.int/AC135Public/Docs/US%20Instructions%20for%20NSPA%20NCAGE.pdf
        1. For help from within the U.S., call 1-888-227-2423
        2. For help from outside the U.S., call 1-269-961-7766
      2. Email NCAGE@dlis.dla.mil for any problems in getting an NCAGE code. After receiving the NCAGE Code, proceed to register in SAM by logging onto: https://www.sam.gov/
  2. Step 2: Once DUNS and NCAGE are obtained, continue to SAM registration on www.SAM.gov.

Applicants must acquire all required registrations and rights in the United States and Kazakhstan. All intellectual property considerations and rights must be fully met in the United States and Kazakhstan.

Any sub-recipient organization must also meet all the U.S. and Kazakhstani requirements described above.

E. Technical Requirements for Application:

When submitting a proposal, applicants are required to include the following documents and information from Sections 1–5 below, as applicable:

S Section 1—Standard Form 424 Family

For Organization Applicants:

All submissions must include the SF-424 Application for Federal Assistance (Attachment 1) and the SF-424A Budget Information—Non-Construction (Attachment 2). These forms and the instructions for completing them are available at http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/forms.html under the heading “SF-424 Family.” NOTE: The SF-424B is required only for those applicants who have not registered in SAM.gov or recertified their registration in SAM.gov since February 2, 2019 and completed the online representations and certifications. An authorized signature by the applicant must be provided on this form.

Please note:

  1. Other items NOT required/requested for submission, but which may be requested if your application is approved for funding include:
    1. Copies of an organization or program audit within the last two (2) years
    2. Copies of relevant human resources, financial, or procurement policies
    3. Copies of other relevant organizational policies or documentation that would help the Department determine your organization’s capacity to manage a federal grant award overseas.
  2. The Embassy reserves the right to request any additional programmatic and/or financial information regarding the proposal.

For Individual Applicants:

Standard 424 forms are available, along with guidance for completing these forms, at: http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/forms.html under the heading, “SF-424 Family.”

a. SF-424I -Application for Federal Assistance – Individuals only (Attachment 3)

b. SF424A (Budget Information for Non-Construction programs – organizations and individuals)

Section 2—Organization Information 

A. Applicant Organizational Information Sheet: Organization applicants must complete and submit the form provided (Attachment 4). An authorized signature by the applicant must be provided on this form.

B. Proof of Registration:  A copy of the organization’s registration should be provided with the proposal application. U.S.-based organizations should submit a copy of their IRS determination letter. Kazakhstan-based organizations should submit a copy of their certificate of registration from the appropriate government organization.

Section 3—Technical Proposal

Applicants must submit a complete narrative proposal in a format of their choice. The proposal shall not exceed twelve (12) pages. Refer to the evaluation criteria in Part G below for further detail about what makes a strong proposal. All proposals must address the following areas:

  • Organizational Description and Capacity
  • Project Justification, Sustainability, and Impact
  • Project Goals, Audiences, Objectives, Activities, and Deliverables
  • Implementation Timeline
  • Monitoring and Evaluation (see note below)

Monitoring & Evaluation

  1. M&E Performance Monitoring Plan: Proposals must include a draft Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Performance Monitoring Plan (PMP).  The M&E PMP should show how applicants intend to measure and demonstrate progress towards the project’s objectives and goals.  Using the provided PMP template (Attachment 5), applicants should describe how they intend to monitor and evaluate the activities of their award and collect data that tracks award performance. 

Section 4—Budget

A. Budget and Budget Detail: Applicants must submit a detailed budget and budget narrative justification. Applicants are encouraged to utilize the template provided with the funding opportunity, but are not required to do so (Attachment 4). Line-item expenditures should be listed in the greatest possible detail. Personnel salaries should include the level of effort and the rate of pay, which should cover the percentage of time each staff member will dedicate to grant-based activities. If your organization is charging an indirect cost rate, you must apply it to the modified total budget costs (MTDC), refer to 2CFR§200.68. Budgets that are not in the provided format will not be considered. Budgets shall be submitted in U.S. dollars and final grant agreements will be conducted in U.S. dollars.

B. Audit Requirements: Please note the audit requirements for Department of State awards in the Standard Terms and Conditions https://www.state.gov/m/a/ope/index.htm and 2CFR200, Subpart F – Audit Requirements. The cost of the required audits may be charged either as an allowable direct cost to the award OR included in the organization’s established indirect costs in the award’s detailed budget.

Section 5—Key Personnel and Project Partners

A. Key Personnel: A résumé, not to exceed one page in length, must be included for the proposed key staff persons, such as the Project Director and Finance Officer, as well as any speakers or trainers (if applicable). If an individual for this type of position has not been identified, the applicant may submit a 1-page position description, identifying the qualifications and skills required for that position, in lieu of a résumé.

B. Project Partners: Letters of support should be included for sub-recipients or other partners. The letters must identify the type of relationship to be entered into (formal or informal), the roles and responsibilities of each partner in relation to the proposed project activities, and the expected result of the partnership. The individual letters cannot exceed 1 page in length.

Special Characters in Submissions

Grants.gov does not accept all UTF-8 special characters in file attachment names. Applicants are able to enter all special characters from the UTF-8-character set when submitting applications and information to Grants.gov. However, if the grantor’s system is not yet compatible with these special characters, the grantor system may produce garbled or missing text in the application. As a result, the application may be rejected.

F. Review and Selection Process

1. Acknowledgement of receipt. Applicants will receive acknowledgment of receipt of their proposal.

2. Review. All submissions are screened for technical eligibility. If a submission is missing any required forms/documents listed, it will be considered ineligible and will not be reviewed by the grants review committee. A technical review panel will review the proposal and based upon the criteria noted in this NOFO.

3. Follow up notification. Applicants will generally be notified within 90 days after the NOFO deadline regarding the results of the review panel.

G. Application Evaluation Criteria

Criteria: Each application submitted under this announcement will be evaluated and rated on the basis of the criteria enumerated below. The criteria are designed to assess the quality of the proposed project, and to determine the likelihood of its success.

  • Quality and Feasibility of the Program Idea – 25 points: The program idea should be innovative and well developed, with sufficient detail about how project activities will be carried out. The proposals should demonstrate originality and outline clear, achievable objectives. The proposal includes a reasonable implementation timeline. The project scope is appropriate and clearly defined.
  • Organizational Capacity and Record on Previous Grants – 25 points:
    • The project proposal demonstrates that the organization has sufficient expertise, skills, and human resources to implement the project.
    • The organization demonstrates that it has a clear understanding of the underlying issue that the project will address.
    • The organization demonstrates capacity for successful planning and responsible fiscal management. This includes a financial management system and a bank account.
    • Applicants who have received grant funds previously have been compliant with applicable rules and regulations.
    • Where partners are described, the applicant details each partner’s respective role and provides curriculum vitae (CVs) for persons responsible for the project and financial administration. Proposed personnel, institutional resources, and partners are adequate and appropriate
  • Project Planning/Ability to Achieve Objectives – 15 points: The project plan is well developed, with sufficient detail about how activities will be carried out. The proposal specifies target audiences, participant recruitment, and geographic areas of implementation. The proposal outlines clear, achievable objectives. The proposal includes a reasonable implementation timeline. The project scope is appropriate and clearly defined.
    • A media or amplification plan (if appropriate) that shows how the organization will use social or traditional media or otherwise increase the number of people who gain exposure to the issue and knowledge of the activities beyond the core participants.
  • Budget – 15 points: The budget and narrative justification are sufficiently detailed. The budget demonstrates that the organization has devoted time to accurately determine expenses associated with the project instead of providing rough estimates. Costs are reasonable in relation to the proposed activities and anticipated results. The results and proposed outcomes justify the total cost of the project. Budget items are reasonable, allowable, and allocable.
    • Monitoring and Evaluation – 10 points: Applicant demonstrates it is able to measure program success against key indicators and provides milestones to indicate progress toward goals outlined in the proposal. The organization has clearly articulated how it will assess and measure its own performance throughout the project implementation phase using concrete quantitative and qualitative assessment tools.
      • Expenses directly associated with monitoring and evaluation are considered allowable. The suggested template includes a space to list the portion of the total budget amount directly associated with monitoring and evaluation activities.
        • Sustainability – 10 points: The project proposal describes clearly the approach that will be used to ensure maximum sustainability or advancement of project goals after the end of project activity.

H. Federal Award Notices

The grant award or cooperative agreement will be written, signed, awarded, and administered by the Grants Officer. The assistance award agreement is the authorizing document and it will be provided to the recipient for review and signature by email. The recipient may only start incurring project expenses beginning on the start date shown on the grant award document signed by the Grants Officer.

If a proposal is selected for funding, the Department of State has no obligation to provide any additional future funding. Renewal of an award to increase funding or extend the period of performance is at the discretion of the Department of State.

The Federal government is not obligated to make any Federal award as a result of the announcement. Issuance of this NOFO does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the U.S. government, nor does it commit the U.S. government to pay for costs incurred in the preparation and submission of proposals. Further, the U.S. government reserves the right to reject any or all proposals received. The U.S. government also reserves the right to make an award in excess of the award ceiling.

Administrative and National Policy Requirements

Terms and Conditions: Before submitting an application, applicants should review all the terms and conditions and required certifications which will apply to this award, to ensure that they will be able to comply. These include: 2 CFR 252 CFR 1702 CFR 1752 CFR 1822 CFR 1832 CFR 2002 CFR 600, Certifications and Assurances, and the Department of State Standard Terms and Conditions, all of which are available at: https://www.state.gov/m/a/ope/index.htm


Recipients are required to quarterly program progress and financial reports throughout the project period. Progress and financial reports are due 30 days after the reporting period. Final certified programmatic and financial reports are due 120 days after the close of the project period.

All reports are to be submitted electronically.

Awardees that are deemed to be high risk may be required to submit more extensive and frequent reports until their high risk designation has been removed.

The Awardee must also provide the Embassy on an annual basis an inventory of all the U.S. government provided equipment using the SF428 form.

I. Other Information

Guidelines for Budget Justification

Personnel and Fringe Benefits: Describe the wages, salaries, and benefits of temporary or permanent staff who will be working directly for the applicant on the project, and the percentage of their time that will be spent on the project.

Travel: Estimate the costs of travel and per diem for this project, for both program staff, consultants or speakers, and participants/beneficiaries. If the project involves international travel, include a brief statement of justification for that travel.

Equipment: Describe any machinery, furniture, or other personal property that is required for the project, which has a useful life of more than one year (or a life longer than the duration of the project), and costs at least $5,000 per unit.

Supplies: List and describe all the items and materials, including any computer devices, that are needed for the project. If an item costs more than $5,000 per unit, then put it in the budget under Equipment.

Contractual: Describe goods and services that the applicant plans to acquire through a contract with a vendor. Also describe any sub-awards to non-profit partners that will help carry out the project activities.

Other Direct Costs: Describe other costs directly associated with the project, which do not fit in the other categories. For example, shipping costs for materials and equipment or applicable taxes. All “Other” or “Miscellaneous” expenses must be itemized and explained.

Indirect Costs: These are costs that cannot be linked directly to the project activities, such as overhead costs needed to help keep the organization operating. If your organization has a Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate (NICRA) and includes NICRA charges in the budget, attach a copy of your latest NICRA. Organizations that have never had a NICRA may request indirect costs of 10% of the modified total direct costs as defined in 2 CFR 200.68.

“Cost Sharing” refers to contributions from the organization or other entities other than the U.S. Embassy. It also includes in-kind contributions such as volunteers’ time and donated venues.

Branding Requirements

As a condition of receipt of a grant award, all materials produced pursuant to the award, including training materials, materials for recipients or materials to communicate or promote with foreign audiences a program, event, project, or some other activity under an agreement, including but not limited to invitations to events, press materials, and backdrops, podium signs, etc. must be marked appropriately with the standard, rectangular U.S. flag in a size and prominence equal to (or greater than) any other logo or identity. Note: Exceptions to the branding requirement are allowable under certain conditions. If an applicant is notified that their award has been chosen for funding, the Grants Officer will determine, in consultation with the applicant, if an exception is applicable.

Copyrights and Proprietary Information

If any of the information contained in your application is proprietary, please note in the footer of the appropriate pages that the information is Confidential – Proprietary. Applicants should also note what parts of the application, program, concept, etc. are covered by copyright(s), trademark(s), or any other intellectual property rights and provide copies of the relevant documentation to support these copyrights.