Grants for “Extras”

What are extras you ask? In any school, there is nothing extra. We all work overtime just to provide for the essentials. I remember a time when Christmas was an entire month of frivolity, trees and baubles and plays and art walls, and Santa and ………

We don’t see that much anymore, at least in most public schools. “Time on task” is the new mantra, you see school administrators scowling at class projects that take more than an hour to prepare for the holidays. We have to prepare for the tests, remember?

Ah, the good old days.

There is also the issue of budgets, if there is no money in school budgets for art supplies and musical instruments or even a music teacher; it’s hard to create too much frivolity.

So, like any good grant writer, you think about getting a grant for those “extras”. The most popular example of this is playground equipment. It is difficult to raise enough money for playgrounds through bake sales. If we could only get a grant……

Well, I’m not going to say it’s impossible to get grants for these projects but it’s difficult. Like school district administrators, grant providers are in academic achievement mode. They want to see projects that address deficits in test scores, and are aligned with your state core curriculum.

This is where you can get creative. Never try to bury equipment or art supplies in the budget of a big curriculum program unless they are integral and essential to it. They will know, they will remember, they will not fund anything from you again. Foundation grant readers see right through this, and it happens all the time.

Instead, make the playground a realistic tool in your academic achievement program. Fresh air, exercise, and great diets create the kind of environment that produces successful students. Instead of just asking for a few slides or swing sets, set the stage for a playground creation or expansion program that is integral and necessary for your school as it plans to educate. A playground might have an organic garden component that teaches children about eating healthy and about microclimates to address science standards. You get the picture.

This approach may not work, they may see it the same way they saw the burying technique. A lot depends on the degree to which you see the playground as essential to learning. Your attitude will speak volumes.

To see if there is any support for a playground, it’s a good idea to call the foundation and lay out your plan over the phone. Or search through their successful grants of the past to see if any have been for playgrounds.

The same applies to art or music program grants, although it’s easier to position them in the “necessary” category rather than as an extra.

Resources for physical thing grants:

In another article, I may discuss grants for individuals. These also fall into a “hard to get” category, but they are not impossible. The key here becomes the essential need for the individual in a larger program, perhaps a consulting role rather than a salary for a new teacher.

Let me know how you’re doing.


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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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