How to Know If Your School Is Eligible for Grants

grant schools

Is Your School Eligible for Grants?

It might seem that all schools should be equally eligible for grants if they truly have a need for the grant money. That is simply not the case. Two types of organizations are eligible for the most grants.  They are public schools and non-profit, 501(c)(3) organizations.  The next two types of organizations in line for grant eligibility are private schools and other types of non-profit organizations. By far the least eligible for grants are for-profit schools or organizations of any type.

Many public schools truly do not have the money to operate as they should, especially if they have large populations of at-risk students from low-income families.  To be able to fund critical technology upgrades, adequate reading programs, and arts programs slashed by budget cuts, they require grant money.

While almost all public schools are eligible for a lot of grant money, those schools with the most disadvantaged populations are eligible for the most grants.

Other organizations that receive a large amount of grant money are the non-profits with a 501(c)(3) designation. They have to apply to the federal government for this 501(c)(3) status, and once it is obtained, they do not pay federal income taxes. So many grants go to this type of non-profit organization that many schools are now setting up their own 501(c)(3) organizations in order to be eligible for these grants. Though I would not call it a simple process, it may well be worth your time and effort to get this designation if you are eligible.

While schools can apply for and receive 501(c)(3) status from the federal government, it is not absolutely necessary for them to do so in order to qualify for many foundation grants. Public schools are recognized as tax-exempt by the IRS and can receive tax-deductible contributions under the Internal Revenue Code.  Grants to these organizations are qualifying distributions for foundations.

Since schools without 501(c)(3) status will not have a determination letter from the IRS, grantors may request proof of a school’s status as a government entity. The IRS will supply a government affirmation letter free of charge. Government entities (schools) can request a government affirmation letter by contacting the IRS. Most foundations will accept this letter as the proof they need to approve grants for schools.

The next two groups in line for eligibility for grant money are private schools and other non-profit organizations. More than a billion dollars each year is granted to these groups, but they are simply not eligible for as many grants as public schools and 501(c)(3)’s. It’s just important to remember two points. One, there is still plenty of grant money out there for your private school or non-profit organization; and two, you’re going to have to work harder and smarter to get your share of the money that is available. Some non-profit private schools also have a 501(c)(3) designation which makes them eligible for many more grants.

Exceptions to this broad rule that private schools get less grant money are the private schools, colleges, and universities that get millions of dollars from wealthy alumni. A school is automatically eligible for this type of money simply because the donor once attended that particular school. No school should overlook the possibility of getting money from one of its own who has done well out in the world. That goes for both public and private schools.

Finally, if you are a for-profit school, business, or organization, I cannot be very encouraging to you concerning grants. There are very few granting entities out there who want to help you turn a profit.

You might be eligible for some grant money depending on how disadvantaged your clientele may be and the number of scholarships you provide, but finding grant money will be difficult. In fact, I usually recommend that you go through the Small Business Administration. It is sponsored by the federal government, and the SBA offers a program of grants and guaranteed loans to small business owners.

Search our updated database of grants here.

grants school

What’s a School To Do?

It is difficult for a school to improve its eligibility for grants.  Obviously, you don’t want to go out and recruit a large number of low socio-economic or other at-risk students just so you are more eligible for grants.  It is very important, however, that you identify every single student in your school who is eligible for the federal free/reduced lunch program. Low socio-economic status is normally based on this one factor.

It is also important that you identify all of the other at-risk students in your school. These are generally students who may be behind academically, disabled, probationary, homeless, and/or potential dropouts.

You don’t have to have a high percentage of at-risk students to get grant money.  You can apply for grant money that will specifically impact the small percentage of at-risk students you do have. Those students make you more eligible for grant money. The money will simply have to be spent to improve the lot of those at-risk students rather than all of your students.

Grant money is available and your school is eligible for at least some of it.  You have to aggressively go after grant money when you are less eligible than other schools.

While it is true your school will be eligible for more grants the more at-risk students you serve, it is also true that your school’s eligibility for many hundreds of grants is not even based on the number of low SES and other at-risk students you have enrolled. The truth is that more than 110,000 individual grants are available to schools in the United States each year. These grants are worth billions and billions of dollars. Some of this grant money is never distributed, not because school are not eligible, but simply because enough schools do not apply for it.

If your school has a large number of at-risk students, you have my sympathy and congratulations. I am sympathetic because these students are much harder to educate than students who are not at-risk. I congratulate you because you are eligible for literally millions of dollars in grant money.

If your school has a small number of at-risk students, you have my sympathy and congratulations. You have my sympathy because it will be harder to find grant money. You can still find large amounts of grant money. You’ll just have to work harder to find it and apply for it. You have my congratulations because you have a student population that is largely easier to educate than those who have large numbers of at-risk students.

You also need to remember that grants are written on the district level, the campus level, and the classroom level. Often individual campuses are very much eligible for a grant that the district is not. The same is true of individual classrooms. A teacher’s classroom may be eligible for many grants when the campus as a whole is eligible for very few.

Never let your limited eligibility, or your perceived limited eligibility, keep you from applying for grants. Again, you may have to search a little harder and submit very high quality applications, but you can find large amounts of grant money out there if you are firmly committed to the process.

How Much Grant Money Should Your School Receive?

Almost every school in the United States should be getting some grant money every year. The amount of that grant money will always be determined by three factors: 1) the number of grants for which you apply, 2) the dollar amount of those grants, 3) your level of eligibility.

How many grants do most schools get in a year? We did a survey recently, and the results may surprise you.  From the 248 educators who responded and actually knew how many grants their school received, we gleaned the following information:

When asked, “Approximately how many federal, state, and foundation grants did your district receive last year?”

Response total Response percent
1 to 5 166 67%
6 to 10 42 17%
11 to 15 15 6%
More than 15 25 10%

Even though these are district numbers, you have to realize that almost half the districts in the United States contain four campuses or less. Many campuses receive multiple grants every year while some campuses never receive a grant.

Obviously, you have no control over your school’s level of eligibility. You do, however, have absolute control over the number of grants you submit and a great deal of control over the amounts of grant money for which you apply.

Make sure you are not a part of the 67% of schools that only gets one to five grants each year. You should try to be a part of the 10% that get more than 25 grants per year. All the grants you write don’t have to be large. Even if ten teachers apply for classroom grants of $3,000 each, that’s $30,000 extra dollars for your school. Many times getting grants is simply a numbers game. The more applications you put in the mail asking for more and more dollars, the more grant money you receive.  It takes commitment and aggressiveness to get all the grant money you want and need.

Billions and billions of dollars are available to schools in the United States.  It’s such a shame that a few aggressive schools get so much grant money while thousands and thousands of schools get so little. That lost grant money could make a tremendous difference to the students in those schools.

I suggest that you put a grant committee together as soon as possible and start making a widespread effort to bring more and more grant money into your district.

Go After Grant Money Aggressively

Writing grants is a numbers game.  The more legitimate problems you have within your school, the higher your eligibility. The more grants you find that address those problems, the higher your application rate. The more quality applications you submit, the better your chance of receiving large amounts of grant money.

If you are truly dedicated to finding grant money for your school, you will find it. Billions of dollars are given as grants to all types of schools every year. You just have to be determined and stay on track. Find the problem areas in your school, find the grants that match those problems, and complete as many grant applications as possible.

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

More Great Blog Posts



4 thoughts on “How to Know If Your School Is Eligible for Grants

  1. Thanks, I wish to asks whether low incomes countries of Africa that are also plague with crisis can apply for grants. I am the head teacher of a church run non profit inclusive primary school.

  2. Hello really i am so happy to know almost all public school are eligible for a lot of grant money.
    wish i can help to see all the kids happy and safe . thanks

  3. Hi I’m applying for school grant I’m happy to see that you helping a lot for children in need.I wish I can also get help for this children who doesn’t have school here and have to travel long distances to get to school.Thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *