Interestingly, of all the questions I'm asked about grant writing one of the most common is about writing grants for playgrounds. If you've ever built a house, you know that when the final coat of paint is drying, there are still things left to be done to make your house a home. Sometimes, the money runs out. This seems to happen with schools too. Anything that seems like an extra is pushed to the side for another day.
That other day always arrives, and you may find the playground may have been ignored. It's now time to do something about it.
There are some hardcore rules that apply to creating any grant application:
1. You will find success if you can link your project to improvements in academic achievement.
2. You need to address the needs of the foundation - every funding entity is on a mission, you need to know what that mission is.
3. You can patch any project together with several different funding sources.
Many people are concerned about Common Core Standards. There is concern that it's not the government's job to tell schools what to teach. Sometimes, though, it takes a push from the government to address problems that affect everyone. In this case, it has been the growing evidence that our students are underperforming compared to children abroad. CCSSI was developed to raise the level of achievement for all children so they can compete in a global economy.
If you keep a copy of the standards close by, you'll want to pull them out when you get ready to write a grant. Your test data is telling you something. Your kids may be doing well in reading, but are falling behind in math. You also worry about student success in science. Here's where the playground comes in (you thought I forgot what I was talking about, didn't you?) I've seen some splendid playgrounds that are built around organic gardens designed to provide support for learning in biology. You can design playgrounds with the help of the students. You might create a contest for the best playground design, using engineering concepts as the guide. Align physical fitness with science and math. Include some lesson plans in your narrative to show the educational purpose of the playground.
Foundations are formed for financial reasons; corporations are required to give away a certain portion of profits for the greater good, so they form philanthropic arms of their organizations to serve that purpose. When you are doing your preliminary search (use our Grants Database), look for foundations that have given funds for playgrounds or recreational space in the past. Each foundation has its own website that will list the grants they've awarded. When you find a school that has received grants for playgrounds, get in touch with their principal; they are often happy to share news on how they accomplished their playground project. Use keywords: playground, playscapes, creative play, physical fitness, childhood obesity.
Construction is one of the most difficult projects to pay for. It is common practice to use mini-grants to piece building projects together ; companies will also provide gifts in kind. If you need lumber for a picnic table, your local Home Depot might be willing to provide some if you include their logo somewhere in your school newsletter. Or, when you go to prepare a surface for all the equipment, a paving company might step up to take that piece. It's a "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" world, the key is to find what is of value to your donor. It's usually free advertising. You'll have your own Habitat for Humanity project going on in your backyard. In fact, it wouldn't be a bad idea to visit a local HFH project to find out how they get their supplies. If you are a school in an impoverished neighborhood (or not), they may be able to help you out.
Play and Park Structures - Grants for Playgrounds
Kaboom.org - Community Play Spaces
Let's Move - The First Lady's War on Childhood Obesity (ideas for your narrative)
Discount School Supply - Play Structures - (ideas for your budget)
Current Grant Opportunities
National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards from the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities- the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award is the Nation's highest honor for out-of-school arts and humanities programs that celebrate the creativity of America's young people, particularly those from underserved communities. This award recognizes and supports excellence in programs that open new pathways to learning, self-discovery, and achievement.
States: All States
Average Amount: $10,000.00
Address: 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 526, Washington, DC 20506
Eligibility: Public School, Private School, Other
Program Areas: After-School, Arts, At-Risk/Character, Social Studies
Educational Grants from the Dr. Scholl Foundation- In general the Foundation guidelines are broad to give them flexibility in providing grants. Applications for grants are considered in the following areas: Education, Social Service, Healthcare, Civic and Cultural, and Environmental.
States: All State
Average Amount: $5,000.00 - $25,000.00
Total Amount: $6,000,000.00
Address: 1033 Skokie Blvd., Suite 230, Northbrook, IL 60062-4109
Website: Dr. Scholl Foundation
Eligibility: Public School, Private School, Higher Education, Other
Program Areas: After-School, Arts, General Education, Math, Reading, Science/Environmental, Social Studies, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)