As we become more experienced with grant writing, we need to step back from time to time. It's so easy to become immersed in writing big grant applications, like National Science Foundation grants; these efforts end up taking an enormous amount of work by a large number of people all pulling together toward the same goals.
There is a place for these big grant writing projects; however, when I step back and look at my inbox, I see emails from teachers who are looking for small amounts of money to pay for important efforts in single classrooms. The beauty of these "little" grant projects is that if they are successful, they can always be scaled for bigger ideas without having to invest huge amounts of time and money. As long as we're analyzing our test and academic achievement data, we're all pulling in the same direction, right?
Sometimes, though, it's tough to get grants for a few thousand dollars to try something new. I'm going to try here to give you some ideas for doing just that.
First things first—be sure to get the blessing of your principal or superintendent before you even think about going forward. I've seen so many teachers dissolve in frustration when they zoom ahead on a grant project, then find out later their administrators are not happy with the individual spirit they've shown. In addition, a grant may not be the best way to go; an assortment of donations may work best. Look at your class lists; are there parents behind those student names with deep pockets or community connections? Does your PTA or PTO participate in fundraisers for projects like yours?
Here are five things to remember:
1. Get permission; in fact, make sure you write up a synopsis of what you're trying to do, with your objectives and rationale front and center. Make sure you are getting permission from the right people (principals, superintendents, technology people, librarians, curriculum teams). Have these folks sign off on your project. Make sure there is a copy of this signed document stored in several places—it never hurts.
2. Make sure your goals and objectives align with school mission statements. I always start my grant narratives with these. People spent many focus group hours coming up with them, and they will appreciate your attention to this detail.
3. Along the same lines, be sure your goals align with state standards and are an off-shoot of needs you've identified from looking at test scores. Are the low areas you address the areas most in need? Is this a project-based approach?
4. Fully identify your objectives with a thoroughly planned assessment model for making sure your efforts are effective. What are the gains your project hopes to make over the course of the school year?
5. Research your budget. What resources will you need to pull this off? It may turn out, as you're looking at this, that a small project will not do the job and you need to scale up your efforts. This is why we do these things though; it helps us define our needs and expectations.
Notice that all of these steps are taking place before you ever identify the funding source or start writing the grant.
If you're lucky, you can use the following ideas to help you with your "little" project.
- Donorschoose.org - teachers post requests for help to pay for classroom needs
- United Federation of Teachers - some nice ideas
- Fund Raisers (we once had a chocolate Easter bunny sale that made obscene amounts of money)
- From Scholastic - the book sale people
- Book Fairs Never Die
- Giant List of Fundraising Ideas
Your project has merit or you wouldn't be reading this. Let me know what you decide to do. Better yet, tell me your success stories.