In my last article outlining some FAQs for grant writing success, one of them asked:
How much money can I ask for?
The answer was: how much do you need?
Determining this amount takes experience. No matter how hard you try as a new grant writer, you will make mistakes here. Everyone does. It's just a trick to know how to fix it.
You may have underestimated your supply budget. The afterschool STEM project was in danger of fizzling out because the computers you wanted to use turned out to be older models that didn't have enough memory. Or, you realized halfway through the project that you hadn't hired enough teachers to stay after school (a happy problem). This problem indicates there's heavy demand for your program and it bodes well for the program’s future. Teachers don't work for free, and you need to come up with some extra resources to pay them. Or, you saw a great opportunity for professional development when you realized your staff was unprepared to answer sophisticated questions that kids are asking about engineering. You'll need to pay a consultant to come in and provide a crash course in teaching engineering concepts to kids.
These are all very real problems, but they don't have to bring your project to a screeching halt. The first step is: don't get apologetic and defensive.
Your principal needs to be reassured that your planning was adequate and your program is sound. The way you do that is with a confident exterior and an ironclad plan. It will require a focus group of practitioners so you can be sure the extra dollars you need are enough to finish the job. You don't want this to happen again in another month.
So, where the heck is the money going to come from? Here are three possibilities (there are many more):
- Go through your grant files. Is there a funding source from past projects you could call? They may be very willing to step in and help you out. Their position as hero will pay off for them in a big way and they know it. Companies give grants to schools partially for marketing and advertising. They want their community to know they are pitching in to help the kids in the afterschool program - it's good for business. Again, approach them with confidence, not "we screwed up and need more money." More like, "this is a great opportunity to re-establish our relationship with you and publicize the good things you do for us here at XYZ Elementary School."
- Reread your Title I or Educator Quality grant narratives for the coming year. You may find there's a way to tap into the Title I supply budget by targeting your Title I students for a new computer lab. The key here is to work with your state grants liaison, principal and superintendent to be sure the funds will be spent according to Title I regulations. Likewise, your professional development needs may have a natural fit with the plan already in place for current Educator Quality funds.
- Stay close to home; ask your current grantor for some additional money to fill in your needs. They want your program to succeed. Once again, the confident "educator with the plan" posture will go a long way to cement your continuing relationship with this valuable partner. They are experts at budgeting and planning, and the lessons you learn together will open the door for continuing funds for next year.
If the amount you need is small, your PTA will love to step in and do a fundraiser for you. In my career, I've been continually amazed at the amount of money PTA's can raise in a short period of time. The job of raising the funds is always turned into something fun for the kids, further cementing the good will you've already established with these partners.
Whatever you do, don't throw up your hands, say, "I screwed up" and then turn away from your program. You can do this, and the lessons learned will serve you well.
Let me know your stories, I'd love to share them with everyone.
Current Grant Opportunities:
Solve for Tomorrow Contest from Samsung - The contest aims to engage and create enthusiasm for STEM subjects by asking teachers and their students to answer the challenge, "Show how STEM can be applied to help your local community." Winning schools will be awarded more than $2 million in technology from Samsung. Public school teachers in grades 6–12 can apply.
States: All States
Average Amount: $120,000.00
Eligibility: Public School
Program Areas: Math, Science/Environmental, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), Technology
Improving Students' Understanding of Geometry Grants for Grades PreK-8 Teachers from the National Council of Teachers in Mathematics (NCTM)- The purpose of this grant is to develop activities that will enable students to better appreciate and understand some aspect of geometry that is consistent with the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics of NCTM. The project should include applications of geometry to, for example, art, literature, music, architecture, nature, or some other relevant area and may integrate the use of technology into the teaching of geometry.
States: All States
Average Amount: $1,000.00 - $4,000.00
Address: NCTM’s MET, 1906 Association Drive, Reston, VA20191-1502
Eligibility: Public School
Program Areas: Math, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)