Research Sources for Grant Success

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.

Once you have constructed a narrative that is not only readable, but provides accurate statistical information about your town, keep it updated and handy in a folder or binder on your desk. Mine the data often; to address new areas of concern (i.e. add a few words about crime).

Another good habit is to keep a “resources” binder for each grant you write. In it, you will file all the extraneous documents you collect as you put a grant application together. Often, a grantor will send you a packet of information in the mail when you express interest in an opportunity. Punch holes in the docs and pop them in a binder, you will be amazed how often you reach for it. The binder will contain letters and any other communications you receive and send. Print out copies of relevant emails, and URL lists that represent online resources you have used to put together your appeal.

It may seem old fashioned to do the paper and archival thing, but I find the duplication of reference material very comforting. It’s a habit that helps me sleep well at night. Another printout to save is contact information for personnel in other schools that have had success with grants from a grantor. These folks will become valuable partners as you put your appeal together. You’ll find a list of successful past applicants on the foundation’s website.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has put together a procedural manual called “Grants for Schools: Getting Them and Using Them“. It’s intended to provide grant managers with information on the rules and regulations they will face as they apply for state pass-through grants; i.e. Title I. I have read the documents on this website at least 5 times, and I learn something new each time. Government grants have their own world of complexity, and the information you will read here can be put to one side for the day when you are the official district Grants Manager. In the meantime, you will absorb and learn wonderful habits for grant writing, especially budget management, the most difficult and complicated part of the job.

Without a doubt, the most useful is the Project Expenditure spreadsheet. With a little bit of editing and adjustment, use it for all grant applications. It will help you keep an eye on the amounts you have asked for, and you can add fields to record what you have spent. You will never forget a line item again. I’ve made one that looks at the lines in another way; it may be more useful for you.

When you work in a budget and grants office, you need to be organized. Everything is on deadline, and deadlines can cause stress, and stress can cause mistakes. If my blog articles are useful for anything, they help you identify and practice good money management habits, and narrative writing tips and tricks.

Other resources:

Good Grant Writing Habits
Data for Rural Areas
Ask a Librarian –
Research Guides for Writing a Grant

Leave a comment or question, I’d love to pass along any tips you want to add.


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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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