A special challenge arises if you need grant money quickly. What if you came back to school and found that budget cuts have made it impossible for you to be as successful as you have been in the past? Or you know you need curriculum support materials that simply weren't budgeted for. What if you have a class full of students many of whom simply will not be able to move on to the next grade or pass exams unless you have extra help?
This is not the time to look for big grants that may take thirty days or more to write, even longer to be read and evaluated by a foundation. Next thing you know it's next semester before you have any hope of receiving funds. Large grant initiatives are the answer to long-term funding problems, but it’s not going to help you if you need it now! Don't berate yourself, all the planning in the world cannot possibly help you predict all emerging needs in your school.
Start with the Discount School Supply® free grant database. Start looking for foundation or corporate grants that have a deadline coming up soon or even better, no deadline at all. These grants generally have short applications, many of which can be completed online. The foundation board often meets and decides who gets the money shortly after the deadline is reached. If your timing is right, you might have grant money in your school account within 45-60 days. This means you can begin impacting your problem areas before the end of the fall semester. This is especially true if you have an existing relationship with a foundation. Never assume a private foundation will only give you money once. The key is to establish a real working relationship with the people in the foundation who are responsible for making decisions. They'll come back time and again if you're crafty. Invite them in for a tour if you have received funds from them, they love to see how their support is impacting student learning.
When you are looking for a grant, you need to make sure you have a very clearly defined problem. Next, you need to search the DSS grant database until you find a grant provider that matches your problem. In fact, you should make absolutely sure that:
1) your problem matches the grant criteria;
2) you fully qualify for the grant (eligibility for public schools for instance);
3) the grant has a deadline within the next 45 days, or no deadline at all.
If you have a problem that can only be addressed by additional help as well as money, you might seek a partnership with a local business. Let them know that their money is important, but you also need volunteers to come during or after school to work with students who are behind. Sometimes these volunteers are more essential than the money, so if you are going to go after a business partner to help you, make sure they employ the type of person who can most easily make a transition into the role of tutor or classroom helper. It's all about relationships.
Hopefully, you are the kind of person who goes into solution mode when you see a problem that arises for which there is no plan. No time for panic. Other habits to get into are things like book fairs, product box top programs (General Mills) where students save and bring in the box tops that are then mailed in to a processing center for quick cash turnaround. With the right rah-rah attitude and a big glass jar in the school lobby, you'd be surprised how much you can raise. A school store that builds in a little profit for the sale of books, candy, etc. is a great way to teach kids about economics and can raise quite a bit of cash. Candy sales at holiday time, and other fund raising events can provide your school with "mad money" so you'll have it when you need it.
Don’t sit back and wait for someone else to take the lead. Start looking for those grants and partnerships today.