You've decided this is the year to get serious about writing grants for your school. You've made sure you are not duplicating services with an administrator in the district office, and you have the permission of your principal and superintendent. You've introduced yourself to the business manager in the district and promised to compare notes with him as you start applying for big grants. No more little bake sales, no more penny jars, no more little online applications for $500. You are moving into serious grant writing territory.
It's a big step, but don't get me wrong; I'm not belittling the fund raising efforts that good people are coordinating in your school. Every bit helps, and sometimes those fundraisers are surprisingly lucrative.
There are four steps to get off to a great start. Remember, there is much to do before your pen reaches paper.
- Understand your school's challenges and analyze your test data. Select two or three areas where your school needs help.
- Develop solutions to address those issues. Work with curriculum leaders to find out how grants can support district goals. Your school is not an island.
- Find grants to support your solutions. Use the Discount School Supply Database to narrow down your search for sources of funds. Be sure you are eligible for the grants you will pursue.
- Obtain the grant application packages for grant matches.
Over the summer, you may have worked on the first two or three. That's the time when you can clear the decks of the day to day and sit down with other teachers to map out a plan for curriculum success. The big grants you will apply for will be for discrete projects, data driven and thoroughly researched.
To fulfill step four, you need to understand each grantor’s application process and obtain application forms in advance of deadlines. Don't be rushed when it comes time to fill them out. If you plan ahead, you are much more likely to submit a competitive grant application. You would think that school grant providers would provide their awards within a logical period. A January deadline is convenient; you have until then to polish your application. However, grantors have their own schedules tied to fiscal realities within their organization. Their due dates may align with fiscal years and other financial realities. I am referring here to foundations and corporations, state and federal grants are in a world unto themselves. I'll cover them in other articles.
You should be aware that different organizations use different types of grant applications. Quite a few foundations require no more than a letter that explains your school's problem, your planned solution and a budget that details the money you need. That letter takes the place of a formal application. Some groups of foundations use common grant applications. Nevertheless, most foundations use unique, detailed applications for each grant they sponsor. Grant seekers must obtain the specific application required to apply for each grant.
When you have identified potential partners from your research, you need to make some phone calls to begin the partnership process. Your first call will be to determine specific application procedures, your eligibility, and a brief description of your project. The grant providers I know are very interested in what we're doing out here in the schools, it's the reason they get up in the morning.
Find the application required for each grant you seek. You can usually find it on the grantor’s website. In many cases, you will find, complete and submit your application without ever leaving the grantor’s site. More often, however, grantors provide applications you can download to your computer and work on offline. It's still a paper and pencil world for some grantors; be sure you know whether your partners require mailed-in applications versus online submissions.
Once you obtain the application, read it thoroughly. Concentrate on the different kinds of information you will need in order to complete the application.
Before you begin completing an application, gather all the reference materials and statistical information the application requires. Be sure to schedule enough time so you can complete the application without interruption. You will develop a rhythm for this process, but there's nothing wrong with following a systematic process in the beginning.
As the year progresses, we'll expand on the development steps. Let me know how you're doing. New grant opportunities arise all the time; share your discoveries with our readers.