Often in my travels in local philanthropic circles, I'll hear about a new "mini-grant" that is being provided by a local business for $500 or so for "reading improvement projects" or something like that. I used to turn my nose up at them, our needs are truly huge, "$500 is not enough to do much of anything", I opined.
One year, a business executive I know from church (and don't underestimate the amount of networking that goes on in church) approached and said,
"Neva, I have a check made out to your school sitting on my desk, our mini-grant program had some funds left over, and we know you're doing great works in reading intervention. Stop by my office and pick it up, you can supply the application later."
This was the start of a beautiful relationship. This little grant for $850.00 was used to hire a consultant to come in and take a dispassionate look at our reading series. For years our teachers had either loved it or hated it, but no one could really say if it had an impact on our reading test scores. We needed an objective view.
The consultant was recommended to us by a neighboring school district and was worth every penny. He had no axes to grind, did not owe anyone anything, he just gave us an honest assessment of the series that caused us to start looking for a new one. Another mini-grant from the same company was sought to do the research involved in that process. We needed funds for stipends for teachers who would work late many nights going through reading books to find the series that best responded to our needs. The process itself was worthwhile; we forged relationships with reading series publishers that we mine today for news and information on new volumes and digital resources.
The company was thrilled to be approached again to tie up loose ends that were created by the first mini-grant, that in fact that was why they did it. The small grants were "tryouts". School districts throughout the county could access them. It gave the company an inside view of how the schools went about the process of improving academic achievement, their favorite subject. It is truly a win-win-win situation.
The following year, we sat down with company representatives to explore the possibility of a larger grant, one that would showcase the company's interest in issues that extended far beyond the improvement of reading scores. The grant we explored would fundamentally change the way our district provided professional development and recruited new teachers. This was something we had wanted to do for a long time. We knew the results would be far reaching. We also knew the planning stage would be expensive and time consuming. The company was honestly flattered that we wanted their assistance in such a big project.
These are true anecdotes of a process that goes on in schools all over the country. I was so surprised that the company had "left over money", I'm still recovering from that remark. It's true, the companies are often searching for great projects to fund, remember they must give away a certain percentage of their profits each year. As the economy improves, those funds will increase. Get in line for your share. Take time to develop these relationships, and work hard at making a positive impression right out of the gate. I remember a remark in a recent political campaign where the individual said "companies are people". He took a lot of heat for the remark, but he was right. People providing resources for people, develop your reputation as "that totally together grants person at xyz district". They will be coming to you, not the other way around.
Let us know how you're doing, there are many ways to raise funds for your school, I've just touched on a few - comment on this blog.
Current Grant Opportunities
America's Historical and Cultural Organizations: Planning Grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities- America’s Historical and Cultural Organizations grants provide support for museums, libraries, historic places, and other organizations that produce public programs in the humanities.
States: All States
Average Amount: $40,000.00 - $75,000.00
Address: 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20506
Eligibility: Public School, Higher Education, Other
Program Areas: Library, Social Services
Grant for Educators from the Herb Society of America- the Herb Society of America's mission is to promote the knowledge, use and delight of herbs through educational programs, research, and sharing the experience of its members with the community. The Grant for Educators challenges individuals, groups or small businesses to develop and deliver learning experiences to the public. Applications are requested from educators (formal or informal teachers), persons engaged/employed in botanical or horticultural activities, museum directors, botanical / garden writers, small herbal business owners.
States: All States
Average Amount: $5,000.00
Address: 9019 Kirtland Chardon Road, Kirtland, Ohio 44094
Website: Herb Society of America
Eligibility: Public School, Private School, Other
Program Areas: Health/PE, Science/Environmental