I've been managing grants for a long time. The best laid plans… It never fails but sometimes the grant funds you have on hand are not enough to cover your costs. You need to have a plan for this eventuality.
The instinct is to run to your principal and plead on bended knee for some money to finish out the project. That may happen, but let's think about this for a minute. Is there another way?
There's always a way, of that I am sure.
My first line of defense is to seek in-kind donations from local businesses. You may have a supermarket that is willing to provide some free refreshments for your afterschool program, maybe even some cash to go with it. Local businesses are terrific resources. Their kids go to your school. It's in their best interest to help you out, and its great free advertising for them. Offer to feature them in the school newspaper. Prepare a "what's happening" column for local churches that places a spotlight on your donors. Each week they have a newsletter of some kind, or a bulletin board. The business will love this kind of exposure. (Lest I get into trouble, I don't think this is a separation of church and state thing).
When that fails, I go back to the grantor. Often they will be willing to come up with a few extra dollars to fill in the blanks, but you need to have a good reason. They'll want to know why your original plan failed to make ends meet. It's the end of the school year, now is actually a good time to approach them for next year. Can this year's project be expanded and continued next year?
When this approach is not an option, you can always resort to the great fund raising game. I am not a fan of this particular approach—it is a time-sucking distraction. However, sometimes it is the only avenue that remains, and if you can delegate the work, it may be useful. I have prepared a list of websites that will guide you through the process of creating a successful fund raising campaign. The most successful fundraiser I ever had was for chocolate Easter bunnies—you would not believe how much money we raised with this one!
Next year, you might consider working with your school leadership team to identify people who can concentrate on this kind of direct fund raising. It takes the burden from you, grant writing is its own specialty and requires devotion, and fundraising will tear you away. Let's face it, you can't do it all yourself anyway.
There are some innovative new websites that allow schools to request donations from individuals.
As always, when it comes to supplying your grant projects, you need to economize. Discount School Supply® is always there for you when you're ready to buy materials for your projects.
I'll be writing for you all summer, there are many things left to learn to become a good grant manager. Let me know what you'd like to learn about, and I may feature your school in a future blog entry.