Category Archives: professional development

Grant Writing – Your New Career?

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

pen writing

You are well on your way to finishing your narrative for your grant application to XYZ Foundation. I’ve been concentrating on the technical aspects of grant writing so you’ll have a template, outline and budget planner to use for any grant application process. Just in time for the holidays, let’s step back and scratch the itch I know you’ve been developing. What’s is like to write grants for a living?

First, I need to help you distinguish between grant writing and grants management. If you’re getting really good at this, and enjoy the process (deadlines and stress included), you may want to explore the wonderful world of a career in grantsmanship. If you are the go-to grants person in your school, you are a grant writer. Your school district most likely has a business manager (many are deputy superintendents) who takes the proceeds of successful grant applications and manages the cash flow and expenditure of those funds. If you haven’t done this yet, make an appointment to sit down with the district business manager to explain your progress and interest in working with him/her to make this process smooth and professional.

If this relationship is already perking along, and you are comfortable with your role and the lines around which you actually experience the money, you’ll also want to make sure your principal is aware of your desires and professional management skills. Your district superintendent will want to be in on these discussions, leaving any one of those people out of your conversation is very bad practice, and your new career will end quickly.

I began my career as a teacher and library media specialist who wanted to bring in some funds to improve my school/s. Sound familiar? Believe me, it is intoxicating when the approval letters start to arrive, and checks are cut. Be sure your foundation managers know to whom they will be sending the funds, and how the checks should be endorsed and deposited. Most likely, you will never see the check, unless it’s a small local grant from a merchant in town who has heard of your project. It is critical that these checks are handled correctly and handed over promptly to the appropriate parties. Make copies of everything, put your paperwork in a binder, and keep it secure. Create a duplicate binder for your business manager and update it for her frequently. Hand deliver checks or send via certified mail.

Pretty soon in my grant writing career, I knew I wanted to do this again, and again, and ….. I had no idea where to take this new found ambition. You have now entered the spooky world of school district politics. The way you approach this, and the manner in which you communicate your intentions is very important. Transparency rocks!

I knew I wanted to broaden my education, so I went back to school to finish a master’s degree in educational administration. Good education junkie that I am, this degree program was heady and full of promise, and I happily completed it for many reasons having nothing to do with grants. The possibilities are endless for advancement in public (or private) education. School districts need great leaders. Keep in mind your school year will lengthen, summer vacations will vanish, and your colleagues will look at you in a whole new light. Don’t get bogged down by faculty room nattering about “those idiots downtown” even if you’ve jumped right in to those conversations in the past. If your plans pan out, you’re about to become an idiot.

My first administrative job in a large urban district was in the curriculum office. This was ideal for me, coming from special education and library media, I could now broaden my outlook to curriculum k-12, a great vantage from which to view the needs of your learning community. If you remember you are creating with standards as your guide (Common Core State Standards), and all subjects as your palette, you can start painting pictures that illustrate the road to the improvement of academic achievement for your students. Remember, it’s not about the money; it’s really about children and their path to learning. You can become well rounded in the curriculum office, or as a principal.

Then as time went by and a position opened up in the grants office, I saw the opportunity and went to work. My responsibilities were for acquiring and managing state, federal, private and corporate grant resources for schools. There were times when I felt I was ill-suited for the job, bean counting and attention to meticulous detail were really not my forte, but I had a great staff of accounting clerks to help me keep it all straight.

I had big wipe off calendars on the wall to keep me on track, and with help from some professionals in the field, it has become a great career. I have now moved on to consulting, blogging and grant making, another avenue with promising career possibilities. For your perusal, I present you with some organizations that may help you decide if this is for you, and help you scratch your itch:

Networking: LinkedIn, Grant Manager Profiles

Education and Training: Lists of degree programs. Professional OrganizationsHow-to sites. and Blogs.

You’ll work long hours, have stressful days, and think you’ve lost your mind on several occasions, but you will join a group of professionals who are in it for the kids in a very big way. If it’s not about the kids, you’re in it for the wrong reason.

Let me know what you think!

Tone and Voice in Grant Narrative

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

steno and pen

Writer’s block is a common problem among grant writers. You work hard to collect useful and relevant information for your narrative, create an outline, get organized, and try to figure out what to cut or leave in a narrative paragraph so it passes word count or page restrictions put in place by the grantor.

It never fails! I get to the point of taking the narrative outline and filling it out to make a pleasing and convincing narrative for the grant readers to evaluate and I freeze. The stakes are high, you want this application to be successful, you know you have competition coming from grant writing professionals from disparate organizations, schools, and social service agencies.

You know you are eligible because you’ve checked with the foundation to make sure it provides funds to public schools (or whatever entity you are writing for). You can’t stall any longer. So, you start to write.

Often, what comes out, at least at first, is a stiff, formal recitation of facts: your test and demographic data to support your need, a list of activities you will pursue to solve the problem, your goals and objectives, and data to support your assessment strategy.

On your first read through a common reaction to your own writing is “Ughrrrgh, that’s just awful”. Your spelling of “ughrrrgh” will vary depending on your general feelings of self-worth, but it’s always the same. It’s ok, it’s supposed to be awful at this stage, you will write and rewrite many times before you submit your application. It’s one of the reasons you have assembled your stakeholders in the first place. They will act as proofreaders and provide commentary when the tortuous task of writing is complete. Thank goodness you have friends!

One tip to hold on to: Every foundation, corporation, or government agency that provides grants has grant readers. These folks are experienced; they’ve been reading grant applications for a long time. They know what the foundation is trying to achieve by the careful application of funds in the community. In the first round of reading applications, they may read hundreds of narratives. You want your application to stand out, be readable and be persuasive. You may draw the line at entertaining, but an injection of humor is not out of the question, especially if you’ve met the readers and have a standing relationship with the organization. An excellent, thorough article on grant writing style can be found at the Purdue University OWL (Online Writing Lab) site.

Whatever you do, keep your voice professional. These readers wade through some of the most egregious assaults on the English language you have ever seen. I know this because I have been a reader for a number of private foundations. You would not believe the misspelled, grammatically sinful drivel people submit. Keep your voice professional, your tone serious (but not deadening) and above all, your grammar and spelling impeccable. If you have added footnotes (this is often a good idea if you are providing a review of research literature), use MLA (Modern Language Association) or APA (American Psychological Association) rules of style.

To remind yourself of the best writing you have done, go through old college papers, select the ones that garnered an A, and see for yourself. You’re pretty good at this, but you just need encouragement and support. Your goal is to persuade, so a review of guidelines for persuasive essays might help.

Another tip, when you’ve finished your first draft, go back and eliminate redundancies, shorten your sentences (more like Hemingway than Faulkner). Save your long, winding, lyrical prose for the great American novel you know will write one day.

Tips and tricks for a great grant narrative:

  • Be kind to the beloved grant reader.
  • Keep your sentences short.
  • Use a professional tone and voice.
  • Perform positive, self-affirming exercises in the mirror each day.
  • Support your application with strong demographic information.
  • Used an organized approach (outline, footnotes).
  • Avoid the “aaarrrggghhh” by taking breaks and deep breaths.

Remember, you may fail the first time around, but you WILL get better at this.

If you fail the first time, be sure to contact the grantor and ask for an evaluation rubric so you can find out why your attempt wasn’t successful. They will be helpful and will share their thoughts freely. They want you to succeed; a good strong application narrative helps them see the beauty of your argument and your solution to the problem you face in your school.

Check It Out: New Grant Opportunity!

Grant Name:  Learning & Leadership Grants

Funded by: The NEA Foundation

Description: These grants support public school teachers, public education support professionals, and/or faculty and staff in public institutions of higher education for one of the following two purposes: 1) Grants to individuals fund participation in high-quality professional development experiences, such as summer institutes or action research. 2) Grants to groups fund collegial study, including study groups, action research, lesson study, or mentoring experiences for faculty or staff new to an assignment. Applicants must be practicing U.S. public school teachers in grades K-12, public school education support professionals, or faculty and staff at public higher education institutions. Preference will be given to members of the National Education Association. The NEA Foundation encourages grant applications from teachers with less than seven years of experience in the profession, and education support professionals.

Program AreasGeneral Education, Professional Development

RecipientsPublic School, Higher Education

Proposal Deadline6/1/13

Average Amount$2,000.00 – $5,000.00

Telephone:  202-822-7839

Email:  jgraytock@nea.org

Websitehttp://www.neafoundation.org/programs/Learning&Leadership_Guidelines.htm

Availability:  All States

Check It Out: NEW Grant Opportunity!

Grant Name: Learning & Leadership Grants

Funded by: The NEA Foundation

Description: These grants support public school teachers, public education support professionals, and/or faculty and staff in public institutions of higher education for one of the following two purposes: 1) Grants to individuals fund participation in high-quality professional development experiences, such as summer institutes or action research. 2) Grants to groups fund collegial study, including study groups, action research, lesson study, or mentoring experiences for faculty or staff new to an assignment. Applicants must be practicing U.S. public school teachers in grades K-12, public school education support professionals, or faculty and staff at public higher education institutions. Preference will be given to members of the National Education Association. The NEA Foundation encourages grant applications from teachers with less than seven years of experience in the profession, and education support professionals. Applicants: Mail the original and five (5) copies of your application t o the address listed below. Please do not staple or bind your application. Applications that do not comply with the guidelines or that include materials not specifically requested by The NEA Foundation will not be reviewed. Applications sent by e-mail or fax, or incomplete applications, will not be reviewed.

Program Areas: General Education, Professional Development

Recipients: Public Schools, Higher Education

Proposal Deadline: 6/1/2011

Average Amount: $2,000.00 – $5,000.00

Telephone: 202-822-7840

Email: info-neafoundation@lost.nea.org

Website: http://www.neafoundation.org/programs/Learning&Leadership Guidelines.htm

Availability: All States

Check it Out: NEW Grant Opportunity!

Grant Name: Learning & Leadership Grants

Funded by: The NEA Foundation

Description: These grants support public school teachers, public education support professionals, and/or faculty and staff in public institutions of higher education for one of the following two purposes: 1) Grants to individuals fund participation in high-quality professional development experiences, such as summer institutes or action research. 2) Grants to groups fund collegial study, including study groups, action research, lesson study, or mentoring experiences for faculty or staff new to an assignment. Applicants must be practicing U.S. public school teachers in grades K-12, public school education support professionals, or faculty and staff at public higher education institutions. Preference will be given to members of the National Education Association. The NEA Foundation encourages grant applications from teachers with less than seven years of experience in the profession and education support professionals. Applicants: Mail the original and five (5) copies of your application to the address listed below. Please do not staple or bind your application. Applications that do not comply with the guidelines or that include materials not specifically requested by The NEA Foundation will not be reviewed. Applications sent by e-mail or fax, or incomplete applications, will not be reviewed.

Program Areas: General Education, Professional Development

Recipients: Public Schools, Higher Education

Proposal Deadline: 2/1/11

Average amount: $2,000.00 – $5,000.00

Telephone: 202-822-7840

Email: info-neafoundation@list.nea.org

Website: http://www.neafoundation.org/programs/Learning&Leadership_Guidelines.htm

Availability: All States