It's Time to Plan for the New Year

I like New Year’s resolutions. Though most people don’t have a great track record for keeping these yearly commitments, I believe in them for two reasons. First, I am an optimist and think that people should always strive to do more and be better each day, each month, each year. Second, New Year’s resolutions are the beginning of a plan. If we make a plan, there is a chance that something wonderful may happen. It might not, but it could. Without a plan, nothing will happen. I can guarantee that. I encourage you again this year to make New Year’s resolutions as they relate to your school’s grant program. I am going to suggest three such resolutions, and I hope you will decide to adopt one or more of them as you attempt to help your school gain grant money during 2013.

My first suggestion for a New Year’s grant resolution is to write your first grant if you’ve never written one. It doesn’t matter what the purpose of the grant is or how much money you receive. The first grant you ever write is the most difficult, and you have to get it written before you can write your second, third, and fourth grants. Make a resolution to find a grant and apply for it in January. Once you get that first one out of the way, you can then decide on other grants to write later in the year.

If you are a more experienced grant writer, I suggest your New Year’s grant resolution be a little more specific. I suggest you determine the greatest problem your school, campus, or classroom is having and determine how you can remedy or at least alleviate that problem by winning grant money for your school. You might be able to overcome the problem by writing just one grant during 2013, or you may have to write several to have the impact you desire. Make a commitment to seek out that main problem and begin writing grants by the end of January or the beginning of February to solve that problem.

My third suggestion for a New Year’s resolution is also for more experienced grant writers. I recommend that you make a resolution to develop an overall plan for writing grants for your school. You might not end up writing all of the grants that this plan entails, but every school should have a plan that coordinates the manner in which a school determines its largest problems, develops plans to correct those problems, and then goes after grant money to fund those programs. If you don’t have a plan in place, most grant efforts become a scattered affair that have little impact on the problems a school faces.

These are my main three recommendations for 2013 New Year’s resolutions. You may adopt them. You may not. Please at least consider them as you head into this promising New Year. And if those above do not suit you, you might want to consider some of the following resolutions:

  • To develop a grant committee at your district or campus.
  • To set a dollar amount that you want to receive in grants.
  • To set the number of grants you want your school to receive.
  • To hire a part-time or full-time grant writer for your school.
  • To find a granting entity in your community for a multi-year relationship.
  • To attend grant-writing training.
  • To find a grant-writing partner.

Yes, each of these ideas is the beginning of a plan. Each of them will eventually help you bring in more grant money to your school. Each of them is forward-looking and optimistic. But that’s okay, because we are all educators in one way or another, and I don’t see how you can be an educator and not be forward-looking and optimistic.

Let's Get Back to School

If I were to choose the best times to write grants each year, I’d have to say September-October and January-February. More grants are available then, and most grant writers are working steadily during that time. At those times, you have information from yearly assessments for the fall grants you write, and you have the assessments from first semester for writing your winter grants.

If there are times you shouldn’t be writing grants, it would probably be when you are trying to get school started and when you are very close to the close of the school year.

Right now you should be focused on getting the school year off to a good start, both for you and the students for which you are responsible. Regardless of your position, the first weeks of school each year often determine how the remainder of the year will go and how much success you have throughout the year. It is much more important for you to focus on a good start than it is to write a grant.

But even as you focus on making that good start, you should also begin looking for changes that need to be made to your school, campus, or classroom. Every school has problems. With most budgets cut to the bare bones these days, anything above and beyond the normal curricula will probably have to come from grant money.

If you can pinpoint one or two areas that do not start well this year, you will soon have the beginning of school behind you, and you will be into the September-October prime grant-writing period. You might find that you need to provide extra after-school tutoring this year so that at-risk students can keep up. Or possibly you don’t have the computers and the software that you need to be most effective in your teaching.

Believe me, in most schools it shouldn’t take you long to find a list of problems that need correcting or a new program or two that you need to initiate. Unfortunately in most schools the problem is not in finding trouble areas, it’s having the money to fix those problem areas once we find them.

So, as you start school in the next few weeks, remember to concentrate on that good beginning. If you deal directly with students, you want to make sure that every day is a good one for them and that they accomplish as much as possible. If you don’t deal directly with students, you want to support those teachers who do in such a way that their job is as easy as you can make it.

We are fortunate in the school business that we get a new beginning each fall. It doesn’t matter how badly last year went, you have a chance each year to get the train back on the track and move it forward once again. Just remember, while you’re getting off to that great beginning, don’t forget to look for those problem areas that need mending. Once you find one or two of those, it won’t be long until you’ll want to start looking for grant money to support those positive changes.

Have a good year. Put a smile on your face and greet those students every day. Remember, if it weren’t for those students, we wouldn’t have school at all. Sometimes, I think we let that basic concept elude us for a while. The beginning of the school year is certainly the time to reaffirm it.

Consistency Is the Key

It is not unusual for schools to want or need grant money. Unfortunately, there’s a huge difference between wanting and actually receiving grants. The key to getting grant money -- and to keeping it coming -- is consistency. In the paragraphs that follow, I will identify three key areas where consistency counts when it comes to grants and grant writing.

First, to earn grants you must consistently assess school programs to identify weak or problem areas. You can’t do that just once a year or several times in one year and then stop. Assessment must be regular and ongoing. Some programs garner poor results from the start. Others may be successful for a while and then falter. It goes without saying that every program you use, whether it relates to reading, math, science, after-school, service learning, music... must be regularly assessed to ensure you’re reaching the goals you set. If you don’t do that, you won’t know you have problems and you won’t have the statistical documentation you need to successfully apply for grants.

Second, to win grants you must consistently search for the grants that align with your school's needs. Grants are not all announced at the first of the year or the start of the school year. New and updated grant information is announced on a daily basis. If you are not routinely (and consistently) monitoring grant sources, you’re going to miss some of the very best grant opportunities. You should look for grants on a weekly basis, or at the very least once a month, because many grants have fairly short deadlines.

Third, you must consistently apply for grants. Winning grant money is a numbers game. The more quality grant applications you put in the mail or send via the Internet, the greater your chances of winning grant money. Send in just one application and you may or may not be awarded grant money. Send in five applications and your chances have improved dramatically. Apply for ten grants and you’re almost assured of getting at least some grant money.

There has never been more grant money available. Consequently, there has never been a better time to apply for grants. And the best way to ensure that your school gets its share of this grant money is to be consistent.

  • Consistently assess the needs of your school.
  • Consistently search for grants that match closely with your school’s needs.
  • Consistently apply for those grants over the coming weeks and months.

Then, and only then, will you consistently win the grant money your school needs to correct its problems, build achievement, and ensure success.

Check It Out! Grant Opportunity

Grant Name: Lowe’s Toolbox for Education Grant

Funded by: Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation

Description: The Fall 2009 cycle is open for the Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation Toolbox for Education grant program. Through the program, Lowe's will donate a total of $5 million to U.S. public schools and public school parent teacher groups at more than one thousand public schools. For the 2009-10 program, Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation will increase its focus on basic one-time project needs. Any individual nonprofit public K-12 school or parent group associated with a nonprofit public K-12 school is eligible to apply. Parent groups (PTO, PTA, etc.) that are applying must have an independent tax ID number and official 501(c)(3) status from the IRS. Groups that do not have 501(c)(3) status should apply through their school. Applicant school must be more than two years old. Preschools are not eligible. The program prioritizes funding requests that have a permanent impact such as facility enhancement (both indoor and outdoor) as well as landscaping/clean up type projects. Projects that encourage parent involvement and build stronger community spirit will be favored. Grants may be requested for amounts between $2,000 and $5,000.

Program Areas: Facilities/Maintenance, Health/PE, Science/Environment

Recipients: Public School

Proposal Deadline: 10/16/09

Amount: $2,000.00 - $5,000.00

Website: http://www.toolboxforeducation.com

Availability: All States

Check It Out! Grant Opportunity

Grant Name: AeroGrow Growing Kids Awards

Funded by: National Gardening Association

Description: The AeroGarden is an innovative solution for bringing gardening activities into the classroom. The AeroGrow Growing Kids Awards, sponsored by AeroGrow International, Inc., will provide 300 educators nationwide with this useful, hands-on tool to enrich and enhance the study of nutrition and life science in the classroom. This award is open to K-6 classrooms in the United States with a minimum of 15 students who plan to use indoor gardens to teach nutrition and life science. This year 300 schools will be selected to receive an AeroGrow Growing Kids Award. Each winning program will receive: an AeroGarden Classic valued at $150 and an AeroGrow Salad Greens Seed Kit.

Program Areas: Health/PE, Science/Environment

Recipients: Public School, Private/Charter School

Proposal Deadline: 10/24/09

Amount: $150.00

Website: http://www.kidsgardening.com/grants/GrowingKids.asp

Availability: All States

Making the Call

September is here, and students are back in school. This is the time of year many educators apply for grants. This period is a good time to apply because writing a grant proposal can take considerable effort, and while students get settled in, you may have more time now than later for grant writing. If you're going to do all the work that goes into applying for a grant, you should give yourself every chance of focusing on and winning that grant.

One of the least utilized but most effective ways to increase the chances of getting your grant proposal funded is to make a phone call and speak directly to the contact person listed for that grant. Typically, this contact person will be more knowledgeable about the grant than anyone else. You might even get tips to better your chances for receiving the grant. At the very least, you can get more information from the contact person, and the more information you have about the inner workings of a grant the better your chances of getting that grant money.

A phone call is especially helpful when you are applying for foundation grants. Many foundations are run by a small board, and the contact person usually sits on that board and helps decide which grant applications to fund. The contact person can tell you if your project really fits the scope of the foundation. Matching your need with the intent of the foundation is absolutely critical, and a phone call can often save you tremendous time and effort. In some cases, you'll abandon your application to the particular foundation because you'll find that the fit is not there. More often, you'll be able to make your application much clearer and more persuasive by having one or more conversations with the contact person.

State and federal grant applications are much more complicated than those offered by foundations. For that reason, a phone call to the contact person can help tremendously as you plan. That contact person can clarify parts of the complex grant application. If you truly understand the information the application seeks, you can pinpoint your narrative and make your application much more clear and concise. Since almost all of these grants are competitive, speaking with the contact person may give you just the advantage you need to gain a higher score than other schools competing for the same money.

Please be aware that some granting entities ask you not to call them. Quite often they give an email address as an alternative to a phone number. Even though a phone call is typically more productive, use whatever means of communication is available to get all the information you can before you apply for a grant.

The easiest way to get contact names, phone numbers, or email addresses for a grant is to use a good grant database such as the one Discount School Supply offer to you for free. However, you should be able to track down the information by using a search engine to find online grant announcements, which often include contact information.

I give information about applying for grants on a daily basis. I can't give you better advice than to "Make the call."

One phone call will tell you:
1) if you should apply for the grant, and
2) how to apply more efficiently and effectively if the grant is a good match for your school's needs.

Check It Out! Grant Opportunity

Grant Name: Teacher Grants

Funded by: The Kids in Need Foundation

Description: Kids In Need Teacher Grants provide K-12 educators with funding to provide innovative learning opportunities for their students. The Kids In Need Foundation helps to engage students in the learning process by supporting our most creative and important educational resource — our nation's teachers. All certified K-12 teachers in the U.S. are eligible.

Program Areas: Math, Reading, Science/Environment, Technology, All Other

Recipients: Public Schools, Private/Charter Schools

Proposal Deadline: 9/30/09

Average amount: $100 - $500

Contact Person: Penny Hawk

Telephone: 877-296-1231

Email: info@kidsinneed.net

Website: http://www.kidsinneed.net

Availability: All States

Check It Out! Grant Opportunity

Grant Name: State Farm Youth Advisory Board Grants

Funded by: State Farm Youth Advisory Board

Description: Grants given exclusively for service-learning in the areas of: 1) driver safety, 2) environmental responsibility, 3) financial literacy, 4) access to higher education/closing the achievement gap, 5) disaster preparedness.

Program Areas: After-School, Community Involvement/Volunteerism, Family Services, Science/Environment, Social Studies

Recipients: Public School, Higher Education, Other

Proposal Deadline: 10/2/09

Average Amount: $25,000 - $100,000

Contact Person: Matt Maloney

Telephone: 309-766-7554

Email: matthew.maloney.mm2e@statefarm.com

Website: http://www.statefarmyab.com/

Availability: All States

Check It Out! Grant Opportunity

Grant Name: Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants

Funded by: National Endowment for the Humanities

Description: The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) invites applications to the Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants program. This program is designed to encourage innovations in the digital humanities. By awarding relatively small grants to support the planning stages, NEH aims to encourage the development of innovative projects that promise to benefit the humanities.

Program Areas: Library, Social Studies

Recipients: Public School, Private/Charter School, Higher Education, Other

Proposal Deadline: 10/6/2009

Average Amount: $5,000 - $50,000

Email: odh@neh.gov

Website: http://www.neh.gov/grants/index.html

Availability: All States

Getting an Edge on Your Grant Competition

To consistently win competitive grant money, you must have an edge on your competition. One easy way to do that is to make sure you thoroughly address every part of a grant application. If you leave out a part-- or simply put in "fluff" to meet the application requirements-- it is likely your grant application will not be competitive and you will not receive money.

Let's say you are going to fill out an application for a reading grant... The grant application has seven parts, and one part deals with community involvement. You are trying to write a grant for a reading lab that, in your initial planning, would not require community involvement. The other six parts of the application are worth 95 percent; the community involvement part is worth only 5 percent. You simply decide not to fill out the community involvement part of the application because the rest of your application is strong enough that the 5 percent won't matter. That would be a devastating mistake.

Many grants are so competitive that the funded applications have scores of 97 percent or higher. Those other grant writers knew that in order to be competitive they needed every single point they could muster.

But you say, "I'd never leave a section of a grant application blank. I'd put something in there whether we intended to implement it or not." That's the second biggest mistake you could make. Believe me, grant readers are pretty good at sniffing out the fluff and the disingenuous. Now for the solution: In the planning stages, even before you begin to write your grant, make sure you have a good, strong, balanced program that more than meets the criteria for every required section. Be sure that every required area actually enhances your program.

Be sure the community is involved in your reading lab in a way that will make your reading scores increase and make the community feel as if they played a role as partners in the new program. In essence, regardless of the requirements of the grant, you should write each section as if it is the only section the grant readers will score. Make each section that good and that vital to the overall program, and you will get the points you need to win most of the grants you write.

Check It Out! Grant Opportunity

Grant Name: Technology Grants for Rural Schools

Funded by: Foundation for Rural Education and Development

Description: Technology Grants for Rural Schools program was created to help meet the growing need for innovative technology in the classroom. The grants are funded by a donation from Rural Telephone Finance Cooperative (RTFC) and strive to help public schools in rural areas served by OPASTCO members bring modern computers to every classroom, connect schools to the information superhighway and make sure that effective and engaging software and online resources are an integral part of the school curriculum.

Program Areas: Technology Recipients: Public School Private/Charter School Proposal

Deadline: 9/14/2009

Total Amount: $50,000.00

Average Amount: $10,000.00

Website: http://www.fred.org/pdfs/2009techgrant_web.pdf

Availability: All States

Check It Out! Grant Opportunity

Grant Name: ING Foundation Educational Grants

Funded by: ING

Foundation Description: As part of their commitment to educators, ING honors excellence in education through a series of programs and sponsorships.

Program Areas: Arts, Community Involvement/Volunteerism, General Education, Health/PE, Math, Reading, Science/Environment, Social Studies, Vocational Recipients: Public Schools, Private/Charter Schools, Higher Education Proposal

Deadline: 9/5/09

Average amount: $200 - $400,000

Telephone: 770-980-6580

E-mail: ingfoundation@us.ing.com

Website: http://www.ing-usa.com/us/aboutING/CorporateCitizenship/index.htm

Availability: All States

Check It Out! Grant Opportunity

Grant Name: Kinder Morgan Foundation Education Grants

Funded by: Kinder Morgan Foundation

Description: Grants are primarily directed to educational programs for youth in grades K-12. Funding is provided to local, state, provincial and regional educational institutions, libraries, and programs that provide ongoing support such as Junior Achievement. The foundation also supports youth programs provided by local arts organizations, symphony orchestras, museums, and others. Initial approach is to contact the foundation for application form, which is required.

Program Areas: Arts, Community Involvement/Volunteerism, General Education, Library, Math, Reading, Science/ Environmental, Social Studies

Recipients: Public School, Other Proposal

Deadline: 9/10/09

Average Amount: $3,500 - $5,000

Telephone: 303-763-3471

E-mail: km_foundation@kindermorgan.com

Website: http://www.kindermorgan.com/community/km_foundation.cfm

Availability: All States

Closing the Gap: Your Ticket to Grant Money

One of the easiest ways to acquire grant money for your school is to find an achievement gap to close. Almost every school has some type of achievement gap; and many granting entities are interested in investing their money to help close those gaps. Find the gap(s) in your school and you might be on your way to some grant money.

Typically, serious achievement gaps exist between economically advantaged and disadvantaged students. Gaps of that nature can be found in many, many schools. Differences of 2 years or more in reading and math levels are frequently found when the achievement of economically disadvantaged students is compared to those who are not.

Other gaps may exist between minority and non-minority students and between suburban, rural, and urban students. Minority, rural, and inner-city students may appear to lag in achievement because of their race or where they live but, on closer observation, it is often their economic status that produces gaps.

Some gaps can be traced to reduced expectations on the part of parents, educators, or the community as a whole. Grant money may be useful in implementing programs to reduce those gaps too.

Another achievement gap, which is typically not explained by economics, is one that can exist between male and female students in the mathematics and science areas. All too often that gap can be tracked to lower expectations by teachers and the larger educational community. Grant money can help schools build high expectations and achievement for all.
Achievement gaps can usually be pinpointed by comparing test scores of various student groups. If you find one or more of the achievement gaps I've mentioned in your school or classroom, remember that the existence of that gap provides an excellent reason to apply for grants to help reduce or eliminate it.

Check It Out! Grant Opportunity

Grant Name: Striving Readers Program

Funded by: U.S. Department of Education

Description: The purpose of the Striving Readers program is to 1) raise literacy levels of adolescent students in Title I-eligible schools with significant numbers of students reading below grade level and 2) build a strong, scientific research base for identifying and replicating strategies that improve adolescent literacy instruction.

Program Areas: Reading

Recipients: Public Schools

Proposal Deadline: 8/10/09

Average Amount: $750,000 to $1.3 million

Contact Person: Marcia Kingman

Telephone: 202-401-0003

Email: Marcia.kingman@ed.gov

Website: http://www. ed.gov/programs/strivingreaders/applicant.html

Availability: All States

Check It Out! Grant Opportunity

Grant Name: NEA Foundation Green Grants

Funded by: NEA Foundation

Description: Over the past decade, the NEA Foundation has invested more than $5.9 million in grants to support and grow the ideas of more than 2,000 educators nationwide. Public school educators PreK-16 are invited to apply for the popular Student Achievement and Learning & Leadership grants at www.neafoundation.org/grants. A new online application makes applying easier and more convenient than ever. For those grant writers who have questions, the Foundation has posted an instructional video to guide grant writers through the process step by step. Deadlines for applications are June 1, October 15, and February 1. This year, the Foundation will emphasize "green" grants, because some of the most innovative and impactful projects involve students learning about and engaging in environmental preservation and protection. From publishing books on ecological restoration to designing lessons on renewable energy, NEA Foundation grantees are getting results.

Program Areas: Science/Environment

Recipients: Public Schools

Proposal Deadline: 10/15/09

Average Amount: $2,000 to $5,000

Website: http://www.neafoundation.org/grants.htm

Availability: All States

Check It Out! Grant Opportunity

Grant Name: Union Pacific Education Grants

Funded by: Union Pacific Foundation

Description: Giving on a national basis in areas of company operations to support zoos and aquariums and organizations involved with arts and culture, education, the environment, health, youth development, human services, community development, and leadership development.

Program Areas: Arts, Community Involvement/Volunteerism, General Education,
Health/PE, Library, Professional Development

Recipients: Public School, Private/Charter School, Higher Education, Other

Proposal Deadline: 8/15/09

Average Amount: $1,000 to $200,000

Telephone: 402-271-5600

Average Amount: $1,000 to $200,000

Email: upf@up.com

Website: http://www.up.com/found

Availability: All States

Four Basic Steps for Winning School Grants

Winning grant money for your school is not nearly as difficult as many educators think. It requires work -- as does anything else worthwhile -- but if you follow four basic steps consistently and persistently, you will win grant money for your school.

Step 1: First, you need to determine the main problem(s) that needs to be addressed on your campus or in your district. That problem usually reveals itself when you assess programs you are using. If you look at your annual goal for a program, and your assessment indicates you did not come close to achieving that goal, you have identified a definite problem. Additionally, you might need to address new situations that crop up -- problems such increases in students with ADHD or autism, a large increase in teen mothers, or an increase in the number of students who speak limited English. So, first step, you need to identify the problem you would like to address with grant money.

Step 2: Next, you need to match the problem identified to a granting entity that is interested in helping with that type of problem. That granting agency might be the federal government, your state government, a foundation, or a business. Those four provide 99 percent of all grant money in the United States. Your best bet for tracking down an appropriate granting entity is to use a school grant database, subscribe to a school grant newsletter, or use search engines such as Google on the Internet. The fastest and most efficient way to match your needs with appropriate grants is by using a grant database. The cheapest way is by using the Internet.

Step 3: Once you have identified potential granting agencies, you must develop a plan to solve or alleviate your problem using the grant money for which you will apply. You must convince the potential grantors that you understand your problem and you know how to fix it. They also need to know if you are using their money exclusively or if the district, campus, or other grantors will also be providing money. Your plan will need to include concrete, measureable goals so both you and the grantor will know if your problem was appropriately addressed and whether or not the money helped improve -- or solve -- the problem you identified.

Step 4: Finally, you must put together a quality grant application. You don't have to be a professional grant writer. If you can read, write, and follow directions well, you should be fine. If you are new to grant writing, and you're applying for a large state or federal grant that is highly competitive, it may be in your best interest to hire a professional grant writer until you get more experience. Grant applications vary greatly. Applications for business or foundation grants are generally shorter and easier to complete. Grant applications for state and federal governments tend to be much longer and much more involved. Don't let that discourage you though. Just complete one section at a time thoroughly and completely. Also, make sure your application reaches the grantor by the grant deadline.

That's it. Four steps. Seems simple enough. Yet whole books have been written on those four steps. And, as simple as those four steps seem, thousands of campuses and districts have never applied for a single grant.

If there is one overriding rule in grant writing, it's this: you will never get a grant for your school if you never apply. So (1) identify a problem that needs attention, (2) identify a grantor(s) who can help solve your problem, (3) develop a plan to solve the problem, and (4) write a quality grant application. Those four simple steps can bring tens of thousands -- if not hundreds of thousands -- of grant dollars your way. You don't need magic. You don't need luck. You just need determination and work to get your share of school grant dollars.

Check It Out! Grant Opportunity

Grant Name: Technology Inspired Le@ding Store Donation Grants

Funded by: Best Buy Stores

Description: Donations are given to schools, libraries and after-school clubs. Donations are made in the form of product or Best Buy Gift Cards. Local store employees decide how to support their community.

Program Areas: After School, General Education, Math, Reading, Science/Environment, Social Studies, Technology

Recipients: Public School, Private School

Proposal Deadline: None

Amount: $500 - $2,000

Telephone: 612-291-6108

Website: http://communications.bestbuy.com/communityrelations/our_programs.asp

Availability: All States

Check It Out! Grant Opportunity

Grant Name: Adopt-A-Classroom Educational Grants

Funded by: Adopt-A-Classroom

Description: Teachers who register at the Adopt-a-Classroom Website can be adopted by an individual, a business, or a foundation. Once adopted, teachers will receive $500 worth of credit to purchase items that enrich the learning environment, including classroom technology.

Program Areas: General Education, Science/Environment, Social Studies

Recipients: Public Schools

Proposal Deadline: None

Amount: $500.00

Telephone: 877-444-7666

Email: rhegberg@adoptaclassroom.com

Website: http://www.adoptaclassroom.com

Availability: All States