Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Does Your Campus Need a Grant Committee?

Individual school campuses can often benefit from having a grant committee. Committees can do needs assessments, gather supportive data, and even prepare quality grant applications. While committees can move slowly and get bogged down with mundane issues, they can also be catalysts for great change. If your campus is not receiving grant money each year from at least one or two sources, that may be a sign that you should establish a grant committee.

It's a simple fact that most school districts do not have full-time grant writers. That means grant information coming into the district is handled by someone who has many other duties. Grant information worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to a district can sit around unopened for weeks at a time, often until it is too late to apply for the grants in question. It's even worse at the campus level; it is very rare for grant information to filter down from the district to campus level.

Not only will an aggressive grant committee receive all grant correspondence sent to it, members of the committee will also be charged with seeking out grant opportunities that are tailor-made for the campus. By closely tracking grant announcements that come in through the mail, newsletters, and grant databases, grant committees can find dozens of grant opportunities that would otherwise go undetected. Your campus will never get the grant money it needs if it's not aware of all the opportunities available.

A good grant committee can also serve another valuable purpose: it can help assess the needs of the campus. It takes time to survey the faculty and the students, study national and state test scores, evaluate attendance and disciplinary data, and sort through a host of other data. But that data is the very information that can tell schools where problems exist and where grant money can be best directed to result in positive change. A good grant committee can help review the data, recommend helpful programs, and find grants to underwrite the cost of programs.

Finally, the grant committee can either appoint some of its own members to complete grant applications or find a professional grant writer who will work with the committee. If someone within the campus committee is going to write the grants, that person should -- if at all possible -- receive an extra stipend. Almost everyone who works in a school setting already has a full-time job. If a person is going to use nights, weekends, holidays, or summers to write grants, that person should be paid for the effort.

Since few districts and fewer campuses have full-time grant writers, it makes sense to form a grant committee at the campus level. Those committees can receive all correspondence related to grants, assess problem areas that may be addressed with grant money, find appropriate grants for the campus, and include a member(s) who can complete the grant application or oversee a professional grant writer outside the committee.