We have explored types of grants, pieces of grant narratives and other fine points of seeking and getting grants for schools. Through all our discussions there is the specter of a dynamic that is, like a ghost, there but unseen. It is the presence of politics.
When I started writing grants, I had no idea there was this ineffable dynamic in place in any grant application process. I was naive and inexperienced and had to learn some tough lessons about political realities. If you're a voter, you watch the comings and goings of political parties and philosophies every year in November. It is excruciating for everyone, we are all concerned about the direction our country is heading, and we all have an opinion.
In the world of grant writing, especially for non-profit and school purposes, you must learn to leave your opinions in the closet. What you think (except at cocktail parties) is irrelevant. It pays to stay current, who are in the positions of power now, what are his/her philosophies? Most of all, what will this new shift in the wind mean for grant availability and program development? It will require you to develop the capabilities of a shape shifter. As soon as you have the lay of the land after any election, it pays to review your school's options in determining solutions to problems.
An illustration may help. In one presidential cycle, the move from a democratic president to a republican administration meant a drying up of funds for schools and social service agencies. You may have had strong feelings about that, one way or another, but they are irrelevant. It became necessary to learn new ways to solve problems that included bringing in leaders in the corporate world to find ways to share the burden of educating children. The new philosophy was that the government is not in the business of carrying this load and the private sector has a greater role to play in providing resources for the day to day operation of public schools and service agencies.
It was a tough pill to swallow. For eight years it had been a land of milk and honey for public school districts. We could count on our elected officials helping us find and secure funds for projects that would help our poorest and most vulnerable children. Now, we needed to shift gears and open up dialogue with our local business leaders to find ways to do likewise in the new climate.
This was neither good nor bad, I discovered, just different. The sooner I learned the ins and outs of approaching program development in a new way, the better. It was tough, but I took notes, paid attention, read the papers (including the Wall Street Journal) and continued to pull in resources for my kids, just from different sources.
After the eight years passed, another president was ushered in with a new direction. The pendulum had swung back and the government was once again (in theory at least) in the business of being the greatest source of support for public schools. It is all quite dizzying, but the more nimble you are as the pendulum swings back and forth, the more useful you become in the grants office.
This pertains not just to presidential politics, but especially local politics. You'll have a new mayor, perhaps new senators and congressmen at both the state and federal levels. Get to know these people.
If you are successful at the shape shifting part (without completely abandoning your personal ethics), the more invisible your opinions will become. You do not want people to know what you really think about political realities. If asked, "are you a republican or a democrat?" you will get as evasive as the politicians, you are neither. You are a public servant who works "across the aisle" to bring home the resources for the kids.
This all sounds insincere, cynical, and even dishonest. I assure you, it is simply practical. In the end, your opinions about the role of government in the education of our children are irrelevant. Both ways work if you are clever enough to absorb the changes and move with them. This is not Pollyanna talking, just a positive approach that will work for you if you are a quick study.
The first step in a shift of power is to get the know the players. Introduce yourself to the new mayor. He or she will play a big role in helping you get support for government grants. You may find yourself spending time in state senate offices, the people there are in a position to help you, even if they are on the "wrong" side of the aisle this time around. The pendulum will eventually swing back, it always does.
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
Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination Program from the United States Department of Education- The Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination (AEMDD) program supports the enhancement, expansion, documentation, evaluation, and dissemination of innovative, cohesive models that are based on research and have demonstrated that they effectively—(1) integrate standards-based arts education into the core elementary and middle school curriculum; (2) strengthen standards-based arts instruction in these grades; and (3) improve students’ academic performance, including their skills in creating, performing, and responding to the arts.
States: All States
Average Amount: $450,000.00 - $550,000.00
Total Amount: $8,600,000.00
Address: 400 Maryland Avenue SW., Room 4W240, Washington, DC 20202-5950
Website: US Department of Education
Eligibility: Public School, Private School
Program Areas: Arts, General Education
EcoTech Grants from the Captain Planet Foundation- Sixteen grants will be awarded to schools or non-profits organizations for the purpose of engaging children in inquiry-based projects in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) that use innovation, biomimicry / nature-based design, or new uses for technology to address environmental problems in their communities.
States: All States
Average Amount: $2,500.00
Address: 133 Luckie Street, 2nd Floor, Atlanta, GA 30303
Website: Captain Planet Foundation
Eligibility: Public School, Private School, Other
Program Areas: After-School, General Education, Math, Science/Environmental, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), Technology