Since their inception, providers of services for students who require specialized education programs have wrestled with acquiring sufficient funding from federal, state and local sources. Educators and administrators often find themselves in funding dilemmas, unable to provide their students with the tools and resources needed for equal access to appropriate public education.

Many of these dedicated professionals seek alternate avenues for filling gaps in school budgets to meet the needs of all students. One alternative source of funding is educational grants.

Though they require legwork and planning, grants can be key funding sources for district, school and classroom leaders who are committed to providing students with the greatest opportunity to learn and achieve their potential.

Preparing for a Grant Application

Grant applications often require detailed plans and cost estimates, so planning ahead is essential to meet requirements and deadlines. Defining a focus for grant opportunities will save time in the search, development and application process. Successful implementation of grant-funded projects or programs will require collaboration among multiple stakeholders, including  administrators, human resources staff, teachers, support staff, parents, students, school board members and community partners. Therefore, it makes sense to organize a diverse committee of stakeholders who have different areas of expertise at the beginning of the process to define the focus and prepare a project plan.

In collaboration with your group of stakeholders, the following steps should be addressed:

1. Align with your school or district’s mission and goals.

Starting with a clear vision of your organization’s mission will help to look for grant funders with common goals. It is essential when writing your grant proposal that the organization’s mission and goals are articulated and align with those of the grant funders.

2. Define the problem or need that is affecting your students’ educational access and opportunities.

In identifying the specific need, you’ll be able to delineate the intention of how the grant funds will be used to address the problem or fulfill the need for your students’ benefit. Not only will clearly defining the problem or need early in the process provide a focus for your grant search, it will also provide a head start on refining your problem statement of need for your grant proposal. Grant funders want to see that solutions for potential problems are relevant, practical and achievable.

3. Estimate the amount of funding needed for your project.

Knowing how much funding is needed ahead of time will help to narrow the scope of your grant search. If a grant opportunity does not provide enough funding or the amount offered is far greater than what is needed, then the search continues. Depending on the requirements of the grant, a budget may need to be included in your grant proposal. Having a team member who understands and has experience with budgets and procurement will help show the grant funder that you have thoroughly researched the financials and that your plan is financially attainable. Only ask for what is needed, as packing a grant request with non-essential items might be the reason the grant funder decides to decline.

4. Determine your school or district’s capacity for a new program or project implementation.

What can the organization realistically handle?  Are all potential stakeholders represented able to provide a complete picture of your organization’s capacity for growth or change?

5. Identify preparation responsibilities.

Provide data to support your grant proposal. Who will collect the necessary data? Who will obtain necessary permissions (from administration, the school board) to seek grant funding? Who will make initial contact and establish a relationship with the grant funders when the time comes?

Grant writing is a science that requires a diversity of skills–talents that surely exist within a school or district. Recruiting the right team and clearly defining the program you wish to fund are important first steps to reaping the rewards of a winning grant proposal.

How-To Guide for Writing Successful Educational Grants

Want to know more about applying for school grants? Check out our how-to guide on writing successful grants.

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About the Author
Oran Tkatchov is a former secondary school teacher, charter school director, and state-level director of professional development in the areas of special education and school improvement. He currently supports professional learning at the Arizona Schools for the Deaf and the Blind. He earned a Master’s of Education from Northern Arizona University.