Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Four Basic Steps for Winning School Grants

Winning grant money for your school is not nearly as difficult as many educators think. It requires work -- as does anything else worthwhile -- but if you follow four basic steps consistently and persistently, you will win grant money for your school.

Step 1: First, you need to determine the main problem(s) that needs to be addressed on your campus or in your district. That problem usually reveals itself when you assess programs you are using. If you look at your annual goal for a program, and your assessment indicates you did not come close to achieving that goal, you have identified a definite problem. Additionally, you might need to address new situations that crop up -- problems such increases in students with ADHD or autism, a large increase in teen mothers, or an increase in the number of students who speak limited English. So, first step, you need to identify the problem you would like to address with grant money.

Step 2: Next, you need to match the problem identified to a granting entity that is interested in helping with that type of problem. That granting agency might be the federal government, your state government, a foundation, or a business. Those four provide 99 percent of all grant money in the United States. Your best bet for tracking down an appropriate granting entity is to use a school grant database, subscribe to a school grant newsletter, or use search engines such as Google on the Internet. The fastest and most efficient way to match your needs with appropriate grants is by using a grant database. The cheapest way is by using the Internet.

Step 3: Once you have identified potential granting agencies, you must develop a plan to solve or alleviate your problem using the grant money for which you will apply. You must convince the potential grantors that you understand your problem and you know how to fix it. They also need to know if you are using their money exclusively or if the district, campus, or other grantors will also be providing money. Your plan will need to include concrete, measureable goals so both you and the grantor will know if your problem was appropriately addressed and whether or not the money helped improve -- or solve -- the problem you identified.

Step 4: Finally, you must put together a quality grant application. You don't have to be a professional grant writer. If you can read, write, and follow directions well, you should be fine. If you are new to grant writing, and you're applying for a large state or federal grant that is highly competitive, it may be in your best interest to hire a professional grant writer until you get more experience. Grant applications vary greatly. Applications for business or foundation grants are generally shorter and easier to complete. Grant applications for state and federal governments tend to be much longer and much more involved. Don't let that discourage you though. Just complete one section at a time thoroughly and completely. Also, make sure your application reaches the grantor by the grant deadline.

That's it. Four steps. Seems simple enough. Yet whole books have been written on those four steps. And, as simple as those four steps seem, thousands of campuses and districts have never applied for a single grant.

If there is one overriding rule in grant writing, it's this: you will never get a grant for your school if you never apply. So (1) identify a problem that needs attention, (2) identify a grantor(s) who can help solve your problem, (3) develop a plan to solve the problem, and (4) write a quality grant application. Those four simple steps can bring tens of thousands -- if not hundreds of thousands -- of grant dollars your way. You don't need magic. You don't need luck. You just need determination and work to get your share of school grant dollars.

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