Grant Writing Tips
To successfully secure grant money for your technology program, you need to do some planning first. Whether you have a grant writer or you are the designated grant writer, it’s important to collect all the necessary pieces of information before you start.
Start with your project and the goal. If your district wants to provide Chromebooks to middle and high school students, that alone may not be enough to convince a funder to give you $500,000.
- What will issuing Chromebooks to students improve? (Examples might include: developing collaboration or communication skills or improving reading levels or math test scores)
- How many students will need Chromebooks? (This helps gauge the scope of the project.)
- Which teachers will use them? What curriculum will the teachers be using? Will the teachers need professional development to help students use them to achieve education objectives?
- How will you measure the success of the project? (Project impact is very important to funders. Tell them what quantifiable results you expect to see. Qualitative results are good, too - but you want to have measurable impact.)
Develop a clear, concise plan for your project. The plan should include: (This information will form the basis of your narrative when you get to the grant application phase)
- Background: Relevant history, mission and scope of the organization/your school or district.
- Needs Assessment: Demonstrate the needs of your target population, as well as the educational needs this project addresses. This section should include data.
- Goals: The purpose of the project. Goals can be a broad statement about what you want to accomplish and the final outcome you want. They should linked back to your need statement - how are you solving the problem? (tip: use words like decrease, deliver, improve, increase, produce, provide, etc.)
- Objectives: Objectives are measurable steps towards accomplishing the goal. They should be precise and measurable. Objectives should be S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound)
- Timeline: A timeline includes the start and end dates of the project and a schedule of activities. Needs Assessment: the educational needs that this project addresses and indicates how the needs were identified.
- Required resources (technology, tools, training)
- Total Cost
Get buy-in from your administrative team BEFORE you apply for funding. Inform the principal or superintendent about your project. In the long term, having someone to champion your project or liaison with the administration and School Board will benefit your team.
Once your project has purpose and scope, you can begin to look for funds to help pay for your program. A few things to remember:
- Research the funder. Be sure your project falls within the funder’s mission, focus areas and stated goals. Too often grant seekers have their own project in mind and then try to fit it into a foundation's guidelines. Be sure you are a fit with the types of things they want to fund. Check out the list of staff and trustees and ask around to see if anyone in the district has a connection (this is when it helps to have the superintendant's support). If so, contact the staff (if Foundation allows) or trustee and educate them on your project. Many Foundations will be happy to answer questions about if it is something they will be interested in and how best to frame the proposal. Find out as much as you an in advance about what they fund and why. Look at other projects they have funded - both the nature and amounts.
- Complete the application- thoroughly. Read through the application and list of requested materials. Then follow the funder's format - not the format outlined above. Answer each question thoroughly but concisely. Follow guidelines for word limits, font size, etc. and complete every question. For Foundations, you will need to “sell” the program and write in a convincing tone. Be sure you write using the FOUNDATION’S language - not yours. Use words that are in their mission, goals and objectives. For government grants, just answer the question - and it's helpful if you can include the language of the question in your response.
- Have someone else read your application. Collect feedback from people on your team. When you are finished, enlist your top editors at your school or district to review it. Ask them to read for both clarity/completion as well as proofread.
A few tips which may be helpful:
- Don't “reinvent the wheel.” Look at other grants out there and to help guide you, including how the writer phrased the basics of goals, objectives, budget, etc.
- Don’t use your jargon, use theirs. Look at the words on the proposal and use them in your narrative. Reiterate funder’s goals and objectives and relate them to yours.
- Think like a funder. Likely a foundation board, or selected committee, will read through hundreds or even thousands of grant proposals. Do something different that will make yours stand out, but still follow the guidelines.
- Do not make your grant tech-heavy. Everyone wants equipment. Make the equipment a byproduct of the project: it just so happens that a few tablet computers are needed to improve students' ability to meet the desired goal. Don't ignore the amount that will be spent on technology, but it should not be the main emphasis of the narrative. Student or staff achievement should be the focus of your proposal.
- Ensure your budget reflects your needs. People often ask for funds for supplies which don’t have anything to do with the specific goals you have lined up for your program.
- Know your audience.