Five Tips for Writing Your Grant Narrative

Congratulations, you’ve been asked to write a grant for your school. Someone obviously has faith in your writing skills and stick-to-itiveness. This article is about the writing process, budgets and other nitty gritty details will be covered in other articles.

There are five main things to do when you write your grant narrative:

Research your school district demographics-
Every grantor wants to know about your school. They have an agenda, some area of schooling they want to influence. You need to find out all about your school community with statistics to back it up. Census data is important; you can find detailed data at the NCES (National Center for Education Statistics). Once you have detailed the characteristics of your community, including poverty numbers and test results to support your needs, keep the description on file. You’ll use it in every grant application.
Keep it tied to academic achievement-
Your project must be aligned with Common Core State Standards, or, if not adopted in your state, the curriculum standards you follow. You’re not applying for money to buy things; you’re applying to a potential partner for assistance in solving a problem in your school. This distinction is lost on a surprising number of would-be grant aspirants. Don’t be one of them. Your problem may be falling math test scores; if the “stuff” you need helps to solve this problem, you might just be successful. Document your successes, and keep those test scores in mind.
Start with an outline-
An outline or checklist keeps you focused so you are sure you’ve answered all the questions in the application package. You must address every single question about your project. Often neglected is the project assessment. You need to have a good way to measure the success of your program before you even begin. This is where you find the difference between testing and program evaluation. Program evaluation is a complex specialty among academics. You might want to align yourself with a college or local university. Professors in their school of education can help you devise a good evaluation process. They may even want to set it up for you.
Don’t try to be Hemingway-
Don’t try to be entertaining. The narrative must be clear, specific, all-inclusive and terse. The application package will tell you how many pages they will allow; twelve pages may sound like a lot – it’s not. If you’re long-winded, find someone who can help you edit your text to remove unnecessary flowery verbiage. You won’t need it and it will annoy a grant reader. Make sure you address all the points in the application, anything less will be considered incomplete and they’ll throw it out. You of course will use a spell and grammar check, and you might want to run it by an English teacher or librarian. They will be kind and helpful.
Answer every point in the application package-
At the risk of being repetitive, answer every point in the package. If they ask, be sure to describe specifics about your testing protocols. If they need information on the curriculum resources you already use in your school, be sure to prepare a description. They may want to know how much money your school will supply to match their generous grant. Be specific and create a matching spreadsheet showing how many disparate resources will combine to make an outstanding program.

There’s no rule against having a foundation representative preview your application either. They are extremely helpful and enthusiastic people. They want you to succeed. In fact, they are passionate about their agenda and they are hoping your school can help them find out what works in education. They have a vested interest in improving the quality of the workforce they will be able to hire.

And most of all make sure your narrative justifies your budget. The reader will be looking to see if there is “fluff” hidden in there.

Stay tuned to this blog, I’ll try to answer all your questions and help you write the best grant application ever.

Writing Resources:
The OWL Lab at Purdue
Generic Outline
Narrative Checklist
Grant Writer’s Starter Kit

Let me know how you’re doing. You may network with me by leaving a comment below.


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About Neva Fenno

Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS, has been a special education teacher, school library media specialist, curriculum specialist and grants manager for several urban school districts in New York and Massachusetts for 30 years. As grants manager for 7 years, she managed up to $28,000,000 a year in federal, state, foundation and corporate grants from application through fiscal administration. She has hundreds of stories to tell, not all successes, but from each story there is a lesson to be learned.

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