How to Get a School Grant: Is a Grant Really a Gift?

This blog is for school grant writers, we'll try to give you useful information for developing strategies for success.

Last time, I explored the politics of grant writing. Don't let it scare you away. In some respects, it's just there, nothing you can do about it. But it does help to become a political forecaster. I think politics is like a pendulum. Right now, we're in a progressive swing (actually we're in a stalemate, but you know what I mean). The pendulum will swing back eventually and it pays to be prepared for the shift. Don't worry if it's not going "your way", your personal politics are irrelevant in the grants world.

Another unseen but present factor in grant writing is at the heart of grantsmanship. A grant is not a gift. Unless you've received a check from a company that has no strings attached, a grant is a contract. If it's a check, you'll need to be absolutely clear about the funds and how they will be spent. You need to keep detailed records of invoices, receipts, agreements, anything you have written down about the "gift". You'll want a letter from the company that provides written evidence of the nature of the grant.

All grants are awarded for a reason. Federal entitlement grants like Title I and Teacher Quality are awards that are based on a formula, it is pre-ordained how the government wants the funds to be applied in your school. Make sure you know what the regulations say about how you can spend the money. Title I has a regulatory manual that is contained in two huge 3-ring binders with rules and record keeping requirements that are firmly established.

Other foundation and corporate grants are provided with an agenda attached. You'll quickly learn that you can't just write a jazzy narrative about how much your kids need a playground when the company is adamant about reading instruction. Unless you are very clever and can come up with a way to link playgrounds to improvements in reading achievement, you'll be barking up the wrong tree. Also be aware that grantors will know if you are turning yourself into a pretzel to make your project fit their guidelines. You will not receive a grant from them, and they will remember the experience. Then, there goes that resource.

A technique I developed over time was to categorize funding streams in binders and Excel spreadsheets. XYZ company has one or two main interests, so their application procedures will appear in two different "categories" in your records. Along with the information about interests, the application form should be accompanied by a list of past awards. Buried in that list is a treasure trove of resources to mine as you seek support for your project. If a school district in a neighboring state received a huge award last year for a project like yours, you'll want to know who was responsible for developing the application. Network with the people in that district; they will mostly be happy to share ideas with you. Some grant writers hold their cards very close to the vest and won't show you their narratives or budgets, but others will show you exactly how they went about applying for and receiving the funds. In a competitive environment, be prepared for the first possibility. I call them the "stonewallers".

Technology tip: if you're working in Excel, you can link worksheets to each other with hyperlinks. Let's say you have the first tab (worksheet) that has a list of companies (your table of contents). You can insert a hyperlink to another worksheet in the same spreadsheet to cross reference the companies with their interests. To learn more about this, check this out. The same techniques work in tables in Microsoft Word or other word processors. You can link to other pages in your document.

So, you're not receiving a gift from the grantor, you are entering into an agreement, and usually a contract will be drawn up to solidify the agreement. If you were never very good at keeping records before, now is the time to develop this skill. It is critical that you keep track of every single thing you do with regard to the funds. I've collected some ideas for doing that here:

Every grant writer has forms for keeping track of expenditures, if you have something you'd like to share - comment on this blog.


Current Grant Opportunities

Grades 6-12 Math and Science Grants from the Toshiba America Foundation - The mission of Toshiba America Foundation is to promote quality science and mathematics education in U.S. schools. Grants are made for programs and activities that improve teaching and learning in science and mathematics, grades K-12. The Foundation focuses its grant making on inquiry-based projects designed by individual teachers, and small teams of teachers, for use in their own classrooms.

States: All States

Average Amount:   $1,000.00 - $10,000.00

Total Amount: $300,000.00

Address: c/o Prog. Office, 1251 Ave. of the Americas, 41st Fl., New York, NY 10020-4110

Telephone: 212-596-0620

E-mail: foundation@tai.toshiba.com

Website: Toshiba America Foundation

Eligibility: Public School, Private School, Other

Program Areas: General Education, Math, Science/Environmental, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), Technology

Deadline: 8/1/2014


Equipment Grants from the Good Sports- Good Sports is a non-profit whose mission is to increase youth participation in sports, recreation and fitness activities. Good Sports provides sports equipment, apparel, and footwear to youth organizations offering sports, fitness and recreational programs to youth in need. Please read the eligibility requirements carefully prior to applying for equipment grant to better understand our criteria and our process. An administrative fee of 10% of the donation value must be submitted along with the release form (e.g., an organization receiving a donation of $1,500 worth of equipment is subject to a $150 administrative fee).

States: All States

Address: 1515 Hancock Street, Suite 301, Quincy, MA 02169

Telephone: 617-471-1213

E-mail: community@goodsports.org

Website: Good Sports

Eligibility: Public School, Other

Program Areas: After-School, Health/PE

Deadline: Ongoing