Start with grant writing

How to Get Started Writing Grants

Special education teacher Carmen Watts Clayton has compiled bullet points for grant-writing “newbies,” with helpful guidance for teachers and educators who are seeking classroom funding.

Grant writing requires organization and commitment; therefore, it is helpful to have some guidance about how to get started. Writing a grant application can be compared to writing an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Outlined below are steps to take to begin your grant-writing journey.

  1. Start small; break large goals into a number of smaller goals that are linked together. Find smaller opportunities that lead to the big goal.
  2. Challenge your comfort zone, but do not go “all out.” Preserve some of your energy and enthusiasm for later projects.
  3. Think about what students already know and stimulate curiosity by including them in your grant decision-making and writing.
  4. Make a checklist of benchmarks to gauge progress with schedule, budget, and deadlines. Stay organized and be honest to yourself about how you are sticking to your benchmarks and deadlines.
  5. Make the project goal manageable, singular, and measurable. You can always expand and add to the scope in later proposals.
  6. Know when the project is complete; your proposals should establish realistic timelines.
  7. Be sure you have the necessary permissions and support to apply for and promote the proposed project. Get the blessing of key stakeholders including required signatures from principals, superintendents, or participants and photo release permission from parents of students under 18 participating (funders may want promotional images.) You need to know what and how much of your project can be shared and how to take appropriate nonspecific photos or film recordings of students. Administrators should be aware of your grant-writing activities and the level of involvement of students, including if there is any component occurring off campus or outside regular school hours.
  8. Remember you must meet all deadlines!


Here are some helpful tips for grant-writing “newbies.”

  1. Small grants are easier to find, apply for, win, and complete. They build momentum, enthusiasm, confidence, and improve your persuasive writing ability. Use a teacher/grant writer website to assist if you don’t know where to start, like Grantsmanship Center and
  1. Study each grant’s RFP (Request for Proposal) carefully and fully. Use your close reader skills to be a “match maker” and find the proper funders to partner up with. When your project goals match the funder’s priorities closely, everybody wins—companies are able to give back and pay it forward, while you are able to fund special additions to your curriculum and technology tools.
  1. Planning and research are the core work of every grant application. Grant-writing skills can be improved with attention to detail. Social media use, branding the project, keys words and tags, producing video clips, shared drives, research, online applications, reporting, LMS, website application processes, and other computer skills will be honed to make the grant proposal successful. All of these are vital business skills relevant now and in the future.
  1. Team development and relationship building is highly important to winning grants. Leaders must spread tasks around while building team moral and good work habits at every stage of the writing, editing, budgeting, and reporting process. Get your colleagues involved and explain to them that the entire community or school profits from approved grant projects.
  1. Have a vision. Use your best innovation, creativity, and out-of-the-box thinking. Ask for feedback from all stakeholders, but keep the proposal reasonable and realistic.
  1. Consistently follow through with plans, revisions, and communications when managing more complex projects beginning to end. You can combine this by teaching students organization of complex tasks, business and leadership skills, and guide them through each stage of progress with you on any grants you win. These “real-life” STEM skills are what so many students need, but they do not always have the opportunity to learn them in a school setting. The scope of real projects and the connections to working professionals can be most inspiring and crucial to your students’ success.

Lastly, remember that grant writing is not magic; it is succinctly writing a plan for a doable project that fits into a theme or underlying question being studied or a need being addressed. It has measureable goals and a defined time period, and is similar to writing a short-term IEP goal for an entire class/program/school. As a teacher, you already possess many of the skills necessary to write successful applications. This is the time to apply your knowledge and get those applications created.


Carmen Watts Clayton is a special education teacher at Pajaro Unified School District in California and a blogger. She is passionate about integrating technology and arts in her classroom. Her twitter handle is @carmen_wclayton.


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