By Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed. MLIS
No one told me writing grants would be such a social exercise. If you are reasonably gregarious and want to write grants for schools, you may be concerned that it’s a lonely job and you will be locked away in an ivory tower with your nose to the grindstone, alone. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you become really good at grant writing, your dance card will be full indeed.
There are people you will meet in the course of a day; school leadership, district leadership representatives, and teachers who will be affected by the grants you receive. Then, there are the people you must make a point of meeting if you are to be successful.
These people include:
Vendors of materials you will buy with grant funds.
Liaisons at the funding entity (very VIP).
Subject matter experts for the curriculum areas you are targeting.
Librarians and research assistants.
Leaders in partnership organizations (like higher education).
Community leaders who can help you secure funding to match your grants.
Political supporters for the issues you confront as you solve big problems.
So this doesn’t sound so lonely after all. I’ve mentioned a couple of people you may not have thought of, and the reasons for meeting with them are important. Product vendors can turn out to be a fund of information that will sneak into your narrative. Let’s say you need special reading software for improving reading scores in your 4th Grade. Vendors of software companies have done all the research for you, don’t reinvent the wheel, give them a call and they’ll be happy to show you how their software solves your problems.
Likewise, subject area experts. For a big grant to raise test scores across the board, I once consulted some authors of well-respected journals and books that described ways to improve your testing environment for test score improvement. They were happy to step away from book signing for a moment to help me sort out some of the issues I was facing while trying to convince a funder of the merits of my application.
Be sure you investigate the possibility of partnering with a local college or university. I can’t say enough good things about community colleges. First of all, they should be free for students (a political stripe I’m proud of), and they offer so many services to students who need a couple of extra years to sort out what they want to do. They will help you write your grant, and then be there at the other end to help your school implement your plan. The Librarians at the college will help with your demographics page too. They have subscriptions to research databases you may not be able to access otherwise.
Your community leaders, accessible through your local Chamber of Commerce or SCORE office (Service Corps of Retired Executives) need to know what your goals are; they will help to refine the needs you’ve identified, and provide links to new local vendors for supplies that may be free if you only ask.
Most important, once you’ve identified your grantor, be sure to give their office a call to introduce yourself. Let them know what your project is about and ask if there are any tips they can give you for approaching them in the right way. Grant websites are resource-rich but it is still useful, even necessary, to have a face and a name at the other end of the phone as you approach what will hopefully be the start of a great relationship. Be bold, be brave, and get on the phone.
The last one is a maybe. Letters of support for grant applications from Senators, and other political figures may be useful but are by no means required. Chasing these letters takes a great deal of time, and you want to manage your time carefully.
SCORE – Service Corps of Retired Executives
U.S. Chamber of Commerce (find local business partners)
Let me know how you're doing; give us information on your grant projects.
Current Grant Opportunities
Foundation Grants from the MAXIMUS Charitable Foundation- the MAXIMUS Charitable Foundation is committed to creating opportunities for young people through youth-oriented programs. We collaborate with organizations and charities in the United States that share our commitment in helping the disadvantaged achieve self-sufficiency and personal growth.
States: All States
Average Amount: $1,000.00 - $5,000.00
Address: 11419 Sunset Hills Road Reston, VA 20190-5207
Website: MAXIMUS Charitable Foundation
Eligibility: Public School, Other
Program Areas: After-School, At-Risk/Character, Community Involvement/Volunteerism, General Education, Math, Reading, Safe/Drug Free Schools, Science/Environmental, Social Studies, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), Technology, Vocational
Educational Grants from the JM Foundation- Giving on a national basis, the Foundation’s current priorities include: supporting education and research that fosters market-based policy solutions, especially at state think tanks; developing state and national organizations that promote free enterprise, entrepreneurship, and private initiative; and identifying and educating young leaders.
States: All States
Average Amount: $5,000.00 - $100,000.00
Total Amount: $1,000,000.00
Address: 116 Village Blvd., Ste. 200, Princeton, NJ United States 08540-5700
Website: The JM Foundation
Eligibility: Private School, Higher Education, Other
Program Areas: After-School, At-Risk/Character, Community Involvement/Volunteerism, Early Childhood, General Education, Math, Reading, Science/Environmental, Social Studies, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)