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Education Grants 101

Many school districts find it more and more difficult to function effectively on the support received from state and federal funds. Most school administrators and teachers are aware that grants are available from both federal agencies and private organizations. However, they usually do not know the sources of grant funds, and they do not have the time to research what grants are available and how to obtain grant funds.

Grantseeking and grant writing are, in fact, time-consuming endeavors that require concentrated effort, commitment, and persistence on the part of the grantseeker and grant writer. Some districts have realized that these efforts amount to full-time activities that require the support of a grant development office.

Through such an office, a district can better coordinate the technical skills of grant writing with the expertise of program specialists to develop more effective grant proposals. Office personnel also become knowledgeable on the types of grants available, the standard application procedures, and the differing requirements of each grant.

Grants offices typically collect a variety of information and set up their own reference library, which includes books, directories, newsletters, and names of organizations and contacts who can provide current information on federal, corporate, and foundation grants. Listed below are the four basic steps in the process of seeking grant funds. ​

 1. Conduct Needs Assessment

Before undertaking any grantseeking, a district or campus must first identify its needs by conducting a thorough needs assessment. Successful grants are always designed to meet compelling and clearly defined needs, not just to secure funding. If the needs statement does not contain substantial, justifiable needs, the proposal will be turned down.

Furthermore, the very process of defining needs helps a prospective grantee match its needs with the requirements of specific grant sources. This translates, in turn, into more efficient use of time and a greater likelihood of successful funding.

 2. Investigate Grant Opportunities

The very best way to start investigating grant opportunities is to visit one of the regional foundation libraries, which are located at most major universities. These libraries provide current and comprehensive information, free of charge, on funding sources and grantsmanship. With advance notice, library personnel can also compile materials in your particular area of interest.

Make an appointment with a librarian to review the available materials and then decide if you need to purchase additional publications to inform and assist in the grantseeking process. At the same time, obtain the names and addresses of corporate grantors and private foundations that fund organizations similar to yours; later, you can request in writing to be placed on their mailing lists.

If you are interested in federal funding, make a habit of reviewing the Federal Register for Requests for Comments, which are required of all federal programs. The comment period not only provides an opportunity to comment on the program but also outlines the preliminary program priorities of the potential funding source. With this information you can begin working on your proposal right away instead of waiting for a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) to be issued.

This extra time is especially valuable since the period between the announcement and the deadline is usually too brief to accommodate the typical in-district approval process, particularly if it involves the local board of education.

 ​ 3. Learn to Write a Grant

After becoming acquainted with the different aspects of grants, attend training classes on grant writing. Grant writing is an art that needs to be developed through continuous practice. Volunteering to be a reader of grants can increase your writing skills. This activity will familiarize you with the terms and styles used in grant writing and with how to address federal agencies, corporations, and private foundations when you request funding.

 4. Prepare and Submit the Grant Application

Most grants are designed for institutions rather than individuals, which means teachers face special challenges when seeking grant funds to implement innovative ideas in the classroom. In those districts with established grants departments, teachers should confer with the campus principal to determine the availability of individual grants. Depending on district procedure, either the superintendent, the principal, or the teacher would contact their school district grants department and request that all available information be forwarded to the teacher.

In those districts without such services, the teacher should still consult with the appropriate administrative personnel, but ultimately he or she will need to become a campus-level specialist on grants. Individual teachers would use the process suggested above for acquiring information on grants and grant writing. Additionally, however, they would likely have to present their findings to central office administration in order to secure district-wide support for the grants process.

Once the grant process is underway, the applicant must be careful to meet all the requirements outlined in the RFP or other grant guidelines. Since these requirements are described in narrative form only, it might be helpful to devise a checklist to ensure that all necessary information is included.​​

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