Supplant means to “take the place of.” Supplement means to “add something to complete a thing.” For almost any grant you write, it is important for you to begin a new program or to supplement a program rather than to supplant one. While most grantors make that fact very plain in their grant literature, some are not as explicit. Regardless of that, you can rest assured they do not want you using their money to supplant a program you already have in place.
Most grantors are interested in helping you to improve academic performance in some way. You can usually do that by implementing a new program that has shown promise in other schools or by expanding a program that has been successful in your own school. You usually have to come up with the money for that new or expanded program. Grantors often supply that money.
Supplanting a program is different. That means you put a new program in the place of an old one. To do that, you should be able to use the money that you were using for the old program to put the new one in place. If you do, it is unlikely you would need grant money.
Some schools try to write grants that allow them to supplant one of their current programs in an effort to shift their money to another curriculum area. An abundance of reading grant money might be available at the time, but the school really needs money to shore up its math program. The grant writer applies for a reading grant for enough money to fund the reading program that is already in place, then the district shifts that budget money over to the math department so they can improve their math program with a promising supplemental program.
In theory this sounds like a workable plan for the school. In fact, it is a form of fraud. At the very least, it is deceitful. Grantors are usually very specific about what they are trying to accomplish with their giving, and to deceive them is wrong. You might very rarely see a grantor who is willing to add money to your general budget, but it is unusual to find such a grant.
It is important in your application to let grantors know you are supplementing a program rather than supplanting one. In your narrative, I recommend that you clearly describe how you plan to begin a new program or supplement a current program in order to improve that academic area in your school.
If you do not currently have an after-school program that tutors math students who are struggling, then you are supplementing your regular math program when you set up your tutoring program. If you do not currently have a computer lab that allows students who are struggling to better understand instructional concepts, then you are supplementing your math program when you set up such a computer lab. There are many ways to supplement a current program to improve it.
You should always clearly understand how a new or supplemental program will improve your overall academic program and clearly explain that in your grant application. If you struggle to prove that your grant program is truly supplemental, then it probably isn’t.
You will not often hear the terms “supplement” and “supplant” discussed at school, but you should hear it often if you are involved in writing grants. Thousands of grants supply money to schools for you to begin new programs or supplement academic programs to improve them. Only a handful of grantors are out there who would even consider providing money for you to supplant a program with their funds.