Four Basic Steps for Grant Writing Success

Grant writing success can be achieved, you must believe that. There are steps involved, ways to move forward through the application process to ensure that your application is read and taken seriously. Grantors receive hundreds of applications for a finite amount of funds. Organized applications are taken seriously and they are more likely to be successful. All things worth doing are worth doing well, and if you do them well each time, grantors will come to look forward to the application packages from XYZ schools. At the start of a new school year, it helps to review some basic truths and use them to devise an application template that is efficient and worthy of review by a foundation.

1. Identify the problem you are trying to solve with the requested funds. That problem usually reveals itself when you look at test data and assess programs you are using. You know what has worked and not worked in your school. Make a list, check those suppositions against the data, and be prepared to tackle them one at a time. Your problems may be new, revealed as a school district’s demographics change. Look at census data, the massive number of baby boomers nearing retirement will create a need for new teachers. They will need professional development, and if the data shows problems in math in grade 4, you may wish to develop a program or project that addresses that need. It is intended to solve the problem.

2. The Grants Database provided by the School Funding Center is a place to start searching for foundations and corporations to help solve the problems you’ve identified. Be sure to know if you are eligible. A school is part of a government entity, a city or town. If you are a private school, check to see if you have a 501(c)3 IRS designation. This opens many funding doors. Maybe this is the year to create a 501(c)3 for your schools, a “friends of” arm of the PTO for example. It will provide exposure to many private foundation grants for which you will now qualify.

3. Make a list of granting entities that meet your needs. Look for the ones that have goals like yours for solving the problems you have noticed. Make sure your district is in the geographic locale the entity includes in its giving strategy. Some only provide grants to schools in a specific state, or if it’s a corporation, in towns where the company has a presence. You must convince the potential grantors that you understand your problems and know how to fix them. They are counting on you to devise a winning strategy for raising the math scores. They also need to know if you are using only their money or if government,  or other grant sources will be used. Your plan will need to include concrete, measurable goals so both you and the grantor will know if your problem was addressed and whether or not the money helped improve the situation. Measurable is a key word here, how are you going to assess your progress?

4. Finally, you must put together a quality grant application. If you can read, write, and follow directions well, you don’t need to be a professional. If you are new to grant writing, and you’re applying for a competitive large state or federal grant, it may be in your best interest to work with another district nearby to see how to emulate their successes. Applications for business or foundation grants are generally shorter and easier to complete than state and federal government grants. Be thorough and complete one section at a time. Also, make sure your application reaches the grantor by the grant deadline. Pay close attention to formatting restrictions, use the margins, fonts and pagination they require, your hard work will end up in the trash if those fine points are not addressed.

You will never get a grant for your school if you don’t apply. Adhere to the four steps and you are well on your way to winning the funds your school needs. So (1) identify a problem that needs attention, (2) identify a grantor(s) who can help solve your problem, (3) develop a plan to solve the problem, and (4) write a quality grant application. You don’t need magic or luck. You need determination, hard work, and attention to detail to get your share of school grant dollars.
Tell us your stories about the success you have had writing grants. I’d love to feature your school in another article.
Some basic how to resources:
•    Writing your first grant
•    NEA – Short Course
•    Free Writing Tutorials



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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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