Do You Have What It Takes? Self-Evaluation for Would-Be Grant Writers

The summer is here, it's a good time to see if you have what it's going to take to mount an effective grant seeking campaign, and it's the time to gather your energy to do so. At any time during the school year many teachers and administrators decide they need to find grant money for their schools.  With budget cuts that many schools have suffered the last couple of years, I’m sure that this year will not be an exception.  Many educators will want to find grant money.  The question becomes, “Do you have what it takes to go out and get the grant money you need?” This is a question that individuals need to ask themselves, and school leaders need to ask about their school communities. Grant writing is a process, and it's about developing relationships within and outside your school community. There are no short cuts.

I believe that any school community can find grant money if it wants it badly enough.  But any educator who is going to be a successful grant writer must possess three characteristics: desire, determination, and persistence.  Without these characteristics, you might find some grant money, but you will not do so consistently. Many begin with a great deal of energy but then burn out.

First, to be successful, a grant writer must have a strong desire to solve a problem.  Typically, this problem will involve a deficiency in the educational program at your school and must be solved in order for students to achieve to their potential.  It doesn’t matter if your students are behind in math, reading, science, social studies, writing, or in the arts.  As a grant writer, you must dispassionately look at your problems and deficiencies. They are unacceptable, but they provide a compelling rationale for starting the search to find the grant money to eliminate them.

Second, if you are going to be a successful grant writer, you must have determination.  You must identify your problem, find a logical solution, seek out grantors that provide support for solutions to your type of problem, and fill out their grant applications properly and proficiently.  You must extract the data that supports your contention that you have a problem. You must review that extraction process, often you'll find you are drowning in data, and you need to pick out the most important evidence for study. You must study until you find the proper grants that match well with your problem.  These are difficult and time consuming tasks, and you must show marked determination if you are to be successful as a grant writer. It's often like going back to school, all those study skills will now pay off.

Finally, you must be persistent.  It is rare to have a problem at a school, write one grant, receive the grant money, and have your problem corrected.  More often, you must write multiple grants to be assured of getting enough grant money to tackle your problem.  It is only beginning grant writers who believe that finding a single grant opportunity will be enough to solve their problems with one stroke.  You may find that a multi-faceted program emerges that requires the energies and resources of several grant providers to fulfill. Grant providers often prefer to be part of larger plan to solve problems, but be sure they know they will receive the recognition they deserve for being part of that plan.

Any school can get grant money.  I won’t say that it will be easy or that you’ll get grant money the first time you try. If you are a person who truly desires to make your school a better place, who is determined to make a difference by seeking grant support, and who is persistent enough to continue to apply for grants until your problems are solved, you will be a successful grant writer.