Thursday, June 14, 2012

What If Our School Is Not Grant Eligible?

Last time I discussed low-performing schools and how they seem to get a lot of grant money.  If you’re not one of those schools, don’t despair. Thousands of grants worth millions and millions of dollars are available to all schools. These grants tend to be more subject- or program-oriented than those that target primarily low socio-economic or low performing schools.

Let’s face it. There are no perfect schools. Regardless of the socio-economic status of your students, you will have problems in your school that need special attention. If these problems (increased teen pregnancy, suicide, dramatic drops in ACT/SAT scores, truancy, drug use at school, a drop in students eligible for upper-level courses, large pockets of under-achieving students, etc.) crop up fairly quickly or show up for the first time on a needs assessment, you have to take action, and your budget may not be constructed to handle one or more of these problems.
If you find yourself in such a situation, applying for grants may be a part of your solution. Many times grantors look for particular types of problems to help remedy. It often doesn’t matter to the grantor what type of school is experiencing the problem. It only matters that the problem is present and needs fixing.

The key is to find those grantors who want to help with your type of problem and then read everything available on their websites to be sure you are eligible. If you have any doubt, call or email the grant contact person and explain your situation. Be sure to get confirmation that you are, indeed, eligible for a grant before you take the time to fill out the application.

One other point is pertinent to this conversation. If 80% of your population is not disadvantaged, that means that you still have 20% of your students who are socio-economically disadvantaged. That 20% of your population is likely to have the same problems as those disadvantaged students who attend schools with 80-90% at-risk populations.

In other words, while your school or campus as a whole might be less grant-eligible than some other schools, that 20% of your population is as eligible as anyone else. Write grants that address only the problems of this 20% of your population, and you are very likely to get grant money if you prepare a good, strong grant proposal.

In summary, you need to remember two strategies when going after grant money if your district or campus does not have high numbers of at-risk or low-socioeconomic students. First, find one of the many thousands of grants that does not use at-risk or low-socioeconomic status of your population as one of its main criteria for eligibility. As always, a good, comprehensive grant database will help you do that.

Second, write grants directly related to the at-risk and/or low-socioeconomic populations that you do have. You might have only 10%, 20%, or 30% that fit this category, but they will have many of the same problems as students in schools with much higher numbers of at-risk students. Focus your grant writing on helping these students to achieve at the same level as the rest of your students.

Every school in the United States is eligible for many, many grants. While some grants’ eligibility requirements do seems restrictive, that does not mean that there aren’t grants available to you. You just have to work a little harder at find the grants you need and be more careful about the way you write your proposals.

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