Grant Writing Can Be Habit Forming

To establish best practices for your own grant writing experience, you need to develop good habits. For example, one habit I have when I go to conduct a search for funds is to canvass my community for existing projects that are aligned with district goals. Sometimes, a public school is not eligible for a private foundation grant because it is not a 501(c)3 non-profit organization as designated by the IRS. Many school districts create their own “friends of…” organizations just so they can have an arm that is designated in this way. But, that’s a subject for another day, and an enormous undertaking.

There is no harm, however, in joining with another non-profit in a grant endeavor that can forge a partnership for years to come. After school programs are ideal for this, if your local YMCA is writing a grant to set up an after school recreation program, why not work with them to develop an academic wing of the program, to solve some low test score problems you’ve uncovered.

I have a luncheon each summer to which I invite leaders of local non-profits. They come and talk about their successes in the grants arena, and we see if there is a way to join forces to tap into some of that non-profit only money that is available. It’s not a quest to drain resources from someone else’s hard work; it’s a way to forge alliances in the community. You might write bus transportation from the schools to the organization into the grant they are writing, and rent some space in their facility where your certified teachers can provide tutoring and counseling for kids who wouldn’t be caught dead staying after school, but who routinely go to the Y. There is no rule against inviting grantors to these luncheons too.

If you’re new in your community, the local Chamber of Commerce can give you a community directory of updated information about all the businesses and non-profits that provide products and services in your area. This directory is usually updated often and can become a well-thumbed resource on your desktop. Of course, these directories are all online now, for a fee or membership to the Chamber, something you should have anyway.

Non-profit directors are generally passionate and hard working. They will welcome an opportunity to tap into your resources as well. You might be willing to offer your gymnasiums in the schools as satellites for the new program. They will become partners in a community wide effort to provide wrap-around programs and services for your kids. And isn’t that what we all want to do anyway?
A local non-profit arts association might be seeking a grant to have an arts festival for art created by kids. While the schools can’t tap into the wealth of private money from those foundations who have stipulations against providing funds for public agencies, cities, and towns, there are hundreds of ways a school can provide support for an activity such as that. There are almost no limits to these partnerships.

We all know the first good habit to develop is to learn to search for funding opportunities in the Grants Database I refer to in my blogs. It’s possible the people you invite to your lunch are not aware of this resource; you can introduce it to them as part of the resource sharing you will provide.

The economy has been improving. Tax revenues are up in most communities. Foundations and corporations are profiting and they are required by law to give a percentage of their profits to worthwhile causes. Let your school, and your new partnerships benefit from their largesse.

It’s a good idea to learn a bit about how charities work. There are some good resources available for grant writers who would like to develop partnerships with community organizations.

Your habits, though seemingly automatic, need to be cultivated and strengthened to provide best practices in your grants department.

Let me know how you’re doing, I’d love to feature your school in one of my blogs.


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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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