Category Archives: grant database

Midterm Grant Narrative Review

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS

money on a clothes line

You are well on your way to finishing your narrative for your grant application to XYZ Foundation. You now understand why the dollar amount you are requesting was a big question mark when you started this process; it needed to be revealed along the way, as part of the process. If you started your grant writing project with “We’re going to need and write for $10,000.00 you know you started from the wrong place in the process.”

A caveat is probably due from the author at this point. The processes and tips I provide are what have worked for me. I am a veteran grant writer and manager, I’ve raised millions of dollars for schools and over time, I’ve developed a rhythm of what needs to happen when. You may find a better way, one that works best for you, but some of the words of wisdom I provide will save you a great deal of time and get you off on the right foot.

The three big caveats are:

1. You are not writing a grant to get money for your school, you are creating an appeal to a foundation to join with you in a partnership that will solve a problem and help improve academic achievement in your school.

2. When you start to write the narrative, you have only a very vague idea of how much money you are requesting, that is being revealed as you go along and identify research based ways to solve your problem.

3. The relationship you develop with the foundation or corporation you have identified from your research through the Grants Database will be a long-term partnership. Once you have a grant from this organization, the door is open for future support. They will become your benefactor in many ways. You may find that corporations will want their employees to volunteer in your school to get real-world experience and become partners in the education of children in their community.

4. A bonus fourth caveat is that you may need to write several grants to different funding organizations to cover all the costs of your project. This happens all the time. You’ll get to know what each supporter will and won’t pay for. There’s always another who will step up and pay for that last little piece of the puzzle.

I’ve provided you with a budget planner spreadsheet. It is a great idea to stop now and take a closer look at it. You may want to add to it, print it out, and keep it handy so you can be sure you are not forgetting any details for providing for your needs. Please print it out right now, and let’s look at some of the line items (now you’ll know what people mean when they talk about things like line items.).

You’ll want to give every grant application a number. On the budget planner you’ll see a place for “ORG”. That’s the internal number you will use to identify the grants you pursue and keep them all organized. You will want to start creating and identifying numbering systems. A combination letter and number code has always worked for me. A state grant might begin with S1 – your first state grant might be S1 and so forth. You might want to add a date, call it S1111513 (first state grant submitted on 11/15/2013).

You’ll find lines for salaries, this will include part and full time staffs you will need to carry out your plan. Your principal might want to cover part of a teacher’s salary with funds from the grant. This amount will fall under “instructional salary.” A stipend is usually an hourly rate for staff you will hire part time. You want to keep administrative, instructional, clerical and paraprofessional salaries separate. If you’re paying for part of a teacher’s salary, you’ll want to be sure to cover their fringe benefits (how much will you need to subsidize their health insurance for example).

Contractual stands for companies or consultants you will bring in to provide services that support the project. Start thinking now about drawing up an actual contract with your service providers (more about this later in the series). Everyone is happier when things are carefully spelled out and all parties have signed an agreement. There is no such thing as a casual relationship when money is involved.

Your supply lines need to be specific. Grantors will want to know the percentages of your budget that you are setting aside for different items. You will want to work with your foundation representative to see if they have limits on lines. They may only be willing to support a salary at 10% for instance. Or computer software and supplies can only represent 15% of the total request. They will help you with the budget, take advantage of their expertise. In the beginning of my grant writing career I was intimidated by the budget, but quickly learned that the foundation was very eager to help with the details. They want you to succeed. Private grants (foundations and corporations) are competitive but that doesn’t necessarily mean “impossible to get”. If, by the time they score your application with their scoring rubric, you have been on the phone with them to work through details; they know about your needs and have a name and face to go with the application. You will be that much more ahead of the curve.

You’ll want to be sure you are supplementing not supplanting. The grant funds you seek will support the materials and supplies your city is paying for, not taking the place of, or becoming the sole source for materials that should be covered by your local budget.

Yes, it’s complicated; it’s a great deal of information to absorb all at once. That’s why this blog is crafted in a logical progression, to describe bits and pieces. It’s all intended to help you become a confident and successful grant writer.

Please feel free to comment on this blog and provide ideas and suggestions. I value your insights.

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Am I Spinning My Wheels?

money backpack briefcase

After you have a few grant applications under your belt, and you still don’t have a grant in hand, it’s easy to become discouraged. Be brave, there are hundreds (probably thousands) of grant opportunities out there just waiting for the right program idea to attract and woo grant makers. I hear teachers ask, “What am I doing wrong?” My response is always, “You’re not doing anything wrong, just excercise patience and persistence.” There are some key tips to improving your chances of success, but mostly it’s believing in your school, your programs and your idea that will bring home the bacon. Grant writing is also about building relationships. When you identify a potential grantor, don’t be shy, get to know the people in the organization.

The two main types of competitive grants that we are interested in:

1)    Foundation grants

2)    Corporate grants

These are the grant opportunities you will find in the Grants Database on the Discount School Supply® website.

“Competitive” means that you have an equal opportunity to secure the funds available from the grantor, assuming you meet eligibility requirements, and you have a program that meets the grantor’s agenda. Corporations and foundations set up their funding arms to solve problems they feel are important in their communities. Get to know what these issues are, the Grants Database provides links to the organization’s website, you will find plenty of information there for learning what they have set out to accomplish with their charity.

Most of the thousands of foundations that give grant money to schools will continue to do so year after year. They are required to give a certain amount of grant money each year in order to keep their tax-exempt status. While it is true that some foundations may give less money than they have in the past, due to economic downturns, they will still be sponsoring grants. Good news is, as we approach fall of 2013, corporate profits are up, a piece of those profits must go out to the community. Unfortunately, foundations do not typically advertise their grant programs. You have to search for opportunities in a grant database or find them on the Internet. That’s where the Grants Database comes in—it will become a valuable tool as you move forward to snag those dollars.

Schools that write good, strong, competitive grant proposals well before the deadline will get their share. And schools that consistently and persistently apply for grants year after year, will reap benefits. Don’t get discouraged, you can make sure your school gets its share of available grants.

  • Keep your program ideas aligned to the Common Core State Standards.
  • Be data driven
  • Use your test scores to illustrate your needs.

For instance, if you need a new reading program, include graphs and charts about reading scores. Much of this data can be found right in your own district office, or your state education department will no doubt supply the information you need on their websites.  Funding for supplies can often be found as an “in-kind” donation. If you have a technology company in your town, they might step up and give your school some new computers. Or if you already have a grant for an after school program, approach another foundation for a “matching grant”. This foundation’s job will be to provide that last piece of support you need to make your program a success. Make sure their contribution is not treated like an “extra”; the funder needs the acclaim and advertising that comes with any community gift.

With persistence and patience, the brass ring will get closer all the time!

The 4th Step: Finding Matching Grants

If you want to secure grant money for your school, the first step is to understand in detail the main issues your school faces. The second step is to develop a solution that has the greatest likelihood of solving one of those problems. The third step is to find all possible grants that might fund your solution. And the fourth step — the subject of this post — is to narrow down the list of grants to those whose criteria match your needs and then call a contact person to verify that match.

Over the course of a year, hundreds of grants will become available to your school. The tricky part, however, is finding among all those grants the few that might fund your plan and support your goals. That’s why it is so important to employ a comprehensive grant database.  A grant database allows you to search quickly and easily for grants that match your needs. Yes, you could use your favorite Internet search engine to locate grants, but you will need to wade through thousands of search results — many of which won’t apply to your type of school, won’t match up with your specific needs, or have deadlines that have already passed. A good grant database allows you to tailor your searches and find likely matches in minutes rather than hours, days, or weeks.

Even when you use a good grant database, you still have additional work to do. In just a few minutes, a database can provide 30 reading grants for private schools in your state or 50 math grants for public schools. Once you’ve narrowed down and identified those grants, then your real work begins: you must search through those grants to find the ones for which you qualify. You will be able to eliminate some that don’t tie in with your goals. You will eliminate others for which you might not qualify because your school doesn’t meet one or more of the grant’s criteria.

TWO INVALUABLE RESOURCES

Fortunately, good databases provide two essential resources to support your grant research.

The first resource is a live link to the grant’s website. Use that link to find every bit of information you can about the grantor and the specific grant. Typically, the website will list more grant restrictions than a short database entry can list. If you find anything that clearly disqualifies your school from receiving a particular grant, simply go on to the next grant on your list. Almost anything you would want to know about grantors or the grants they offer can be found on their websites. Those websites are invaluable tools that will help you determine if you and that grant/grantor are a good match.

The second resource is a phone number or email address so you can communicate directly with the grant’s contact person. Once you are quite sure that a grant matches the needs of your school, call or email the contact person. (I prefer calling that person myself.) I never start completing a grant application without first getting in touch with the contact. While that contact person cannot tell you that you will get the grant money you seek, he or she can certainly confirm that you are eligible to apply. You might also pick up from the person’s voice a tone that is either encouraging or discouraging. If that tone is particularly negative, I would recommend moving on to the next grant on your list. I would definitely make this call — even if it is hard for you to do — because it can save you hours and hours of needless work.

If you don’t make use of those two resources, you are wasting valuable time. Remember, check out any website for which you are given a link and call or email the contact person to make absolutely sure you qualify for a grant.

The Third Step: Finding Possible Grants

If you want to secure grant money for your school, the first step is to understand in detail the main problems/needs your school faces. The second step — the subject of the last blog — is to develop a solution that has the greatest chance to solve that problem. And the third step is to locate all possible grants that might help fund your solution.

Grants available to schools fall into three basic categories: federal grants, state grants, and foundation or corporate grants. Federal and state grants are generally larger, and their applications are longer and more difficult to complete. Foundation and corporate grants typically yield schools less money, but their applications are less complex. That means you can usually fill out several foundation applications in the time it takes to complete one federal or state application.

Many educators attempt to locate grants on the Internet by using search engines or by subscribing to grant newsletters. Those methods tend to be inefficient and end up costing both time and money. The best way to locate potential grants is to use a grant database. The more comprehensive and up-to-date the database, the better it will serve your needs.

Your very best choice for using a grant database is the free one offered by Discount School Supply®.  It is large, free, and fairly comprehensive.  By far the most comprehensive grant database available to educators is the School Funding Center Grant Database. It contains virtually all federal, state, foundation, and corporate grants available to schools in the United States. Old grants are removed and new grants are posted on a daily basis. The one drawback to using this database is the cost — $397.00 per year. While relatively expensive, it still saves educators both time and money because of its comprehensive nature. First, use the free database provided by Discount School Supply®.  If you need even more grant information, go the database provided by The School Funding Center.

If you are looking specifically for federal grants, another good database to use is ED.gov Grants. This resource comes directly from the federal government, and it is free. It lists every federal education grant available to schools in the United States. It does not list state, foundation, or corporate grants. If you use this grant resource, you will still want to track down discretionary grants for schools.

If you are specifically looking for state grants, your best bet is to go to your state education agency’s website. Some of those sites include good grant databases that will help you locate current state grants. Others are not so good — or worse than that — and will take a little more work on your part. Go to ED.gov’s Education Resource Organizations Directory page to find your state education agency’s website. If your state’s site does not have “grants” or “funding” listed in its menu bar, type “grants” into the search box on the site to see if you can find listings that way.

If you are specifically looking for foundation grants, your best bet is to go to the Foundation Center. This organization lists thousands and thousands of foundations in its database. Many of those foundations offer grants to schools. The database is good for finding foundation grants, but the subscription cost ranges from $595.00 – $995.00 per year depending on the number of foundations you want listed in your searches. The more comprehensive the database you wish to search, the more your subscription will cost.

While you can find grant listings in many places, if you want to find all of the grants available to you quickly and easily, you will want to use one or more of the grant databases listed above. Remember, grant writers should use their time to write grants, not look for them. Save both time and money by using a good, established school grant database to locate the funding solutions you need in order to improve student achievement.

Step One: Understanding Your Needs

If you want to secure grant money for your school, your very first step is to understand — in detail — the needs your school faces. To understand the true depth of those needs, you must consistently perform needs assessments. A good needs assessment measures the difference between what you expect of students in your classroom, school, or district, and what actually happens. The wider the gap between expectations and actual outcomes, the larger the need you have.

The easiest way to do a needs assessment is to look at the goals you set for the year and see if you met them. The end of the school year is the ideal time to assess your progress. By that time you should have state tests, nationally-normed tests, and locally developed tests to help you determine the actual growth of your students. If you do not currently have assessment tools in place, proper assessment should definitely be your first goal for the year.

As you begin to fill out grant applications, you will need to include details gathered from your needs assessments. Remember, a needs assessment is any instrument that measures the difference in current conditions and desired conditions. Typically, most of the information you need for grant applications can be gleaned from testing instruments, but you might also need to use student, teacher, or parent surveys.

In addition, your disciplinary and attendance records might be used as needs-assessment instruments. For example, I often talk of schools where students perform 1.5 to 2 years behind in math or reading. You might determine from your attendance records that the at-risk students who score low in reading and math are the ones who have the poorest attendance. Maybe the problem is not class size or the instructional programs you currently use. Maybe the problem is that students are not learning what you’re teaching because they don’t attend school regularly enough to master the skills they need to perform on grade level.

Good needs-assessment instruments help you to examine a wide range of problems and programs from many different angles and to determine exactly what problems you face. Failure to review those assessment tools at the end of each school year, simply put, is a mistake. In fact, your grant program should be built around those needs assessments. You should perform your needs assessments, use them to determine the largest problems you face, and then determine if you have local money to fix those problems. If you do not have enough money locally, then you should use a grant database to explore the many opportunities for grant money that can be used to address — and solve — those problems.

From time to time, new needs surface in a district, school, or classroom — needs that have not been part of your regular needs assessments. You may be seeing gang activity in your school for the first time, a larger percentage of dropouts than you have experienced before, or an influx into your community of a sizeable number of students who cannot speak English. Those issues are excellent candidates for grant writing because you have not experienced them before, so it is unlikely you have built money into your budget to address them.

As you are surely aware, the end of the school year does not mean that you lock up the doors and head off on vacation. If you write grants for your school, the end of the fall semester and the end of the year are the times to study the results provided by your needs-assessment tools to discover the problems that need to be addressed through your grant-writing program. Needs assessments are the starting point of any good school grant program. Be sure you use them to your advantage.

Get All the Grant Money You Need

I wish there were secrets for getting grant money for your school.  If there were, I’d be more than happy to share them with you in this blog.  But there are no secrets to getting grant money. You can get your share of grants provided you follow the proper steps consistently. Most of the schools that don’t win grant money either don’t apply for grants or do so in a haphazard way. Below are seven critical steps that I believe you need to follow and apply in order to secure grant money for your school. I will break down each of these steps in more detail in future blogs, but please don’t wait for those blogs to start using this information.  You should be applying for grants right now for summer school and the fall semester.

1. Understand in detail the problems your school faces. If you want to secure grant money for your school, the first step is to understand in detail the problems your school faces. To understand the problems and their severity, you must consistently perform needs assessments. A good needs assessment will measure the difference between what you expect to happen in your classroom, school, or district and what actually happens. The wider the gap between expectations and actual outcomes, the larger the problem you have.

2. Develop a solution that has the greatest chance of solving the problem. Once you have identified your greatest problem, the second step toward obtaining grant money is to develop the solution that has the greatest chance of solving your problem. That solution will entail details about personnel, programs, time, and materials that will be needed to accomplish your goal. For example: What will it take to get your students reading on grade level rather than 1.5 years behind the national average? You must develop a plan and have every expectation that it will work. As a part of the plan development process, you must develop a reasonable budget that details what it will cost to implement your plan.

3. Begin looking for grant money to pay for your program. Assuming that you do not have the money in your regular budget to finance your plan, step three is to begin looking for grant money to pay for your program. Since your time writing grants is more valuable than your time looking for them, I strongly recommend that you use a comprehensive school-grant database to match your needs with a grant from the federal government, your state government, a corporation, or a foundation. It is vitally important that you match your needs as closely as possible with a granting entity that uses its grant money to help schools solve the type of problem you are experiencing.  Obviously, you should use the free Discount School Supply® school grant database first.

4. Verify that your school is eligible for the grants you will seek. The match between your needs and the granting agency’s requirements is so important that it leads directly to step number four: always call the person listed as the contact for the grant(s) you seek and verify that your school is eligible for that grant (those grants). If you are not eligible, or you sense a negative response from the contact person, you should immediately go back to step three and start the matching process again. If you are going to be successful in getting grant money, you must have good, verified matches.

5. Obtain the grant application and read it carefully. Step five involves gathering information. Once you know you have a match between your needs and a grantor, you should obtain a copy of the grant application, read it carefully, and gather all the statistics and other information you will need about your school and your needs in order to complete the grant application.

6. Complete the application. Write clearly and concisely. Follow all directions to the letter, including the font style and type size that you use to prepare the application. Complete every section of the application. To be sure you do a quality job, complete each section as if it were the only section on the application. You will be competing for this money with other schools. A quality application is essential.

7. Get your application in the mail a week before the deadline. The final step is to complete your application and get it in the mail at least one week before the deadline. Overnight delivery does not always mean your package will be delivered the next day. If your package is late, you may be able to reclaim the postage you paid; but if you’ve missed the grant deadline, the granting entity will not consider your application.

That’s it. Follow those seven steps, and you will get more than your share of grant money. For more detail on these steps, watch the next seven blogs to make this seven-step process work even better for you.

3 Good Reasons to Apply for Grants Now

January is the perfect time to apply for grants. You should be back into your regular routine after the holidays. That should give you the opportunity to set aside some time for grant writing. I know it’s never easy to find the time to apply for grants, but you should make every effort to do so now because in January and early February the stars align to give you a very good opportunity to win some grant money.

For one thing, many new grants are announced at the beginning of the year. You should use the Discount School Supply® grant database and look for any new grants that have been posted recently. Some of these will be entirely new grants that have never been offered before. Others are grants that are offered annually but are not announced until January each year. Either way, you should find new grants in the database that were not there during the last few months. Take advantage of these new opportunities by applying for one or two of the grants that have just been posted.

A second good reason to apply for grants now is that you have the freshest assessment data to work with that you’ll have all year. As I’ve stated many time before, each of the programs at your school should be assessed at mid-term and at the end of the school year. You should have done your assessments at the end of December or the beginning of January. That means you have access to the best assessment data that you’re ever going to have. You’ve just finished a semester. You know exactly how much progress each student has made within each program.  Now you’re ready to sit down and write grants using that invaluable assessment data.  You may want to fix a program that’s lagging or expand a successful program. It really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you have the assessment data that you need to apply for whatever type of grant you need.

The third reason to apply for grants right now is that you can apply for three different time periods.  You can apply for some quick grant money (probably in the form of foundation or corporate grants) for the spring semester. You can also apply for grant money for summer school which is now just around the corner. Finally, you can begin to apply for larger (probably state or federal) grants for the fall semester. Because many of these grants have much longer, more involved applications, you may want to begin writing them now. It’s never too early to start piecing together the parts of a large grant which may impact your entire school district.

Grant money is becoming vital to many campuses and districts. Hopefully your school has a plan for writing grants. The two very best times to apply for grants is during January and February and at the beginning of the school year in September and October. Since we’re already well into January, you should start applying for grants immediately.

You should never miss these opportunities to apply for the grants you need. Why? Three reasons:  many new grants are announced at this time of year, you have fresh assessment data, and you can apply for grant money for the spring semester, summer school, and the fall semester.

Don’t delay. Start using that free Discount School Supply® grant database to find the grants you need today. Start filling out those grant applications tomorrow.