Want to Write Grants Full Time?

When I wrote my first grant, I was a Library Media Specialist, happily ensconced in my tower of learning and my developing collection of books. I love teaching kids to become lifelong learners. If you had told me I was going to become a school administrator in the Central Office, with responsibility for all district grants, I would have told you “No Way”.

The first effort was a small Verizon mini-grant, to buy some much-needed technology for the Library. I was able to come up with a compelling argument for the materials; I linked the supplies to test scores and district achievement data. I used this formula again, and again, and was successful in ramping up the dollar amounts each time. My Principal was very happy, so was I.

During lunch and after school I found myself researching grant sources and talking to teachers about what they needed to improve academic achievement in their classrooms. I lurked on sites like LinkedIn and sections for professional grant writers and global philanthropists. All of my grant-related activities were attracting attention, and eventually I was offered a job. The rest is history.

If you are interested in following a similar path, there are some tips I can provide. If you want to get some training, I recommend concentrating on school administration in general. Grant writing is as much about developing leadership skills as it is about raising money. A master’s degree in Educational Administration will serve you well, even if you change your mind about the grant writing specialization.

If you’re thinking you don’t have the right stuff, there are a few characteristics successful grant writers share. They are:

  • organized
  • comfortable with committees and groups
  • creative
  • detail and deadline oriented

Forget about the budgets and math for right now. That will come later, and you’ll have plenty of help and guidance from your district business manager and people in the purchasing office. You probably are reading this because you’ve had some success with writing narratives that resonate with funding entities. This is no small feat and it’s a great place to start.

If you’re thinking about becoming an administrator, one of the big things you’ll have to do is be prepared to give up your summers. I thought this would be a big mistake and resisted taking the plunge for that reason alone. In truth, I haven’t missed the summer breaks at all, and I feel more productive and useful in the bargain. I do miss my Library – but I visit there often and have a great relationship with the new LMS. In fact, I consult with him often – he has great ideas for keeping libraries relevant in the Internet age.

When you’re a school district administrator, you see the big picture. This becomes very useful when you approach a grant project. You’ll need to know how to make all the pieces fit into district goals and objectives. Over time, if you’re writing government grants, you’ll begin to understand state and federal government goals and objectives (good luck with that). You’ll go from “I need” to “we need”, not a bad transition.

Master’s Degrees in Educational Administration
Online M.S.Ed. Administration
Grant Writing Training
List of Grant Writing Courses and Training
Grant Writing Networking Groups
Education Administration Major

I’d really love to know how you’re doing out there. 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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