Category Archives: summer grant writing

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!

Get Ready for Summer Vacation

No, I’m not going to recommend an Internet travel agency or list possible islands in the Caribbean that you may want to visit. I do my best to stay on task and help you have the best possible grant program that you can have. So, I’ll leave the travel tips to someone else.

The last few weeks of school are always tough. Unless you happen to be one of the few full-time grant writers in schools around the country, writing grants is probably pretty low on your agenda right now. If you are going to get anything accomplished to help you get grants in the near future, I would definitely put my time and energy into making sure you get good, honest assessments of your current programs as I suggested in my last blog post. The information you get from those assessments is absolutely vital to the grants you will write in the summer and the fall.  

Once you get those assessments completed, scored, and have a copy of all the reports, it’s time to sit down with colleagues and pinpoint the weakest academic areas in your district, campus, or classroom. Don’t look at your results with preconceived notions. Just read the data and be sure you have everything disaggregated by class, by gender, by socio-economic status, by teacher, by subject, etc. In other words, you need that data sliced and diced fifty different ways, broken down to such an extent that you can pinpoint your problem areas easily and quickly.

Who knows what the data will tell you? They may tell you that only 10% of your 5th graders who were absent 15 days or more passed your state reading test. They may tell you that one particular style of teaching math was 35% more effective in reaching low socio-economic students than another style. The data may show you that longer periods of students reading independently in appropriate level books had a more positive effect than using a thousand worksheets each year. They may also tell you that you need to order a lot more library books.

Again, don’t be prejudiced going in. Let the data lead you to logical conclusions. It is very helpful if you can look at the results of your assessments in small groups. It is also helpful to assess the data before you go into summer vacation if at all possible. That gives you time to agree on your problem areas and to do some of your grant writing during the summer break.

It’s okay to look at the data in the first part of the summer if you can get everyone back together, but if you wait until the fall, everyone is going to be extremely busy at the first of the new semester. Chances are you won’t write grants in time to get grant money during the fall semester, and that means the grant money can’t be used to help your students until the spring.

That timeline is simply not acceptable. Review your data in May or June. List your problems in order of priority. Assign someone to collect all the available information needed to complete a grant proposal and apply for at least some of the grants you need during the summer.

Chances are you won’t do that unless you finish your assessments, get them scored and disaggregated, and determine the major problems you have. You might even have time using a good grant database to find the grantors you need before school is out.

No, I won’t help you find the ideal spot for a summer vacation, but I will try to help you get ready to be a successful summer grant writer. It won’t take up much of your vacation if you lay the proper groundwork now.

7 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Apply for a Grant

It’s not easy to get motivated to fill out grant applications. I know that. I spent twenty years in public schools as a teacher and an administrator. Asking for money shouldn’t be an educator’s job. After all, we signed on to teach children, to bring light into their lives, and to build a love of learning within their hearts. Unfortunately as the years roll by, you may find yourself discouraged, underpaid, and pulling money out of your own pocket to fund the basic needs in your classroom or building.

Try not to be discouraged. I believe teachers are still the most influential people on the planet. I have many conversations with past students, and it still amazes me how much they remember about my class and about me. My wife retired three years ago after teaching first grade for thirty-four years. She still gets more hugs and smiles than the law allows, often from large men a foot taller than she is. They love her. She taught them to love school. She taught them to read.

While teaching is a tremendous vocation, it can still get discouraging when money is not available from your district to fund the activities and projects you know your students need. You need to motivate yourself to write grants to supplement the money in your budget. Here are seven ways to get motivated to write those grants:

1) Write a grant for a very special project that you have personally always wanted to do but could not get the district to fund. This is very motivational because it’s all about you and something you want personally.

2) Write down new skills that your students will be able to develop by using grant money to enhance your budget. You may need to buy special materials or get help in your classroom to make sure students develop these new skills. Think about how these new skills could change your students’ lives.

3) Apply for a grant with a partner. It’s always easier to do a chore when you have some help. You should share the burden of writing the grant and the joy of what you both accomplish with the grant money.

4) Write a grant that will allow you and your students to have a very special experience. You might go on a very unusual field trip, bring in a motivational celebrity to your school, or build something together that your students will never forget.

5) Write a grant to keep from spending money out of your pocket. Then, buy yourself a gift with the money you didn’t have to use for school supplies.

6) Write a grant centered around the bottom few students you’ve had the most trouble reaching. This might be a program to get help from parent volunteers, an after-school tutoring program, or a program to buy computers and software that might help you reach these difficult students.

7) Let others know you intend to apply for a grant. Just like a New Year’s resolution, you’re more likely to complete your grant application if others know you’ve made a commitment to apply for a grant.

Grants shouldn’t really be about the money you’re going to receive. They should be about student achievement and the positive impact that a grant will have on your students. However, sometimes we need a little extra motivation to complete those applications. Maybe one of the above seven motivators will be just what you need to start completing a grant application this week. Don’t delay. Apply for that money you need and stop getting it out of your own pocket.

Can I Apply for Grants During Summer?

Not only can you apply for grants in the summer, I hardily encourage it. Most educators will be vacationing and taking it easy. That means it is the perfect time for you to apply for grants because there will be less competition for grant dollars. That makes your job easier.

As we go into summer, as you relax and recharge those batteries, I challenge you to spend just a small part of your vacation time finding and writing grants for your classroom or school. It is a great feeling to win money for a program. You and your students reap the benefits. You might have extra materials, a chance to use different learning styles, or the opportunity to develop unique learning environments that may never have been possible within the regular school budget.

Although some state and federal grants can be written during the summer, you may want to focus on foundation grants. Many have quarterly deadlines that end in the summer making them great for summer grant writing.

Because school money is really tight these days, you will need to find as many foundation grants as you can that fit your situation. You should always begin with the free grant database that Discount School Supply provides you. It is comprehensive and lists just about every grant available to you in the selected categories.

Using this database and writing during the summer gives you two advantages that many schools will not have. It’s time to put those advantages to work. Start looking today at the types of problems you will have when the fall semester begins. Match those problems with the foundation grants available in the Discount School Supply free grant database, and then apply for several of those grants.

You may not get money from every grant, but if you apply for several, you have a good chance of getting money from one or two. You must begin planning now so that when school is out, you are ready to start completing those applications and getting them in the mail.

Start today! The grants you get may make this the best summer vacation you’ve ever had.