Grants: How to Get One for Your Classroom
As an educator, it seems you can never have enough classroom funds! The money goes quickly when you are trying to fund a large project or obtain new instructional materials to help make learning come alive! I have even been able to use grant funding to attend an expensive week-long literacy training. Here are some tips for getting a grant no matter your desired need. I will make this information literacy oriented, of course, but there are plenty of aspects to grant writing in this post that apply to all subject areas.
Step One: Decide what you need. Seems obvious, but you need to wrap your head around what supplies you are needing or what project you would like to complete with your students first. Once you have a clear vision, you will help your donors or the grant committee understand the purpose of your requests. As tempting as it may be, you cannot just say “give us all the things.” You may have many items you would like to purchase for your classroom, but remember to streamline your needs into a cohesive, attainable project. Bonus points if the materials are reusable or the project can be sustained for consecutive years and/or with multiple classrooms.
Step Two: Find the right funding source. You will never be awarded a grant or extra classroom funding if you do not do your research and apply to the correct foundation, etc. Grants usually have specific guidelines about what types of materials they will fund and what they will not. For example, if I am wanting to purchase some more books for my classroom library, I probably do not need to apply for a STEAM based grant. Unless, of course, I am wanting to purchase STEAM related literature. There are loopholes like that in some grants, but I encourage you to read the fine print so you do not waste your or the foundation’s time in applying. For literacy grants I like to look locally, such as my local library system, my county’s reading coalition, or local businesses that support literacy. I highly recommend the Dollar General Foundation’s literacy grants for obtaining literacy based help for your school. Through funding Dollar General gave our state I helped a school win a $12,000 grant for a summer reading program. I also recently received $3000 for my own classroom to put towards intervention instruction. Ca-CHING! Thanks, Dollar General! My students and I are SO excited!
Step Three: Professionally submit your requests. No text talk here! Spend some time looking over the specifications of your grant application. Have others double check it to make sure your vision and story are clear. The better others understand the use of the materials you are requesting, the better your chances are of receiving a grant. Answer all questions fully and look for examples of winning requests. Remember, originality and creative ideas are a must to stand out from the crowd! Check with your school bookkeeper to learn if there are any stipulations on the school’s end for receiving grant funding. I know some school systems have phased out Donor’s Choose applications due to issues with final ownership over the teaching materials should the educator change schools. Also, by all means, if you are awarded a grant, be certain to thank the donors and to follow up with any necessary evidence or paperwork in a timely manner. You can bet you will not be selected again in the future if you fail to submit the proper documentation.
Step Four: Don’t give up. I can tell you that I have certainly written more grants than I have received. As disappointing as it is to put so much time into something and not receive anything from it, trying and failing is still an important step in the learning process. Maybe you can revise the grant and use it again next year? Try proposing the same idea with a different donor. Work on a team to write the grant. Did a deadline slip up on you? It happens all the time. Make a note far in advance to try for that grant next year. Usually, the first time I learn about a grant it is too late to apply for that year. I just put that grant down several months before it is due on my next year’s calendar and I think about ways to tackle the application in the meantime. I hope some grant funding falls your way in the future. It is so exciting to receive that “Congratulations” email or letter. However, this can never happen if you do not apply. I encourage you to take the first step today!