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Peek's Perspective

Getting Ready to
Write Fall Grants


There is more grant money available to schools during the fall semester than at any other time of the year. Right now is an excellent time to apply for grants -- whether they are being awarded by the federal government, your state government, or by a foundation. It doesn't matter if you are an experienced grant writer or an educator who has never written a grant, now is the best time to get started writing those grant proposals for your school.

As you begin to fill out applications for grants, keep in mind the one key to getting any grant funded: You must closely match the needs of your school with the purpose for which the granting organization is giving grant money. That seems like a simple and straightforward idea, one hardly worth mentioning, yet failure to do that is the single biggest reason why most grant proposals are never funded.

[content block] To make sure your needs do match those of the granting organization, you must fully understand the needs of your school. Your school may need a new field house for the football team, additional money in the general budget, or money for your seniors to visit Hawaii on their senior trip, but those types of needs almost never match up with a granting organization's reasons for giving grants.

On the other hand, the need to raise the reading scores of middle school students who are two years behind, the need to involve more parents in the education of their children, or the need to enhance the learning experience of struggling students by incorporating the proper technology can often be matched with the purposes of granting organizations.

When you begin to seek grant money, it is important to remember that your search is not just a search for money. It must be a search for the resources you need to tackle a specific problem or /need at your school. So

  • First you must identify via some form of assessment your schools needs; data will verify the existence of the problem/need.
  • Once you have identified a list of needs, you must then prioritize them and begin to research the resources that will help you solve the problems you have identified.
  • Then you are set to begin your search for a granting organization that will provide funds to help you meet your needs.

    If your school is having academic problems, for example, your assessment may begin with standardized test scores. If your incoming freshman class has an average reading level of 6.8, you have an academic problem that will impact almost every subject you teach. Your standardized test scores are proof that you need help with this group.

    If only 40 percent of your fifth graders passed your state's assessment test in mathematics, you have a problem that needs addressing. Again, standardized tests have informed you of the need.

    However, some problems cannot be identified by assessment testing. For example,

  • 60 percent of your students might be overweight.
  • more than 5 percent of your high school girls might be pregnant.
  • only 50 percent of your elementary students may have someone at home to care for them at the end of the school day.
    These are not problems that can be identified with a standardized test, but they are still problems that need to be addressed and can often be addressed with programs funded by grant money.

    A good way to identify some of your schools most pressing problems might be to survey your entire staff. Such a survey might be used to identify the three biggest problems your school faces. Or it might be used to identify the three biggest problems students face in getting a quality education at your school. Or it might be used to get your staff's perspective on school needs or school climate. For example, might a survey reveal that your school suffers from a lack of academic leadership? inadequate staff development? discipline problems? apathetic teachers? Grant money might be used to solve any of the problems identified by survey data.

    Surveying your students may give yield a host of other topics that can be addressed with grant money. Bullying, racial tensions, or classroom disruptions by problem students may be preventing your students from learning to their potential.

    Once you have found and prioritized the major problems that impact your students' academic success or their quality of life, you are ready to begin searching for the resources and grant monies that will closely match your needs.

    Whether you are a teacher, administrator, or a grant writer, now is the time to start writing grants for your school. But it will do you little good to begin applying for grants if you have not taken steps to determine and document the major problems your school faces.

    Remember, writing grants is not just about trying to get free money for your school. It's about entering into a partnership with an organization that agrees to fund a program that will help you meet a major need you face.

    When should you start applying for grants this fall? Just as soon as your assessment has been done and your needs have been prioritized, it's time to begin applying for grants.

    Article by Don Peek
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2009 Education World

    Originally published 02/05/2009