I’ve written a lot of grants throughout my years in the classroom. Some were successfully funded and others weren’t. It took a few years, but I think I nailed down a formula that seems to help me get grants funded every single time. And I’m here to share!
In my absence of blogging (sorry guys) I thought about things that teachers can really use. I’ve always wanted this blog to be a space for me to share personal and professional tools, tricks, and suggestions. And one thing I constantly hear from teachers is, “that’s such a great idea, but I don’t have _____” (fill in the blank with supplies, technology, materials, a SMARTBoard, etc). I don’t want you to be discouraged by things that you don’t have and in turn, your students can’t have. So let’s get to writing!
Where to find a grant?
I’m sure your district or area has local grants and those are the best ones to apply for. They are smaller grants and really have an emphasis on providing supplies locally, so you have a better chance of getting your project funded. I’m not saying don’t go for the national ones, but your odds are just better when you stay local or even state-wide.
Once you find a grant you want to apply for, thoroughly check out the guidelines. Make sure you are eligible for the grant and that it fits the need for what you want. I’ve seen teachers want SMARTBoards so badly that they apply for one in every grant opportunity. I hate to tell you this, but an organization that wants to fund science projects is not going to buy you a SMARTBoard, no matter how much you try to convince them that it will benefit your science instruction. So find a technology grant and go for it. Otherwise, hold off.
I have a good idea. Now what?
So you have something that you really want for your classroom. Now what? Well you have to do a little research on the front end first. Let me use myself as an example:
In the spring of 2010, I wanted to purchase Simple Machine LEGO kits to help my students with their “forces of motion” unit. Problem was, the kits were $115 each and I needed at least 4. Our district had a business partnership grant where local businesses would fund grants for the schools in the district. This was perfect! I could find a business that encouraged elementary engineering and teamwork in the classroom and appeal to them. But I needed to think about the total cost of this project, including the kits plus shipping and handling. I also had to think about how many students this would impact. We all know how sturdy LEGOs are, which means they will last for a long while. Ultimately, I could meet the needs of 2,600 students over the life of these supplies! Wow! That’s a lot better investment than supplies that just meet the needs of 20 students in one classroom for one year. As business owners, I knew they would see the value in that number and really appreciate the quality of these supplies.
This brings me to my next point… know your audience.
Most people who read grants aren’t teachers. They are usually members of a company who don’t know education lingo and terms. Also they don’t have a lot of time to read some long and drawn out explanation about all of the facets about how this will help your classroom. They want to get straight to the point, know how much it will cost, and see a good reason why they will fund it. Period.
So if you know that those people are your audience, you can easily write a grant that will target your audience. Take off your teacher hat when you write your grant. Pretend you’re in the marketing division of a large company and you are trying to market your idea to the CEO. And as much as you want to put in a little history of Common Core or list out every single center you can use with these supplies, don’t. They’ll stop reading before they get to the good stuff and you won’t get your money!
So what do I need to include in my grant?
Well each grant is different. You need to review the guidelines for your specific one. But I’ve found that you need a few key components in every grant to make it appealing to the reader, which is how you’ll find success.
1. Goal – what do you want to do with these supplies? Sounds like a simple question but I’ve read lots of fellow teacher’s grants and when I get finished, I have no idea why they want these materials. (SMARTBoard example… just because it’s “cool” doesn’t mean it will best benefit your students) So really think about why you need these materials or this technology. And make a case for it in the first paragraph or two of your grant.
2. CCSS Correlation – obviously your materials must connect to the standards. Common Core is a big buzzword right now and you need to connect them to your grant. I wouldn’t go into tremendous detail, but you need to highlight how your idea will encompass these standards in your classroom. Keep it short and to the point, but make sure they’re in there.
3. Budget – probably the most important part of your grant. As I said before, these business men and women who read your proposal want to know one thing: how much will this cost? So get right to it. List out all of the costs up front and don’t leave anything out. Also it may be helpful to break down the cost per student. Often when we see this number it can make a big impact on someone reading your grant. For example, a SMARTBoard is on average $1400. If you use it for 180 days, that’s around $7 per day. And if you divide that by 20 students who will use it, that’s 38 cents a student. If I was the investor, I would think that I’d be getting my money’s worth when I look at all of the benefits of this piece of technology for only $7 a day.
4. Maximum Participation – like I said in the LEGO example, you want to reach the maximum amount of students possible. So if you are applying for a consumable product that can only be used for one year or only one time, you probably won’t get it funded. Because that isn’t a good investment. But if you can find something that will reach the maximum students each year and will last several years, that’s a much better investment. So do this research and spell it out. With the LEGO’s, I planned on sharing the kits with the other three first grade classes. So that’s 80 students total in first grade that would use it each year. Plus we could partner up with the kindergarten and second grades, since they have similar learning objectives about force and motion. So that’s an additional 160 students. Then if you think of the life expectancy of a LEGO kit being 5-10 years, we have the potential to service 2,400 students over the life span of this project. That’s a pretty powerful statistic.
5. Summary – finally summarize your project one last time. Think of it as the abstract for your total grant proposal. It should be one paragraph that really describes the impact this idea will have on your classroom and classrooms to come. Also I think it’s important to mention how the students needs aren’t being met without these materials. That way the investors have one final reason to fund your grant.
So to sum it up, here’s a quick checklist.
As I said, you may have more things you need to include like a timeline of the project or demographics of your school, so make sure you read the fine print. And if you don’t have a lot of grant opportunities in your area, you can follow these same guidelines to present a project on DonorsChoose.org. You are still trying to appeal to people who will want to invest in your project, so the same rules apply.
And finally, before you submit your grant have another educator AND also a non-educator look over it. While teachers can give you clarity on the project details, they aren’t the ones who will be reading it (usually). My husband would read my grants and give me feedback because he is a business guy. So if there’s something in the grant proposal that was too “education-y” or confusing, he could point it out. Then I could avoid the actual grant readers from being confused when I submitted it.
Please feel free to let me know what questions you have in the grant writing process and don’t hesitate to apply. You have nothing to lose! And practice makes perfect. So the more you enter, the better you’ll get at writing them. Good luck!