Category Archives: school grant databases

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!

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 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.

What Kinds of Projects Will Grants Fund?

Sometimes I’m amazed at people when they ask me about projects they’d like to fund with grant money. I’ve had people ask me to direct them to the grants that will pay for their senior class to go to France. I’ve had football boosters who needed direction to the nearest grant that would build them a new field house. At least once a year someone needs to find a grant that will help keep a job that’s being cut.

I’m not saying that grantors never fund projects like these. I’d say it’s more like a one-in-a-million shot. That’s not never, but it’s really close.  

The majority of grant money seems to be set aside for academic problems that schools face. To a lesser degree, the arts get a good share of grant money, too. Quite a bit of money is also available for technology. More and more attention is being paid to the environment and environmental projects in schools. One more rather hot grant topic is school nutrition and child obesity. Naturally, it is always a help when each of these latter topics mentioned fit into the realm of broader academic problems.

Reading and math grants lead the pack in sheer numbers, but science grants are relatively numerous, too. Within these grants, do schools have an advantage if they have large low-socioeconomic and at-risk students? Yes, they do, but that doesn’t mean that other schools don’t have a shot at plenty of grant money as well.

As I’ve often said, finding grant money for your school is a numbers game. You throw the net out wide using a school grant database, and then you narrow and narrow until you find the grants that you are most eligible to receive. If you complete one grant proposal, and you’re not all that eligible in the first place, chances are you’re not going to get a lot of grant money. If you apply for five grants that exactly match your needs and qualifications, you have a very good chance of getting grant money.

With all of that said, there are still grants out there that fill some unusual needs. One grantor resurfaces several tracks each year. Another helps build baseball fields. Another supports soccer programs. One helps build skateboard parks. Another helps build bicycle paths. Target has a large program that funds field trips for schools. Several organizations let you advertise your project and help you find sponsors for it. One organization helps put used band instruments into needy schools. Another gives good, used computers to schools.

All in all, I’d say most worthy projects can find grant backing if you are both patient and persistent. You just have to think about the grantors. Would they rather see their money being spent to send a senior class to France or having at-risk students in an inner-city school read better?

In summary, it is going to be easier for you to find grant money to fund projects in the areas of reading, math, science, technology, the arts, the environment, and nutrition and childhood obesity. Still, that does not mean that grant money is not available for a host of other worthwhile projects that your school needs in order to overcome some of its other problems.

Can You Get Grant Money Locally?

In my last post I gave you several places to look for grants.  Mainly I listed grant databases available to you since I am convinced these databases are the most logical place to find grants these days.  Hey, we might as well use computers to their full advantage, and up-to-date, comprehensive grant databases just weren’t available 20 years ago.                                                                                 
Sometimes these databases, as good as they are, just aren’t going to list some of the grants that are available to you. Some grants are purely local, don’t have set criteria, and are never publicly announced.
Most of my time in education was spent in a small East Texas school district where I was a teacher, principal, and assistant superintendent for 20 years. In that time, I asked for and got $15,000 for my middle school and then another $75,000 for the district from one local business. How did I get that money? I just asked for it. I laid out a plan showing that by investing this money in the local school system, the company would have better educated employees when the current students graduated in a few years and sought jobs locally.
In addition to that money, a well-to-do couple in our community gave the school district enough money to buy a vocational center for the agriculture department, rebuild the press box at the football stadium, and to repair and update the baseball field.We didn’t even approach them. They came to us, gave us the money, and told us how they would like it spent. Their two children went to our school, and they just wanted to help.
Educators also often overlook the opportunity to ask for help from “big box” stores in their area.  Most of these have regular corporate grant programs, but they don’t always advertise the $1,000 to $3,000 dollar grants they often give to local groups.  To find out if your local Wal-Mart, Target, Lowes, Home Depot, Best Buy, etc. has such a program, just go to the store and ask the manager.  If they do, ask what type of projects qualify.  If they don’t, go to the next store.  Most of the time your school or organization doesn’t have to lie within the city limits. In fact, if you are within a 50-mile radius and the city is your regular shopping destination, you will usually qualify.
Even if you’re getting money locally, and the grantor doesn’t require a lot of paperwork, I still suggest you write out what type of problem you’re having, what you believe to be the best solution to your problem, and how the money the grantor is giving will be spent to help you reach your goals.  I think anyone who gives money, whether an individual or a company, deserves to know how you spend your grant money and how successful you are. 
In fact, your ability to use local grant money successfully may actually help you get even more money from the same local source in the future.  Also, you might consider asking individuals or companies that give you money if they or their employees would like to be involved in the grant program.Many like to volunteer so they can be more involved locally with the schools.
You don’t always need a grant database to find grantmoney. Look close to home when you have the opportunity. It might pay off more than you could ever imagine.

Good Sources for Grant Information

If you write grants or intend to start writing grants, it is always good to have a number of resources to help you. With the advent of the Internet, many of those resources are free and can be accessed within minutes of when you need them. I want to recommend a few websites and one book you can use which should greatly assist you in your grant-writing efforts.

First, I’d recommend that you use all of the free resources that Discount School Supply® provides. You can use their free school grant database that gives you information on grants in the following categories: after-school, arts, early childhood, migrant, professional development, reading, special education, and science/environment. This database is very comprehensive for these categories, and you should be able to find any grant available to your school by using it.

For information about finding, applying for, and securing grants, you should use this blog sponsored by Discount School Supply®. Seventy blog posts are listed covering a variety of topics. When you have time, you should go back to the very first one and read all of them. You can find these blogs at: Schoolgrant.blogspot.com.

If you need a school grant database that includes categories not listed by Discount School Supply®, you might want to subscribe to the more comprehensive School Funding Center Grant Database. It includes 30 different categories and is the largest and most up-to-date school grant database in the United States. It basically includes every grant available to every school in the country. If you just want to look at grants for teachers or the classroom, go to School Grants for Teachers.

If you are looking for samples of winning grant proposals, you might want to purchase them at The Grantsmanship Center. They have an entire library of winning grant applications that you can order with many, many categories from which to choose. If you want to see a few free sample grant proposals, you can find those at The School Funding Center.

Finally, if you want solid information on finding grants, writing proposals, and doing everything it takes to win grant money, I suggest you purchase my book, WRITE SUCCESSFUL GRANTS FOR YOUR SCHOOL: A Step-by-Step Guide. It is filled with tips, links, and sample grant proposals. You can order it for just $37.00 by clicking on the title link above. Very few books deal just with school grants. Most give you an overview of grant writing in general, but this book contains all the information you need to successfully write grants for your classroom, school, or district.

Writing grants is not an easy job. You need all the tools you can get to make the work easier and more efficient. Use the links above to get all the information and help you need. You can be successful, and you can get the help you need for free or at a very low cost.

Be Aggressive: Use a Grant Database

I worry about schools not being aggressive enough about finding the grants they need. The budget shortfalls these days are just too critical to ignore. Schools are cutting, cutting, cutting, yet they often don’t seem to understand that an aggressive grant-writing program can do a lot to add money to the system without having to raise local or state taxes.

You can tell if your district is aggressively looking for grants. Ask these questions: Do you have one or more full-time grant writers on your district staff? Do you subscribe to a large grant database that provides timely information about available grants, or do you just sit back and wait for grant announcements to come in the mail? Is grant information made available to all teachers and principals in the district so they can apply for their classrooms and campuses? Do you have a grant committee that meets regularly and looks for applicable grants?

Grant money doesn’t appear out of thin air. You have to have a vision of what that grant money will do for your students and then go out and work for it. It doesn’t matter if you are responsible for a classroom, a campus, or a district. Grant money is available out there in some form, but you do have to spend the time to find it, apply for it, and use it to the greatest benefit of your students. If you are using Google to find grants, you’re just pretending to look for grants. If you’re serious, you have to use a good, comprehensive school grant database.

You are extremely fortunate if you are a registered user of the free grant database provided by Discount School Supply. For the categories that it lists, you can be sure that the listings are comprehensive and up-to-date. If you need grants in other categories, your best bet is to subscribe to The School Funding Center Grant Database. Its only advantage is that it lists thirty grant categories, and it, too, is both comprehensive and current.

Regardless of which database you choose to use, you should really spend some time searching it thoroughly. You should do enough research to determine which grants truly match the problems you are having at your school. From the database, go to the grantor’s website. Read about their mission, exactly what they support, and how much money they give. Even call them to discuss your problem or project if you think it’s appropriate and want to make sure you have a match.

This is a perfect time to look for grants. Students are out for summer vacation, and you don’t have the distractions you would normally have to weather. As we approach the fall semester, more and more grants will be listed in these grant databases. Don’t let others apply and get the money that should come to your school.

Yes, times are tough. Budgets are being cut every day. Probably the only way your school will be able to keep up is through a very aggressive campaign to write grants at the district, the campus, and the classroom levels. Do your part. Start searching those grant databases for the money that you and your school need.