If you’ve never written a classroom grant before, the prospect can seem daunting. I had been teaching over 10 years before I even attempted to apply for a one. In my mind, writing and applying for classroom grants was way above my skill set, and something that only English majors pursued. Honestly, I was terrified, and didn’t know where to start.
After I received my first grant, I realized that anyone can write them. It just takes a little patience, research, and perseverance. I have personally used them to fund basic classroom supplies, field trips, sensory equipment, appliances for the life skills classroom, our school garden, and even our classroom run food pantry. Because of the funds we have received, my teaching, and my students’ learning have been enhanced dramatically.
How I Started Writing Grants
My 11th year of teaching brought me the new opportunity to start-up a self-contained classroom, at a school that had never offered that type of educational setting. After accepting the position, I literally walked into a totally empty classroom. They gave me a $200 stipend to buy supplies, which of course, didn’t come close to covering what we needed.
I furnished the classroom to the best of my ability, via donations, garage sales, and my own pocket, but we needed more. My principal that year, suggested that I write some grants. I thought he was crazy because I had never written one before. He gave me some information on a local grant and told me to start there. I hesitantly applied for it, and 2 months later received word that I won. That did it! I kept going, and never looked back. It’s been 4 years, and I’ve received thousands of dollars’ worth of grants, that have made my classroom what it is today. Trust me when I say that never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought I’d have such success with them.
If you’re ready to begin the grant writing process, here are my top 5 tips.
1. Prepare Yourself
The most important rule to follow before you begin writing and submitting grants is to ensure that you have the support of your administration. Some schools have rules about the types of grants you can apply for, the amount of money you can receive, and/or what types of equipment you are allowed to request. For example, in our district, we need to get special permission to write grants for certain types of technology, including ipads, chromebooks. and computer software and hardware.
Additionally, when applying for any type of grant, make sure that you are reading the fine print. Many grants and/or donors fund only specific items or projects. There are also deadlines that you must adhere to. The last thing you want is to waste your time and effort on a grant that you don’t qualify for, or that has already closed. Some grants also have follow-up activities that you will need to complete at a later date. This can include sending pictures and/or submitting receipts and documentation. Make sure that you are willing to fulfill all necessary steps before you begin the writing process.
2. Start Local and Start Small
Until you have a few applications under your belt, I would suggest applying for grants that are $500 or less. These are easier to win, and don’t require as much of a time commitment. Additionally, smaller grants like these are more likely to be offered in your community, via local educational or service organizations.
When I first started at my school, I was new to town and didn’t know my way around the area, much less what organizations and clubs were around. You know what I did? I asked around, and researched community service and educational organizations in the area. I then wrote a letter to each organization, introducing myself and my classroom. Then I asked them to please keep me informed about any grant opportunities that may be offered in the future. I received very encouraging responses back from them, and they also started sharing information about my classroom with other organizations. Since then, I’ve been awarded multiple grants from within our community.
Organizations you may have in your area:
- Lion’s Club International
- Local Women’s Clubs
- Student Education Chapters at your local college or university
- Rotary Clubs
- American Legion
- Local Retired Educator Associations
3. Gather Information
Every grant I have ever written requires you to gather basic information before you even begin the writing process. Some of the most common information you will need is below.
- Student background and demographics – race and ethnicity of students, Title-1 status, and free and reduced lunch percentages. Your bookkeeper, data manager, and/or cafeteria manager are your best resources when it comes to finding the answer to these questions.
- Project mission statement and/or summary – Why did you choose this particular project? Clarify the “what” “who” and “why” of your project and tell the funder how your project meets what their target.
- Goals – What are you specifically hoping to achieve? How will it benefit your students? What are you hoping your class/school/students will get out of it?
- Timeline – How soon are you going to be able to implement your project? If you aren’t going to be able to start it up right away, state why.
- Required Materials and Costs – Most grants require you to list each item you plan on purchasing, along with the price. Some grants will ask you to differentiate between which items are required for your project, and which aren’t completely necessary to start it up. They will then ask if you are willing to accept partial funding, covering only the cost of your required items. I always check yes because some is better than none.
- Assessments – How will you know if your students are actually getting anything out of the project?
4. Change It Up
Once you write a grant, it’s easy to want to copy and paste large portions of text from previously submitted grants onto new ones that you’re applying to. This is especially true if the grants are similar. You may be able to do that with the demographic information, but when it comes to the foundation of your application, I would be cautious. Before applying for the grant, take some time to read the mission and goals of the foundation to which you’re applying. When you’re writing your proposal, you want what you write to match up with their vision and goals. They are probably getting quite a few applications, and you want yours to stand out from the pack.
Additionally, when you’re writing a grant, try to stay away from too much educational jargon. If you do use it, make sure you spell out exactly what you’re talking about. For example, you shouldn’t write a grant asking for manipulatives to use for your ESY students who have been diagnosed with various exceptionalities, such as IDD, AU, and OHI. Most people who don’t work in the special education setting have no idea what that sentence means. Try to keep your language simple, and if you do need to throw in some educational lingo, explain exactly what it means.
5. Know Where To Look For Grants
There are grant opportunities everywhere, sometimes you just need to do a little research.
- Online – Search engines are your friend. I have found many grants just by looking up key terms related to what type of project I was looking to fund.
- Local Organizations – I talked about this above, and it is by far my number one source of funding.
- Newsletters – You know those educational newsletters you receive from your state on a regular basis? If you actually scroll through them, many have grant opportunities listed for everything from classroom funding to professional development.
- Local Utilities Co-Op – Check to see if you have a community co-op in your area. They are huge advocates for education, and are known to fund educational projects. Their applications are usually pretty simple and straightforward, and they usually fund up to $2,000.
- Special Olympics – If you are involved with Special Olympics, look into the multiple grant opportunities they offer throughout the year. If your school is a Unified Champion School, you have even more opportunities to receive class funding.
- Department of Education Website – Many state’s have a list of grant opportunities listed on their Department of Education website. I’ve found that the majority of these funds are for professional development, but there are also a few opportunities that provide classroom funding.
- Crowd-funding – I know this isn’t a grant, but there are many donation sites that support classrooms. Donors Choose is my favorite. I’ve had many projects funded, and they always seem to offer some sort of incentive to help get projects funded.
The first time you’re funded, your confidence in writing a grant will improve dramatically. Like I said before, I never pictured myself writing grants. It is a little extra work, but the impact that it will have on your students and the classroom makes it all worthwhile.
Are you ready to begin your journey into grant writing? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to help you out.