Grants may seem like a lot of work, but they are great ways to get extra funding for your classrooms. Schools cover the basics of education, but what about extras you could really use but can’t afford?
Grants provide visibility and credibility of your program to administration, community, parents, and students. They provide funding so that you can teach at a more proficient level. Grants meet the need for materials, tools, career preparation, and more.
What would you want a grant for? The possibilities are endless. Perhaps you want to develop a STEM program. Or you are short on technological resources such as projectors, document cameras, iPads®, whiteboards, tablets, and the like. Perhaps there is a need to develop a curriculum for personal health care such as pregnancy or obesity, a hands-on garden that serves both science and nutrition, or a class project on the environment.
There are many reasons to make applying for a grant part of your teaching efforts.
Here are a number of points to keep in mind about the entire process:
- Be clear about your reasons for applying for a grant. What are your long-term goals? Is a grant the only way to do what you want to do? Are you clear on your realistic chances of success? You must convince the prospective donor of two things: A significant need exists, and you have the means to solve the problem or need.
- Be specific in your plans. Develop a realistic budget that provides funding to meet program goals for student success. Budget items need specifics, not vagueness. Form a measurable plan for student/program success including supplies and equipment, outcomes, and evaluation methods.
- Search the field. There are three main sources for grant funding: the government, private businesses and corporations, and foundations. Do your research. Some outlets are more conducive to what you need than others.
- Narrow the field. Your research might turn up dozens of foundations that could potentially support your cause. Make sure the grant is offered in the field you need. Check the purpose and the size of the grants offered. Make sure their guidelines fit in with your guidelines.
- Investigate your leading prospects. Before you consider applying to a foundation or granting agency, learn as much as you can about it. Doing your homework can save you a lot of trouble in the long run. In researching a foundation, start with its website. Most foundations post information about what they fund, guidelines, and how to apply.
- Know and follow the guidelines. Each foundation and granting agency does business in a slightly different way. Read the guidelines. Adhere to the guidelines. Don’t make up the guidelines. Have a question? Call the granting agency and ask. Just make sure the answer isn’t somewhere in the guidelines.
- Form a working group. Form a working group of other teachers and administrators to talk about what should go into the application and how it should be presented. When you do have a proposal draft, show it to an expert in the field who might be willing to review your draft and give advice. Sometimes the expertise lies within your working group; otherwise, ask the advice of someone who has touched on this field before.
- Build community support. Most organizations that make grants will want to know that your ideas have community support, because a usual part of the funder’s mission is to serve the community. Brainstorming options include local service clubs, community foundations, county/state foundations, national opportunities, and the government. Circulate the outlines of your ideas as a rough draft and ask for feedback.
- Use a successful model. If you can get ahold of a winning application, particularly one that was funded by your chosen foundation, you can learn from it. If you have a list of grants previously made by the foundation, you can contact one of the awardees and politely ask for a proposal copy. There are also plenty of sources that have at least partial examples of successful grant applications.
- Learn from rejection. Although most grant applications are not funded, you need to go ahead and process your request anyway. The reasons of rejection may have little to do with your proposal; there are a multitude of reasons for rejection. But you have the right to find out why you did not receive your grant. Instead of asking, “Why didn’t you fund my proposal?” take the line of “What could I have done to make our proposal better?” Keep the door open to later applications, and build a positive rapport with your future contributor.
Here are several resource tools to get you started: