When you’re a grant writer for your school or district, you need all the help you can get. We’ve talked about working in committee within your school to develop and manage a project, but what about the wider community? Every town or city has a business community that stands ready to do “good works” as part of their marketing plans. You may have a local chapter of the Chamber of Commerce, or in very small towns, an Elks Club or other fraternal organization where business leaders meet, if only to have a beer together on a Saturday night. Don’t knock it, many a grant comes from conversations over a great bottle of beer.
These people, no matter how loosely organized share one thing; they’re trying to improve their own business in town by mingling and networking with other business leaders. You’ll learn in grant writing that there is some altruism in the job, but it’s mostly about finding a sweet spot, what is this person’s agenda for helping? In an “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” world, you can develop relationships with your town business leaders that benefit both parties.
One way to get the ball rolling is to hold an open house for the community. Work with your school leadership team to come up with a hook, maybe raising funds for the school library, a music event, or art gallery opening along the halls of the school. Make sure you put on your tie, or pearls and pumps and be active in the planning of the event. At some point, you want everyone in the auditorium (or gym) for speechifying. Your speech is short, but pithy. Explain who you are, why you are there, and what you need from the assembled throng.
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Early in your grant writing adventures, you should establish some habits. It will save time later if, for your budgets and narratives, you have some background information on hand. Every grant application has certain qualities shared with all the others. The grantor needs to know who you are before he can buy into your project. Demographic research about your state, town and school should be collected and saved in a central location so it can be accessed again and again. Update your narrative paragraphs containing statistics often. I get demographic information from several standard places.
You can rely on these sources for information about residents in your town. They include information on local families, their income, home ownership, etc. A grantor needs to know your town has needs. Even “high end” communities have needs. If you are in a school in a wealthy town, find out where low-income families live. You can target many of your grant narrative appeals to those members of the larger community.
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This is not an article about politics, but it helps to know a bit about politics when you are seeking a grant. When George W. Bush was president, his wife Laura took on school libraries as a project while she was in the White House. In like fashion, Michelle Obama has been working with military families and has worked diligently in the area of nutrition for children to put a spotlight on obesity in American children. First ladies generally get what they want, and in these cases, they secured funding for their areas of concern.
From 2002 to 2010 there was a federal grant called “Improving Literacy Through School Libraries“. Laura Bush worked with many people and groups to create a grant opportunity that provided support for schools that wanted to elevate library programs in their schools and a way to improve academic achievement. I applied for it unsuccessfully for three years. I learned a great deal about writing government sponsored grants in the process so it was not a complete loss. For instance, many grant writers spend time collecting letters of support from their government representatives. In general, this is not a great way to spend your time, but in this case, it should have been an important part of any application; this grant was highly political. I only focus on this grant because it instilled a winning formula for approaching grant projects:
Align projects to Common Core Standards and academic achievement in your school.
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