This post was originally published on the HS Bits Blog, which was active from 2008-2013.
Today’s guest blogger is Kate Lende, who has been teaching in Montana for eight years. She currently teaches ninth and tenth grade Language Arts and Composition at Park High School in Livingston, Montana, as well as an elective course in Montana literature.
With budget cuts and teacher layoffs, sometimes it can be hard to dream. Innovative projects and updated resources seem like impossibilities when it’s a struggle just to maintain the status quo. More and more, teachers are turning to grants to supplement meager budgets and provide the enrichment students need.
If you’re anything like me, it’s hard to find enough time to keep up with grading, lesson planning, and reading, much less even think about applying for a grant. Visions of long applications, numerous hoops to jump through, and the specter of rejection loom large in my mind. Yet the handful of times I have pushed aside these doubts and written grants, I have been successful and the time I spent paid off. For those who have never applied for a grant, or never received one, here are some tips to help you through the process:
FIND THE RIGHT GRANT
Look locally. I’ve found the greatest success working with local organizations such as education foundations.These groups know your student population, your community, and your needs. Local funding works best for requests under $10,000. Sometimes you might be surprised who is willing to fund a project. I received $300 from our local thrift store’s community grant program to rent a historic building for a class presentation.
Be flexible. If one source can’t fund your entire project, apply to several sources for smaller amounts. Or break your project into several stages and secure funds for one stage at a time.
Be creative. Find creative ways to get what you need. If you want a new text for a class, consider participating in the NEA Big Read grant. Find out if an organization in your state (museum, historical society, or library) has received one of these grants and see if your classes can get involved. These grants provide texts, reader’s and teacher’s guides, funds for guest speakers, and often are a great way to get students more involved in the community. See www.Neabigread.org for more information and for available titles.
Know your funder. Some companies or foundations are very specific about the projects and populations they fund. Look at lists of previous grants awarded (if available) to see if there’s a trend. The more closely you can match your request to the priorities of the funder, the better your chances are of getting funded.
Look online. There are plenty of Web sites to browse. Here are a few I’ve tried:
- Federal grants: www.grants.gov. Lists grants available through twenty-six federal agencies.
Many of the “big box stores” such as Target, Walmart, Staples, and Office Depot offer grants to nonprofits and schools. Look for the Community Relations page on the store’s Web site or contact the manager at your local store.
- Target: Field trip grants for teachers (up to $700). Also a large initiative to support early childhood literacy (preschool through third grade) with $2,000 grants.
- Walmart: Individual stores can provide grants (starting at $250) to educators. Contact your local Walmart or Sam’s Club Community Involvement coordinator.
WRITE FOR SUCCESS
The three primary components to most grant applications are purpose, time frame, and budget. The more clearly defined these three areas are, the better. Read the entire grant application carefully before beginning so you know what is expected.
Kathy Kelliher of Nittany Grantworks in Livingston, Montana, identified two qualities as the keys to successful education grants: they should be sustainable and collaborative. If a project is sustainable, the money invested will impact not just this year’s students but those in the future. Collaboration across subject areas, grade levels, or between schools and the community is a widely supported initiative in my district, and most likely in yours, too. If you can design your proposal so that it is both sustainable and collaborative, it may appeal more to grantors.
If you receive the grant, congratulations! Now the fun work begins. Be sure to thank the grantor, acknowledge the source of your funds in publicity about your project, and, most importantly, follow up promptly with any evaluation or reporting required by the grant. This establishes a good relationship between you and the grantor that could prove profitable in the future.
If your grant wasn’t funded, be sure to carefully review any evaluation notes provided with your rejected application. This is where the learning begins. Discover why you weren’t successful and make the appropriate revisions when you apply for your next grant.