Gazing through the Internet to find big grants to solve big problems is a great way to spend a rainy day. You'll be amazed at the big awards that are made to schools just like yours. And you wonder how they did it. Well, they didn't start with an application to the National Science Foundation for a $1,000,000 grant to build a science lab for robotics. Almost all successful grant writers (including yours truly) started with a small appeal to a member of the local community. The lessons you will learn from putting together a small grant application will stay with you forever and become habit.
Take a drive down Main St. Which are the big banks that have branches in town? Are there any home offices for big or medium size companies? These are the people you want to get to know and the ones who will step up again and again if you approach them the right way. A one-stop shop for information about these people is your local Chamber of Commerce. Their website is great and very informative, but you'd be well served to make an appointment with a local COC professional. He or she will welcome you with open arms to help you identify and properly approach the right people who can help you. You might start by attending a COC event; they have them all the time to invite new businesses to join. Put on your pumps and pearls (or tie and good shoes), get ready to sport a name badge and go eat copious quantities of pastries with the local business leaders. For now, it's enough to meet and greet to get your name and your school district's name out there. You want them to remember you.
Another place to start is your local library. Befriend a reference librarian; he/she will become your friend for life.
You'll be amazed at the lengths to which they will go to help you find key people in companies for a fundraising approach. The next step, once you have a list of names and company contacts, is to have an open house on your own turf. "Get to Know XYZ School" events are a fun and profitable way to get your name out there. Hang on—I'm about to make a "polish your school brand" speech. Your school is a brand, just like Band-Aid®. It has its own personality and reputation. Is your school mission statement on a banner in the lobby? Why not? Make it short and punchy. Find people to help you form a focus group in school to make the mission and to later help you research and write grant applications. I don't write many grant narratives in committee for many reasons, but at the start of your adventure you need to have allies. A focus group is a good way to find out who they are. You can quickly learn who the worker bees will be; they are worth their weight in gold and will help to perform the project management tasks that mark the difference between a good grant application and a great one.
No grant appeal is too small at this stage. To get started, identify a need in your school, perhaps some sports equipment like football helmets.
The issue of concussions in school sports is in the news, and companies would love to have their names on projects that help protect youthful athletes in town. Be prepared for sticker shock. Good helmets are very expensive (but that's why you need help paying for them, right?) An appeal for a finite discrete project like this can be relatively easy to put together. Go to your school library and look through old yearbooks. Who are the former football stars that are still in town? They may be leaders in local businesses by now and they'd love to help out.
When you've found this perfect contact, cultivate their friendship. Find out what his company needs to know to be of assistance to your school. As you write the grant narrative, every detail counts. Keep it short and informative. Using current demographic and census information will be crucial when you describe your community.
Much of the work you do to put together this appeal to people in your own backyard will be useful for additional work you'll do for more academic related projects. If you can weave academics into your football helmet project, it always helps. Later, you'll be using core standards and test data to help drive your grant writing efforts.
Some resources for you at the beginning of your quest:
Service Corps of Retired Executives (wonderful group of mentors)
Organizing a School Open House - look among your parents
Information on Concussions in School Sports
The only way to get started is to dig right in your own backyard. Let me know how you're doing; share information on your local appeals with us.
Current Grant Opportunities
Run for Good Foundation Grants from the Saucony Run for Good Foundation- The Saucony Run for Good Foundation is committed to improving the lives of children by helping to prevent and reduce childhood obesity. It acts to inform the public about its cause and prevention and provide funding to optimize the impact and success of community organizations that promote running and healthy lifestyle programs for youth.
States: All States
Average Amount: $1,000.00 - $10,000.00
Total Amount: $140,000.00
Address: 191 Spring St. Mail Drop 318S Lexington, MA 02420-9191
Eligibility: Public School, Private School, Other
Program Areas: After-School, At-Risk/Character, General Education, Health/PE
AdVenture Capital Grants from the GENYOUth Foundation- AdVenture Capital is an entrepreneurial program that asks students to pitch projects for investment. Projects must be school-based efforts that contribute in some way to improving students’ healthy eating and/or physical activity opportunities and participation at school.
States: All States
Average Amount: $4,000.00
Address: 515 Madison Ave, 26th Fl, New York, NY 10022
Website: GENYOUth Foundation
Eligibility: Public School, Private School
Program Areas: After-School, Community Involvement/Volunteerism, General Education, Health/PE, Science/Environmental