10 Great Ways to Get a Grant
Experts reveal their top 10 secrets about writing grant proposals that demand attention and get funding.
Grant writing is seldom easy. Many schools are chasing after the same pot of gold, fiercely competing for technology dollars offered by corporations, foundations, and state and federal government. So there's no room for mistakes. Yet, many pitfalls exist, especially for inexperienced grant writers. For example, some grant seekers apply for the wrong grant. Their goals and objectives don't match those of the funding source. In the end, they waste everyone's time and can jeopardize their chances of winning funding in the future from the same organizations. To discover the secrets of successful grant writing, Scholastic Administrator spoke to several experts who gave us their best advice on drafting grant proposals that work. Follow these 10 simple guidelines and your next grant proposal will stand a better chance of getting the funding you need.
1. Assess your needs What are your instructional technology needs? Ask yourself this question before writing your grant proposal. Solicit information from teachers about the kind of technology or training they need, creative ways they could use it in their classroom, how it would enhance student learning or how the technology could streamline their administrative tasks. Then document your school's most compelling needs in your grant application. If you're asking for funds to purchase computers or integrate technology to improve teacher proficiency, reveal the percentage of teachers at your school who are at the beginning, intermediate and proficient stages.
2. Think locally at first Form a technology advisory committee made up of teachers, administrators, business leaders and parents to develop or update your technology plan. Next, undertake your own pilot program. The same committee would write the grant and contact local employers to help support the program through matching funds, equipment donations, training or volunteers. Demonstrate the program's initial success before asking for more help to expand or enhance the project. Find an impartial evaluator to analyze the pilot program, then cite the results in future grant applications. Establishing a baseline of success with technology will increase your odds of winning the grant.
3. Do your homework Find out what kinds of school projects the prospective funder has awarded in the past. Contact those schools and ask for a copy of their winning proposals. Analyze their content and style. Use their proposal as your model, personalizing it to fit your school or district.
4. Make it personal Successfully competing for a grant typically requires human interaction. Call the program officer and ask him or her to clarify anything in the request for proposals (RFPs) that may be unclear. You must follow their guidelines to the letter. Even something as minor as using the wrong font size can kill your chances. Also ask who will be reading the grant so you can tailor your proposal to their background or area of expertise. By speaking with the grant administrator, you can also get a much better understanding of the funder's agenda and possibly an initial reaction to your project idea.
5. Show passion Show some excitement about the project in your proposal. If appropriate, personalize it with one-sentence anecdotes, such as upbeat comments from students. Also study proposals written by past grant winners. Are they informal? Do they use words like "we" and "I"? Match the style. Finally, be concise and avoid jargon or overused buzzwords like paradigm and rubric.
6. Focus on learning, not the technology Emphasize outcomes, objectives or goals. Focus on what you intend to accomplish with the technology, rather than on the hardware or equipment itself. For example, if you want five computers to help students improve their reading or writing skills, explain how the technology can help you accomplish that goal. Offer a realistic scenario describing how students and teachers will use the technology to improve in this area.
7. Think long-term Develop a timeline that shows when you plan to achieve your goals and objectives. It should include plans to build on accomplishments after the grant runs out. Sustainability is crucial for a successful proposal because funders like to see that the activities they're financing will continue beyond the life of the grant. For example, explain your plans to start replacing the equipment in the third year of a five-year grant, and how you'll fund the upgrades.
8. Don't forget professional development At least 30 percent of the funds you're asking for should be allocated for professional development. Funders won't assume you'll be able to meet your goals and objectives if you don't train faculty, administrators or staff on how to use the technology.
9. Spread the technology around Funders like to get the most bang for their buck. That's why it's important to explain how you plan to share the technology you're requesting. As an example, you may partner with another school, enabling students from both schools to use the technology for joint projects. Likewise, your school may need equipment for its new computer center, which will also be accessible to the community. Students can teach local residents at the center how to use computers or other technology. Remember that funders like projects that can be replicated by other schools or districts.10. Ask for constructive criticism If you're rejected, call the grant administrator and ask for a copy of the reviewers' comments on your proposal. If that's not possible, ask the administrator for constructive feedback. For instance, why was your application rejected? What were its strengths and weaknesses? How could it be improved? This information will enable you to write a better proposal the next time you apply. Once you develop a strong application, you can submit it to different funders with only minor changes to fit each one's specifications.