Category Archives: How to get grants

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!

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The Second Step: Developing a Solution

If you want to secure grant money for your school, the first step is to understand in detail the problems your school faces. Once you have clearly identified those hurdles to student achievement or schoolwide success, the second step is to develop a plan/solution that has the greatest likelihood of achieving your goals.

When I first became a middle school principal, our test scores indicated that we had a reading problem. Overall, our students read about 1.5 grade levels below the national average. We already had a Title I reading program, but we weren’t getting very good results. We did our research and found that:

1) Although we had a serious school-wide reading problem, only our very poorest readers attended reading classes.
2) Although we knew that reading was a skill, we did not provide enough time durng the school day for our students to practice that skill.
3) Monitoring large amounts of independent reading is difficult without enough computers and specialized software.

With that knowledge, we were able to put together a comprehensive plan in which

• all students, regardless of their reading levels, would attend a reading class.
• each student would spend one hour each day in reading practice on appropriate-level materials.
• we would use the STAR reading test to determine the beginning reading levels of students and to measure growth.
• we would use Accelerated Reader software to monitor students’ daily reading.

In addition, we would initiate “structural” changes in order to meet the needs of our new program:

• In order to make time in the school day for students to receive an hour of reading practice, we had to change from a 7-period to an 8-period schedule.
• All of our teachers would become reading teachers in order to monitor 30 minutes of reading practice time. The regular reading teachers monitored the other 30 minutes and taught mini-lessons on skills.
• We had to purchase STAR and Accelerated Reader.
• We had to purchase thousands of library books to match the reading levels, interests, and reading volume of our students.
• We had to purchase dozens of computers to monitor the program.

We developed a special budget in order to put our plan into place. While our solution was relatively expensive, we did not consider costs when we developed the plan. We only considered the results we would be likely to achieve. To get the money we needed to fund our plan, we tapped into the regular budget, Title I, and special education funds. But that wasn’t enough. We wrote grants, and we entered into a partnership with the software company to do detailed research as we measured our students’ reading growth.

When your school faces a hurdle to student achievement, the key is to build a plan that directly addresses the problem and has the greatest likelihood of success. When you are developing your plan, don’t worry about costs. That will come later. If you can, find schools with similar demographics that have faced similar problems and made major improvements. Duplicate the best parts of their plans if it’s feasible for you to do so — without consideration to money.

When your plan is complete — and you’re sure it is comprehensive and has an excellent chance of success — then comes the time to start worrying about the budget and finding the money to fund your program. Which brings us to the topic we will cover in my next blog: finding grant money to fund your program.

Check it Out: NEW Grant Opportunity!

Grant Name: Bob Costas Grants for the Teaching of Writing

Funded by: College Board

Description: Each year the College Board recognizes exceptional teachers of grades 6 through 12 for the innovative methods they use to develop their students’ writing skills. Grants of $3,000 each will be awarded to teachers who are doing an inspiring job of teaching their students to write and who will benefit most from a grant to enhance a successful project. The award was named for Bob Costas, the Emmy Award-winning broadcaster and author, for his dedication to the craft of writing and his generous public service work on behalf of the National Commission on Writing.

Program Areas: Journalism, Reading

Recipients: Public Schools, Private/Charter Schools

Proposal Deadline: 11/19/10

Average Amount: $3,000.00

Website: http://professionals.collegeboard.com/k-12/awards/costas

Availability: All States

Reading in Your School — How Important Is It?

I have to admit it. After spending 37 years teaching school, providing leadership as a principal, training teachers, and helping schools find the grant money they need, I’ve developed a few hot buttons. I don’t just care about these issues. I am passionate about them.

I firmly believe every child should be taught to read well, that students should be taught to give back to their school and community, that every program worth having should be assessed annually for its effectiveness, and that every principal should be well-trained and provide effective leadership – or find another job.

When I started teaching in 1973, I was 20 years old. I taught social studies in a middle school. Correction. I tried to teach social studies in middle school. The average reading level of our students was two grades below the national average. The textbook I was given to use was approximately one year above an 8th-grade level. That left a 3-year gap between my students’ reading abilities and the level of the text.

In 1974, I began teaching Title I reading. I still believe reading is the most important skill we teach and that reading instruction and practice should continue throughout middle and high school. So much reading is involved in science, social studies, math, geography, health, psychology, and almost every other subject we choose to teach, reading should be a prominent subject in every school.

Granting agencies must agree with me. More grant money is available to schools to improve reading programs than any other single category. That’s right. More grant money is available to help you to improve your students’ reading skills than anything else. Not only is the dollar amount more, but there are more grants available from more sources for reading than any other category.

Reading money is needed in kindergarten and first grade to make sure every child gets a solid foundation in reading. Grant money needs to be spent in most schools to provide programs that will keep all students at an appropriate reading level as they progress from primary school all the way through high school.

As we get into this new school year, ask yourself this question: “Should our school be applying for grant money to improve the reading levels of the students in our school?” The Discount School Supply free grant database lists hundreds of reading grants for both public and private schools. Take advantage of that free resource. Find the grant money you need to make your reading programs absolutely the best you can make them.

Will Your School Need Grants This Year?

The faltering economy will likely make it another tough year for schools financially. Home values throughout most of the nation are still far down from where they once were. With property values down, less taxes will be collected. Some property owners will not be able to pay their property taxes because they haven’t even been able to make their house payments.

Add to the property value problems the fact that cities and states aren’t collecting as much sales tax or any other tax from businesses and corporations because of the slowdown in the economy. As a result many schools will collect even less money than they did last year while prices for fuel and many supplies stay relatively high.

The question is not whether you should write grants for your school this year. The question is can you write and receive enough grants to offset the shortfall that is almost surely coming. What can you do about it?

I suggest you do three things:

First, if you are not already using the free Discount School Supply grant database, you need to begin using it today. The database will allow you to spend a maximum of your time filling out grant applications and a minimum of your time actually looking for grants that are a fit for your school.

Second, recruit and train several people to write grants at your school. You need to be working on a grant application at all times–in fact, several of them. A person cannot write his/her second grant until he/she writes the first one. Get other people involved so you can get enough grant applications out there that it will really make a difference.

Third, consider using The School Funding Center’s grant writers. We write on contingency, so you will only risk a $500 up-front fee in order for us to write any grant for you. If you get grant money, you will owe us a percentage based on the amount of money you receive. If you don’t receive the grant money, you won’t owe us anything else.

There are just two keys to getting large amounts of grant money for your school. You have to make sure the grants for which you apply match up well with the needs of your school. And, you have to fill out enough grant applications, so that if you only get 25-30% of them funded, you’ll still have plenty of money to cover your needs.

The bad news is that tough economic times are here to stay for awhile for most schools. The good news is that you can help address this problem in a positive manner with the number and quality of grant applications
you submit this year.

New Grant Opportunity for Teachers!

Grant Name: Teacher Grants

Funded by: The Kids in Need Foundation

Description: Kids In Need Teacher Grants provide K-12 educators with funding to provide innovative learning opportunities for their students. The Kids In Need Foundation helps to engage students in the learning process by supporting our most creative and important educational resource our nation’s teachers. All certified K-12 teachers in the U.S. are eligible.

Program Areas: Math, Reading, Science/Environment, Technology, All Other

Recipients: Public School, Private/Charter School

Proposal Deadline: 9/30/10

Average Amount: $100.00 – $500.00

Telephone: 877-296-1231

Email: info@kidsinneed.net

Website: http://www.kidsinneed.net/grants/index.php

Availability: All States

It’s Grant-Writing Time

It’s always a good time to apply for grants for your school. Several grants are always available regardless of the time of the year. If I were picking out the very best time to write grants, however, it would be at the beginning of the school year. Here are several reasons why:

1) You have all the data from last school year to determine what problems you had and what needs to be corrected. Why run the same programs and get the same poor results this year? If your math program fell further behind, if your reading levels were not up to par, if your minority students did not perform as well as your other students—all of these are reasons to change your programs and apply for grant money to fund them. You know if you have these problems by scanning last year’s data. Use that data to get the grant money you need.

2) More grants are available this time of year than any other. Fall is when a majority of state and federal grants are announced. You should be scouring the Discount School Supply grant database to see what grants are newly available at least on a weekly basis.

Yes, it’s true, many, many grants are available throughout the year as I said above, but it is also true that more grants are available in August, September, and October than at any other time of the year. Apply for several of these grants. You increase your chances of getting grant money by applying for multiple grants.

3) The beginning of school is usually hectic, but get past the first week or two, and blocking out time to write a grant or two will be easier now than later when things begin to pile up. Write grants before school starts or after things have settled down a little – after the first couple of weeks.

4) You can apply for grant money for the remainder of the fall semester, the spring semester, or even for next summer. You will never have as much flexibility as you do in the fall to apply for money, and, yes, there’s still time to get money for the fall semester.

I’ve listed 4 solid reasons that NOW is the time to write grants for your school. Start by spending some time in the Discount School Supply grant database. Find the grants that match your problem areas and write several grants early in the fall semester. There is simply no better time to go after grant money for your school.