Monday, October 31, 2011

Can You Get Grant Money Locally?

In my last post I gave you several places to look for grants.  Mainly I listed grant databases available to you since I am convinced these databases are the most logical place to find grants these days.  Hey, we might as well use computers to their full advantage, and up-to-date, comprehensive grant databases just weren’t available 20 years ago.                                                                                 

Sometimes these databases, as good as they are, just aren’t going to list some of the grants that are available to you. Some grants are purely local, don’t have set criteria, and are never publicly announced.

Most of my time in education was spent in a small East Texas school district where I was a teacher, principal, and assistant superintendent for 20 years. In that time, I asked for and got $15,000 for my middle school and then another $75,000 for the district from one local business. How did I get that money? I just asked for it. I laid out a plan showing that by investing this money in the local school system, the company would have better educated employees when the current students graduated in a few years and sought jobs locally.

In addition to that money, a well-to-do couple in our community gave the school district enough money to buy a vocational center for the agriculture department, rebuild the press box at the football stadium, and to repair and update the baseball field. We didn’t even approach them. They came to us, gave us the money, and told us how they would like it spent. Their two children went to our school, and they just wanted to help.

Educators also often overlook the opportunity to ask for help from “big box” stores in their area.  Most of these have regular corporate grant programs, but they don’t always advertise the $1,000 to $3,000 dollar grants they often give to local groups.  To find out if your local Wal-Mart, Target, Lowes, Home Depot, Best Buy, etc. has such a program, just go to the store and ask the manager.  If they do, ask what type of projects qualify.  If they don’t, go to the next store.  Most of the time your school or organization doesn’t have to lie within the city limits. In fact, if you are within a 50-mile radius and the city is your regular shopping destination, you will usually qualify.

Even if you’re getting money locally, and the grantor doesn’t require a lot of paperwork, I still suggest you write out what type of problem you’re having, what you believe to be the best solution to your problem, and how the money the grantor is giving will be spent to help you reach your goals.  I think anyone who gives money, whether an individual or a company, deserves to know how you spend your grant money and how successful you are. 

In fact, your ability to use local grant money successfully may actually help you get even more money from the same local source in the future.  Also, you might consider asking individuals or companies that give you money if they or their employees would like to be involved in the grant program. Many like to volunteer so they can be more involved locally with the schools.

You don’t always need a grant database to find grantmoney. Look close to home when you have the opportunity. It might pay off more than you could ever imagine.


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