By Larry Statler
Do you lack the funds to implement a great idea for your students? Are you tired of depleting your personal finances to buy basic supplies? Is your classroom budget depleted or non-existent? Lack of money and resources impacts new and experienced teachers alike.
In 1994, after spending almost every weekend for 25 years combing garage sales for affordable materials, a devastating school fire wiped out my classroom. The loss seemed insurmountable. At first, donations and a smidgen of insurance money kept me going. I knew garage sales were still a possibility but figured I didn’t have another 25 years to re-supply my room.
Writing grants became the solution to my dilemma. I found that there are an extraordinary number of private and corporate foundations looking for innovative projects to fund. What started as a necessity has become a hobby that enables me to bring extraordinary materials and resources to my class and school.
As with any teacher, time is an issue. I have found that grants ranging from $500 to $15,000 and requiring no more than five pages of narrative are the most time efficient for me. More than that becomes burdensome and my success rate drops significantly because fewer grants are awarded and the competition is stiffer for “mega” grants. However, I do know of others who have had great success with lengthy grants for hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars. This article will focus on the more teacher-friendly grants.
The easiest place to start for the beginning grant writer is the donorschoose.org website. This site will guide you through the registration, idea, and writing process. It is a great resource for small projects costing $500 or less. Once your idea is posted on their website, they keep track of the project and will notify you when funding is obtained. They order the materials, arrange for shipping and even provide guidance on how to thank donors.
For those more adventurous teachers who are looking for greater funding opportunities, I would recommend you look into the multitude of grant writing self-tutorials available online. I am very fortunate to have a County Office Education that has a website offering a grant resource center listed under teacher resources. This website has just about everything you will need. Hopefully your area has a comparable resource. If not, I encourage you to go to sccoe.org. The grant resource center will provide access to tutorials, tips and corporate and private foundations offering funding opportunities.
Another has-it-all website is techlearning.com/resources/grants.php. In addition to how to write a grant and possible funding opportunities, this resource also offers numerous contests and awards that teachers can pursue to bring funds to their classrooms.
The last website I will mention, is grantsalert.com. Like most grant websites, you will be able to customize your search for grants by subject matter, corporate or private foundation and geographical location.
The following are a few suggestions that will help your search for funding:
- Answer the question is the most important advice I can give.
- Read through the entire request for papers before starting to write. Sometimes, limitations appear late in the request.
- Set up sections of your grant so they can be used again. Contact information, program description, mission statement, project description, objectives and evaluation can often be used for many different grants.
- Requests for papers often ask for the same support materials. Your school budget, non-discriminatory policy and non-profit verification letter can be runoff and ready to slip into a grant request envelope.
- Become great friends with the accounts payable staff at your district office. They have a wealth of information to make your grant-writing life easier.
- Set up individual grant accounts at your district office for security and accounting purposes.
- Have checks made out to your school to avoid income tax problems.
- With a few modifications, you can use the same grant multiple times by sending it to numerous foundations.
- Try to find a foundation that wants to fund your type of project then look for others that would fund your project with a different spin. For example, I like to find funding for performing arts opportunities for my students. I apply to foundations interested in the arts. However, I also apply to those seeking innovative ways to teach science. I just make sure our production has a science theme.
- Include a diversity or mainstreaming objective in your grant.
- Sign up for regular updates if offered by a grant website.
- Avoid any websites wanting to charge for services.
- Try to spend a little time each day researching and writing grants.
Happy grant writing!