Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What Kinds of Projects Will Grants Fund?

Sometimes I’m amazed at people when they ask me about projects they’d like to fund with grant money. I’ve had people ask me to direct them to the grants that will pay for their senior class to go to France. I’ve had football boosters who needed direction to the nearest grant that would build them a new field house. At least once a year someone needs to find a grant that will help keep a job that’s being cut.

I’m not saying that grantors never fund projects like these. I’d say it’s more like a one-in-a-million shot. That’s not never, but it’s really close.  

The majority of grant money seems to be set aside for academic problems that schools face. To a lesser degree, the arts get a good share of grant money, too. Quite a bit of money is also available for technology. More and more attention is being paid to the environment and environmental projects in schools. One more rather hot grant topic is school nutrition and child obesity. Naturally, it is always a help when each of these latter topics mentioned fit into the realm of broader academic problems.

Reading and math grants lead the pack in sheer numbers, but science grants are relatively numerous, too. Within these grants, do schools have an advantage if they have large low-socioeconomic and at-risk students? Yes, they do, but that doesn’t mean that other schools don’t have a shot at plenty of grant money as well.

As I’ve often said, finding grant money for your school is a numbers game. You throw the net out wide using a school grant database, and then you narrow and narrow until you find the grants that you are most eligible to receive. If you complete one grant proposal, and you’re not all that eligible in the first place, chances are you’re not going to get a lot of grant money. If you apply for five grants that exactly match your needs and qualifications, you have a very good chance of getting grant money.

With all of that said, there are still grants out there that fill some unusual needs. One grantor resurfaces several tracks each year. Another helps build baseball fields. Another supports soccer programs. One helps build skateboard parks. Another helps build bicycle paths. Target has a large program that funds field trips for schools. Several organizations let you advertise your project and help you find sponsors for it. One organization helps put used band instruments into needy schools. Another gives good, used computers to schools.

All in all, I’d say most worthy projects can find grant backing if you are both patient and persistent. You just have to think about the grantors. Would they rather see their money being spent to send a senior class to France or having at-risk students in an inner-city school read better?

In summary, it is going to be easier for you to find grant money to fund projects in the areas of reading, math, science, technology, the arts, the environment, and nutrition and childhood obesity. Still, that does not mean that grant money is not available for a host of other worthwhile projects that your school needs in order to overcome some of its other problems.

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