Why would you want to be a grant writer for a school? It’s a lot of work to pull together a grant application. And it’s even more work if you’re fortunate enough to receive the grant. You have to keep records, prove that you’ve spent the money properly, and record the results of your program — even if those results are not positive. So why even put yourself through the grant-writing process?
The best, most successful grants are not usually written with just the money in mind. True, money can help move the change process along, but if your purpose for writing grants is truly to better the lives of students and teachers, the chance for success in doing that improves dramatically when you have a positive, well-defined grant program in place.
What challenges are your students facing? What do they need help learning in your school? What behaviors are they exhibiting that might get in the way of achievement? Can your students read at grade level? Are they proficient enough in math to make major purchases without being ripped off? Can they speak English well enough to live productively in American society? Are your teachers trained well enough to truly educate every child in their classrooms?
Get passionate! You should write grants to change lives. That passion and determination will come across in your grant applications, and it will show up in the results you eventually achieve. That’s why you as a grant writer should apply for grants. Grant writers should never apply for grant money just because their schools need additional money. It should be primarily to improve their schools. Also, schools should apply for grants to enable them to correct problems and deficiencies they have in order to give their students a better education. A school’s focus should always be on student achievement. That’s why we have schools. That’s why we have grants.
That should be also why we have budgets that have a direct correlation to achievement levels. Schools should plan their budgets only after completing thorough needs assessments each year. These needs assessments should show school administrators where problems and deficiencies exist and where money should be budgeted in order to improve those areas.
Hopefully as a grant writer for a school, you will have access to the annual needs assessment for the district or campus you represent. This is where all good grant writing should begin. As a grant writer, you should review the needs assessments of your district or campus. A need occurs when the results you get in a program are far below those planned. The farther the ideal is above what actually took place, the larger the problem.
For example: Your plan calls for 5th graders in your district to have an average reading level of 5.9 on nationally-normed tests by the end of the school year. For the last two years, your 5th grade reading scores have averaged 1.5 to 2 grade levels below the national average. It is definitely time to find out why this problem occurred and build a plan to fix it. In other words, you have a need. Your results (1.5 – 2 grade levels behind) were far from the ideal (on grade level). If possible, this reading problem should be fixed using a plan that is built into the district’s regular budget. If it is not possible for your district to put enough money into a plan to have a reasonable chance of fixing the problem, then you will need to seek grant money to supplement the district money already earmarked for the project. The idea of supplementing your regular program is a key issue, and one you need to always remember as a grant writer. Grant money is almost always given to supplement district money already being spent on a problem area, not to supplant it.
Let’s say the district decides the 5th grade reading problem can be alleviated by lowering the sizes of the reading classrooms. In order to do this, five new teachers must be hired to teach 5th grade reading. A grantor is not going to want to pay for the salaries and materials that have already been budgeted by the district, but they will certainly consider paying for or helping to pay for the additional five teachers and materials that need to be added in order to reduce class sizes. If the grantor paid for all the teachers and materials, they would supplant what the district was already doing. By paying for only the five new teachers and materials, they are supplementing what the district is already doing. This is a big issue. Grantors typically want to supplement your program to make it better, not supplant one that is already in place. Your intentions to supplement your current program or the one you are proposing need to be made clear in your grant application and budget.
Grant Worthy Problems and Deficiencies
- State math scores for economically disadvantaged students in the 6th and 7th grades are 30% below those of other students.
- High school-aged mothers have increased by 75% in the last 3 years from 20 to 35 in a high school of 1,250 students.
- Only 48% of 8th grade students passed the state computer literacy test.
- Only 70% of incoming freshmen in high school graduate after 4 years. This is a 15% increase in dropouts, growing steadily over the past 5 years.
- Student obesity has risen by 50% in the last 2 years in grades K-2. No physical education or nutrition program is in place to address the issue of child obesity.
- After-school tutoring has been effective in raising both reading and math scores in three elementary schools in the district. Seven other elementary schools could benefit from a similar after-school program, but no money is available to fund the program.
- The campus library was flooded during the latest hurricane. Not nearly enough local money has been made available to replace the books and computers in the library.
- An outdoor science classroom could be used by most of the middle school and high school science classes. No money is available to build an outdoor classroom although they have proven very effective in neighboring schools.
- 75% of all 4th graders failed the state’s new writing test.
- When tested 30 days before graduation last May, 27% of all prospective graduating seniors were deemed functionally illiterate.
What are the problems and deficiencies in your district and on your campus? Use your needs assessment instruments to find those problems and deficiencies. Develop plans and programs you believe will correct them. Then, write appropriate grants to fund those programs. That’s what good grant writers do. That’s why schools apply for grants.
Be sure to check out our Free Grant Finder at www.ssww.com/grants. You can search hundreds of current grants by state or topic.
Source: “Write Successful Grants for Your School: A Step-by-Step Guide” by Don Peek. Published by The School Funding Center. Copyright © 2010 All Rights Reserved