When I first started writing grants for schools, I was operating under some fundamental misconceptions. At the time, I was working in a fairly affluent small town with a strong tax base and parents who supported their schools with their checkbooks. Since then, I’ve worked in many different kinds of schools and districts, from private schools to large urban school districts. During this time, I’ve learned many things, and I’ve swept the misinformation aside.
My first big misconception:
1. You can’t be successful writing grants in wealthy communities.
It is more challenging to write grants in wealthy communities, but by no means is it impossible. If you analyze the test data in any school, you are going to find weak spots. If you use achievement data as your first step in a grant writing project, you will have a much better chance of success. If you learn you have lower reading scores in the fourth grade, you work with Elementary school leaders to target their wish lists in terms of how they will address the weakness. Once you develop this habit, you’ll find you can come up with compelling arguments for raising funds to combat your academic weaknesses. Start locally, Recently, I wrote an article called “Right in Your Own Back Yard”. It describes ways to appeal to businesses in your own town. These companies have a vested interest in improving academic achievement in your school. Your stundents today will be their workers tomorrow. You’ll be surprised at how well business leaders understand that fact. Have an open house for community business leaders to show them how their grant funds would help to raise those reading scores in the 4th Grade. If you have a high dropout rate in your high school(s), you might craft a project to combat the problem. State Farm Insurance has a Service Learning grant you can target for this issue. Philanthropy is a very deep well. Get out your bucket and scoop up your share.
2. I need to be good at math to write grants, I don’t know anything about money.
Neither did I in the beginning. Budget sheets were a mystery, I had no idea how to fill in the forms that grant applications provided for budget requests. The first thing I did was to introduce myself to the district Business Manager. She was a fund of information on district budgeting and budget worksheets. She was very open to helping out, and was instrumental in helping me pinpoint areas where the budgets were weak. It was then up to me to find the curriculum link, how can a grant project help to fill in those holes. Be careful and remember my words, “You are not writing a grant to get money, you’re writing a grant to solve academic problems.” As long as the focus is on what you need the funds to do, as opposed to the things you want to pay for with the funds, you are on the right track.
The math comes with the territory, but it need not be intimidating or difficult. Can you add? Then you have math skills you can use to write budgets. The Business Manager? We now have a regular lunch date once a week, we are great friends.
3. It’s too hard to write those big grants from the federal government.
You don’t have to start there, in fact, the federal title grants are probably already managed at the district level. Over time you can learn to work on those applications, but right now there are many small grants that when pieced together can provide robust support for your school budgets. In earlier articles, I’ve written about matching grants. These are grants to match funding from the big grant allocations your district receives each year. Businesses and foundations are out there for your appeals. If you are focused like a laser on your academic achievement and finding ways to raise those weak test scores, you are on the right track.
One last word about myths: grants are not always just for money. Companies, especially technology companies, are stepping up to provide in-kind funding for schools. Computers, software, and network infrastructure can all be provided directly by technology companies. Even better, they’ll provide the tech support for all that hardware.
Some resources for you:
Current Grant Opportunities
After School Grants Project from the RBC Foundation USA- The RBC After-School Grants Project offers funding to programs that provide a range of structured, supervised activities for K-12 students in the critical hours after the school day ends.
States: All States
Average Amount: $1,000.00 - $15,000.00
Total Amount: $2,000,000.00
Address: 60 S 6th St, M.S. P20 Minneapolis, MN 55402-4422
Website: RBC Foundation USA
Eligibility: Public School, Other
Program Areas: After-School, Arts, At-Risk/Character, Community Involvement/Volunteerism, Early Childhood, General Education, Health/PE, Math, Reading, Science/Environmental, Social Studies
Challenge Educational Grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation- The main themes they support are: Freshwater, Forests and Grasslands, Oceans and Coasts, and Community Stewardship. NFWF supports more than 70 grant programs to protect and restore our nation’s wildlife and habitats. They encourage you to read their complete list of conservation programs and review the program goals and guidelines to select the one appropriate for you. Federal, state, and local governments, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations are welcome to apply twice annually for matching grants from our conservation priority programs.
States: All States
Average Amount: $10,000.00 - $150,000.00
Total Amount: $60,000,000.00 - $95,000,000.00
Address: 1133 Fifteenth Street, NW, Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20005
Eligibility: Public School, Private School, Higher Education, Other
Program Areas: Community Involvement/Volunteerism, Science/Environmental, Social Studies