Scene: Teacher's Lunch Room, 7:15 a.m., coffee brewing, teachers stewing. Rachel: "I am so sick of my desktop computer freezing, and coughing, and dying or whatever it is computers do. How can we get some new technology for our classrooms? Every time we ask for it from the district, we get this long lecture about budgets, and cuts, and NO. This is a serious problem. We're supposed to be helping kids get ready for 21st century jobs, and we can't even get the Internet up on the Smartboard in the morning."
Bonita: "No kidding. I know, why don't we do some fundraising?"
The teachers form a committee to research the possibilities for obtaining funds to buy new computers for the classrooms. Easy, right?
I’ll start off by saying, I am a huge proponent of technology in education. However, even though we know how important it is to keep up with evolving hardware and software, we also know that it is not usually made a priority when considering the existing budget.
If you've searched the MySchoolGrant℠ database and have found a grantor that looks promising, there are a few things for you to consider before you submit your request.
Foundations and corporations rarely fund "computer grants." These are simply grants that request funds for new computers to replace old ones. They do fund grants that describe learning environments, analyze test scores or identify curriculum standards that need to be strengthened in a school. It's not enough anymore just to need something. Grantors are often very smart people who have had the good fortune to amass great amounts of money in their lives. They have ideas about how schools should proceed to accomplish their agendas and passions. You need to find out what they are.
To maximize the chances of securing a grant, your job is to weave your need for computers into a total learning plan. How will the computers help to raise academic achievement? Why computers and not textbooks? Is there special software you need to go along with the hardware that is research-based and proves to be effective at raising academic achievement in schools like yours (the demographics of which you've thoroughly outlined in your narrative)?
The program that you outline in your grant request needs to be sustainable. How will you stay current once the grant is gone? Is this plan sustainable? Have you identified a dedicated funding source for your project after the grant? This planning process may reveal other needs you have; you may want to consider two or three grant applications to tackle really big issues.
Once you identify a grantor through the database and have determined that your school meets their eligibility requirements, go to the foundation's website to research further about who they are and what they do. If you can (and the foundation is local), make an appointment to go see them. This will allow them to attach a face to the name of your project. This is one of the most successful ways of assuring funding from foundations. Make it personal—they are people too. After you've received the requested funding, keep the foundation involved. The foundations I've worked with are so excited to receive invitations to the school to see how their funds have made something wonderful happen. This makes their day!
Another tip to acquiring computer hardware is to make connections at a local college or university. Many post-secondary institutions are on a two-year rotation for computer hardware. This means they buy new equipment every other year to replace "old" machines. If you get to know the IT people at your local college, they may be willing to give you last year's models. Make sure your district IT person is with you on this.