How to Get a School Grant: Big Foundation Grants

If you are a teacher or building-level professional in a school district and you've decided you an provide some assistance to help the kids by writing grants, there is a learning curve. If you've been following this blog, I've covered some of the big points of grant writing and grants management. It's a full-time job, and if you're just discovering that you have this yen to be a grant writer, you might want to go back and read a few of my articles to see if it's for you. I'm not trying to scare you away; grant writing is a wonderful way to create maximum impact for your students and their learning success

There are several different categories of grants:

  • Government
  • Corporate
  • Community
  • Foundation

There's no doubt about it, the most appealing grants to pursue are corporate and foundation grants. They can also be the most difficult to pursue, write and manage. Be aware that many are by invitation only. You need to do your homework to find the grants that are best for your situation, and for which your school is eligible.

Most big foundation grants are targeted to recipients who are 501(c)3 organizations. 501(c)3 is an IRS designation for non-profit organizations like the United Way, Red Cross, etc. It establishes the group as tax exempt under the rules of the IRS. The grantors will not fund grants from public schools or city school districts. Be sure you check your eligibility for any grant you want to pursue.

To side step this rule, many schools form their own 501(c)3s. This is favorite project for savvy PTA's. You've heard about "Friends of the XYZ School Library" and other "friends" groups. These folks have taken on the enormous task of organizing a non-profit for themselves. It helps to have an attorney on your board or active in the PTA/PTO to launch into this activity. You need to have a Board of Directors and to complete mountains of paperwork to set up a non-profit. It can be very profitable to do this, but be aware of the time and effort the commitment to the task will take.

Check to see if you can attach yourself to a non-profit in your community for a specific period for a big foundation application. Sometimes this turns out to be a marriage made in heaven. The organization in town has similar goals to yours. An example of this relationship might be joining with the area YMCA or Boys and Girls Clubs to run an afterschool program that will concentrate on academic goals and objectives.

Foundations may also provide matching grants to existing projects that show promise in their areas of interest. This may be your way in to a big foundation, build on a project you have already developed; you may find this is your way of getting an invitation. Before you wrinkle your nose, know that any big foundation grant will require relationship building on a very big scale. Adding a non-profit to your planning may sound like too many cumbersome layers, but many times it is the key to a well-thought-out plan and multi-pronged approach to a problem.

Sometimes the word "foundation" is a misnomer. Corporate giving programs may also be titled "foundations" ostensibly to eliminate confusion over who they are. The foundation is a separate arm of the company. Many corporations will only provide funding for schools in communities where they have offices or factories. They have a vested interest in helping the families in the communities where they live. Their employees live there; it's all in the family.

A grant by any other name is still a grant. It may be a match to funding you've already secured. This helps a foundation by letting them know that you've already jumped through many hoops to get to them, and eliminates the fiscal trust mountain that most schools need to climb to gain admittance into a group of successful grant-seekers. The initial grant may only be for a small amount of money. That's ok; it's a foot in the door.

Approaching foundations and weeding through the mountains of information available about eligibility are time consuming activities. Start with our free database; it will help you select funding entities that are appropriate for your projects.

Resources for more information;

Proposal Writing 101

Grant Seeking Tips

Developing Relationships with Private Foundations

Proposal Cover Letters

Grant Application Sample

Let me know your stories, I'd love to share them with everyone.


Current Grant Opportunities

Youth Grants from the Sodexo Foundation- More than 16 million children live in food insecure homes, not always sure where their next meal will come from. That’s why YSA and Sodexo Foundation are calling on young people to “take hunger personally” and join the fight to end childhood hunger. Sodexo Foundation Youth Grants of $500 grants are available for youth-led service projects that bring together young people, families, Sodexo employees and other community members to address childhood hunger. U.S. young people, ages 5-25, are eligible to apply.

States: All States

Average Amount: $500.00


Website: Sodexo Foundation

Eligibility: Public School, Private School, Other

Program Areas: At-Risk/Character, Community Involvement/Volunteerism

Deadline: 1/15/2016

Art Education Grants from the Surdna Foundation Inc.- The Surdna Foundation seeks to foster sustainable communities in the United States. The Foundation makes grants in three areas: Sustainable Environments- The Sustainable Environments Program works to overhaul the country’s low performing infrastructure, with a new approach that will foster healthier, sustainable, and just communities; Strong Local Economies- The Strong Local Economies program supports the development of robust and sustainable economies that include a diversity of businesses and access to quality jobs; and Thriving Cultures- The Thriving Cultures program supports efforts to encourage teens to explore the arts, involve artists in community development projects and foster the growth and success of local artists as economic engines and agents for social change.

States: All States

Average Amount: $1,000.00 - $250,000.00            

Total Amount: $30,000,000.00 - $36,000,000.00

Address: 330 Madison Ave., 30th Floor New York, NY 10017

Telephone: 212-557-0010


Website: The Surdna Foundation Inc.

Eligibility: Public School, Private School, Higher Education, Other

Program Areas: Arts, General Eduaction

Deadline: Ongoing