Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Strengthen Your Grant Proposal

The grant proposals with the greatest chance of being funded are the ones the grant readers believe have the best chance of being successfully implemented. In other words, if you are able to convince those reading and evaluating your grant proposal that you will actually be successful in correcting the problems you address in the proposal, you are much more likely to be awarded the grant money.

Any grant program is essentially a change program. There are two ways to increase the likelihood of success in any change program. The first is to copy a program that is already successful as closely as possible. The second is to pilot a small change program of your own first and then seek grant money to expand it based on the success you achieved in your pilot program. When I was principal of a middle school in Northeast Texas, we were able to capture grant money in both ways. In this post we will look at emulating another school’s program to strengthen your grant application. Next time we’ll look at using a pilot program in the same way.

If you are going to write a grant based on the success of another school, it is important that you have similar populations and similar problems to overcome. It doesn’t help to say you are going to improve your reading scores just like an adjacent school when their students were one grade level behind and yours are two grade levels behind, and they have 20% at-risk students when you have 60%. The problems don’t match, and the student population doesn’t match. A grant reader would have no reason to believe you would achieve similar success.

On the other hand, if a neighboring school has reading scores very similar to yours and their student population is similar, too, you have every reason to believe you can achieve the same success they did if you base your grant program on the same program they did and implemented it in the same way. You should include their positive results in your grant application, stressing the similarities in the two schools. Sell the idea that you can implement a similar program and get similar results.

We implemented a number of highly successful programs in the middle school I mentioned above when I was principal. In a three year period, we had more than 150 different schools visit our campus to get information about our successful programs. Many of those educators went home and implemented similar programs. Many applied for grants and used our statistics to strengthen their grant proposals.

Many visitors viewed us as great innovators. They were amazed at our successes with the difficult populations we served. The truth is that we rarely initiated a program on that campus that had not already been proven successful with a similar population in one or more other schools in Texas.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you apply for grant money to help solve a problem at your school. Find a successful school with a population similar to your own and use their successes to help strengthen your own grant proposal. I strongly recommend this approach. I’ve used it myself. It works.

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