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It’s Time to Plan for the New Year

I like New Year’s resolutions. Though most people don’t have a great track record for keeping these yearly commitments, I believe in them for two reasons. First, I am an optimist and think that people should always strive to do more and be better each day, each month, each year. Second, New Year’s resolutions are the beginning of a plan. If we make a plan, there is a chance that something wonderful may happen. It might not, but it could. Without a plan, nothing will happen. I can guarantee that.

I encourage you again this year to make New Year’s resolutions as they relate to your school’s grant program. I am going to suggest three such resolutions, and I hope you will decide to adopt one or more of them as you attempt to help your school gain grant money during 2013.

My first suggestion for a New Year’s grant resolution is to write your first grant if you’ve never written one. It doesn’t matter what the purpose of the grant is or how much money you receive. The first grant you ever write is the most difficult, and you have to get it written before you can write your second, third, and fourth grants. Make a resolution to find a grant and apply for it in January. Once you get that first one out of the way, you can then decide on other grants to write later in the year.

If you are a more experienced grant writer, I suggest your New Year’s grant resolution be a little more specific. I suggest you determine the greatest problem your school, campus, or classroom is having and determine how you can remedy or at least alleviate that problem by winning grant money for your school. You might be able to overcome the problem by writing just one grant during 2013, or you may have to write several to have the impact you desire. Make a commitment to seek out that main problem and begin writing grants by the end of January or the beginning of February to solve that problem.

My third suggestion for a New Year’s resolution is also for more experienced grant writers. I recommend that you make a resolution to develop an overall plan for writing grants for your school. You might not end up writing all of the grants that this plan entails, but every school should have a plan that coordinates the manner in which a school determines its largest problems, develops plans to correct those problems, and then goes after grant money to fund those programs. If you don’t have a plan in place, most grant efforts become a scattered affair that have little impact on the problems a school faces.

These are my main three recommendations for 2013 New Year’s resolutions. You may adopt them. You may not. Please at least consider them as you head into this promising New Year. And if those above do not suit you, you might want to consider some of the following resolutions:

  • To develop a grant committee at your district or campus.
  • To set a dollar amount that you want to receive in grants.
  • To set the number of grants you want your school to receive.
  • To hire a part-time or full-time grant writer for your school.
  • To find a granting entity in your community for a multi-year relationship.
  • To attend grant-writing training.
  • To find a grant-writing partner.

Yes, each of these ideas is the beginning of a plan. Each of them will eventually help you bring in more grant money to your school. Each of them is forward-looking and optimistic. But that’s okay, because we are all educators in one way or another, and I don’t see how you can be an educator and not be forward-looking and optimistic.

Let’s Get Back to School

If I were to choose the best times to write grants each year, I’d have to say September-October and January-February. More grants are available then, and most grant writers are working steadily during that time. At those times, you have information from yearly assessments for the fall grants you write, and you have the assessments from first semester for writing your winter grants.

If there are times you shouldn’t be writing grants, it would probably be when you are trying to get school started and when you are very close to the close of the school year.

Right now you should be focused on getting the school year off to a good start, both for you and the students for which you are responsible. Regardless of your position, the first weeks of school each year often determine how the remainder of the year will go and how much success you have throughout the year. It is much more important for you to focus on a good start than it is to write a grant.

But even as you focus on making that good start, you should also begin looking for changes that need to be made to your school, campus, or classroom. Every school has problems. With most budgets cut to the bare bones these days, anything above and beyond the normal curricula will probably have to come from grant money.

If you can pinpoint one or two areas that do not start well this year, you will soon have the beginning of school behind you, and you will be into the September-October prime grant-writing period. You might find that you need to provide extra after-school tutoring this year so that at-risk students can keep up. Or possibly you don’t have the computers and the software that you need to be most effective in your teaching.

Believe me, in most schools it shouldn’t take you long to find a list of problems that need correcting or a new program or two that you need to initiate. Unfortunately in most schools the problem is not in finding trouble areas, it’s having the money to fix those problem areas once we find them.

So, as you start school in the next few weeks, remember to concentrate on that good beginning. If you deal directly with students, you want to make sure that every day is a good one for them and that they accomplish as much as possible. If you don’t deal directly with students, you want to support those teachers who do in such a way that their job is as easy as you can make it.

We are fortunate in the school business that we get a new beginning each fall. It doesn’t matter how badly last year went, you have a chance each year to get the train back on the track and move it forward once again. Just remember, while you’re getting off to that great beginning, don’t forget to look for those problem areas that need mending. Once you find one or two of those, it won’t be long until you’ll want to start looking for grant money to support those positive changes.

Have a good year. Put a smile on your face and greet those students every day. Remember, if it weren’t for those students, we wouldn’t have school at all. Sometimes, I think we let that basic concept elude us for a while. The beginning of the school year is certainly the time to reaffirm it.

Consistency Is the Key

It is not unusual for schools to want or need grant money. Unfortunately, there’s a huge difference between wanting and actually receiving grants. The key to getting grant money — and to keeping it coming — is consistency. In the paragraphs that follow, I will identify three key areas where consistency counts when it comes to grants and grant writing.

First, to earn grants you must consistently assess school programs to identify weak or problem areas. You can’t do that just once a year or several times in one year and then stop. Assessment must be regular and ongoing. Some programs garner poor results from the start. Others may be successful for a while and then falter. It goes without saying that every program you use, whether it relates to reading, math, science, after-school, service learning, music… must be regularly assessed to ensure you’re reaching the goals you set. If you don’t do that, you won’t know you have problems and you won’t have the statistical documentation you need to successfully apply for grants.

Second, to win grants you must consistently search for the grants that align with your school’s needs. Grants are not all announced at the first of the year or the start of the school year. New and updated grant information is announced on a daily basis. If you are not routinely (and consistently) monitoring grant sources, you’re going to miss some of the very best grant opportunities. You should look for grants on a weekly basis, or at the very least once a month, because many grants have fairly short deadlines.

Third, you must consistently apply for grants. Winning grant money is a numbers game. The more quality grant applications you put in the mail or send via the Internet, the greater your chances of winning grant money. Send in just one application and you may or may not be awarded grant money. Send in five applications and your chances have improved dramatically. Apply for ten grants and you’re almost assured of getting at least some grant money.

There has never been more grant money available. Consequently, there has never been a better time to apply for grants. And the best way to ensure that your school gets its share of this grant money is to be consistent.

  • Consistently assess the needs of your school.
  • Consistently search for grants that match closely with your school’s needs.
  • Consistently apply for those grants over the coming weeks and months.

Then, and only then, will you consistently win the grant money your school needs to correct its problems, build achievement, and ensure success.

Check It Out! Grant Opportunity

Grant Name: Lowe’s Toolbox for Education Grant

Funded by: Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation

Description: The Fall 2009 cycle is open for the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation Toolbox for Education grant program. Through the program, Lowe’s will donate a total of $5 million to U.S. public schools and public school parent teacher groups at more than one thousand public schools. For the 2009-10 program, Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation will increase its focus on basic one-time project needs. Any individual nonprofit public K-12 school or parent group associated with a nonprofit public K-12 school is eligible to apply. Parent groups (PTO, PTA, etc.) that are applying must have an independent tax ID number and official 501(c)(3) status from the IRS. Groups that do not have 501(c)(3) status should apply through their school. Applicant school must be more than two years old. Preschools are not eligible. The program prioritizes funding requests that have a permanent impact such as facility enhancement (both indoor and outdoor) as well as landscaping/clean up type projects. Projects that encourage parent involvement and build stronger community spirit will be favored. Grants may be requested for amounts between $2,000 and $5,000.

Program Areas: Facilities/Maintenance, Health/PE, Science/Environment

Recipients: Public School

Proposal Deadline: 10/16/09

Amount: $2,000.00 – $5,000.00

Website: http://www.toolboxforeducation.com

Availability: All States

Check It Out! Grant Opportunity

Grant Name: AeroGrow Growing Kids Awards

Funded by: National Gardening Association

Description: The AeroGarden is an innovative solution for bringing gardening activities into the classroom. The AeroGrow Growing Kids Awards, sponsored by AeroGrow International, Inc., will provide 300 educators nationwide with this useful, hands-on tool to enrich and enhance the study of nutrition and life science in the classroom. This award is open to K-6 classrooms in the United States with a minimum of 15 students who plan to use indoor gardens to teach nutrition and life science. This year 300 schools will be selected to receive an AeroGrow Growing Kids Award. Each winning program will receive: an AeroGarden Classic valued at $150 and an AeroGrow Salad Greens Seed Kit.

Program Areas: Health/PE, Science/Environment

Recipients: Public School, Private/Charter School

Proposal Deadline: 10/24/09

Amount: $150.00

Website: http://www.kidsgardening.com/grants/GrowingKids.asp

Availability: All States

Making the Call

September is here, and students are back in school. This is the time of year many educators apply for grants. This period is a good time to apply because writing a grant proposal can take considerable effort, and while students get settled in, you may have more time now than later for grant writing. If you’re going to do all the work that goes into applying for a grant, you should give yourself every chance of focusing on and winning that grant.

One of the least utilized but most effective ways to increase the chances of getting your grant proposal funded is to make a phone call and speak directly to the contact person listed for that grant. Typically, this contact person will be more knowledgeable about the grant than anyone else. You might even get tips to better your chances for receiving the grant. At the very least, you can get more information from the contact person, and the more information you have about the inner workings of a grant the better your chances of getting that grant money.

A phone call is especially helpful when you are applying for foundation grants. Many foundations are run by a small board, and the contact person usually sits on that board and helps decide which grant applications to fund. The contact person can tell you if your project really fits the scope of the foundation. Matching your need with the intent of the foundation is absolutely critical, and a phone call can often save you tremendous time and effort. In some cases, you’ll abandon your application to the particular foundation because you’ll find that the fit is not there. More often, you’ll be able to make your application much clearer and more persuasive by having one or more conversations with the contact person.

State and federal grant applications are much more complicated than those offered by foundations. For that reason, a phone call to the contact person can help tremendously as you plan. That contact person can clarify parts of the complex grant application. If you truly understand the information the application seeks, you can pinpoint your narrative and make your application much more clear and concise. Since almost all of these grants are competitive, speaking with the contact person may give you just the advantage you need to gain a higher score than other schools competing for the same money.

Please be aware that some granting entities ask you not to call them. Quite often they give an email address as an alternative to a phone number. Even though a phone call is typically more productive, use whatever means of communication is available to get all the information you can before you apply for a grant.

The easiest way to get contact names, phone numbers, or email addresses for a grant is to use a good grant database such as the one Discount School Supply offer to you for free. However, you should be able to track down the information by using a search engine to find online grant announcements, which often include contact information.

I give information about applying for grants on a daily basis. I can’t give you better advice than to “Make the call.”

One phone call will tell you:
1) if you should apply for the grant, and
2) how to apply more efficiently and effectively if the grant is a good match for your school’s needs.