Teachers and Grant Writing—What’s the Connection?
I had heard that The Research Institute’s (TRI) Christina Reagle was scheduled to present a Grant Writing 101 workshop to a room full of Western Oregon University (WOU) students. Nothing unusual about that. But these students are about to graduate from the WOU College of Education and begin their first teaching jobs. Why would these new teachers need to develop grant-writing skills, I wondered? So, I went along to find out.
It’s common knowledge that many teachers spend their own money to replenish supplies in their classrooms. And we see teachers helping out at car washes and bake sales to support projects in their schools.
What’s not so common knowledge is that many teachers also spend hours of their own time applying for grants from foundations, charities, and local government agencies to pay for the projects that help make a well-rounded and engaging educational experience for the students in their charge—our children.
Limited Funding for Education
“State and federal funds for education are tight,” says Dr. Reagle. “So to do special projects like field trips, purchase classroom technology, and bring in guest speakers, grant funding may be necessary.”
“Educators are the most resourceful people I know,” Dr. Reagle continues with a smile. “When they see a need for their students, they will find a way to fill it. Grant writing might be just the way.”
Grant Writing 101
During the workshop, Dr. Reagle covered grant-writing basics. Here are the top 10 tips.
Top 10 Tips for Teachers just Beginning in Grant Writing
1. Always inform your principal and school district before applying. (You never want your boss to be surprised.) It is often the district that will receive the funds (not you), so they will need to sign off on the applications. Also, there may be others in the district applying for the same funds. Better to pool resources than to compete for the same dollars.
2. Finding grants is a challenge. Grants are available from many sources—federal and state agencies, local charities, and private organizations (like the Gates Foundation). Many teachers are now using crowd-funding websites like Go-Fund-Me and Kickstarter. A good resource for finding a listing of small education grants is George Lucas’ Edutopia. Here’s a link to their grants and resources page.
3. Match your idea to the grantor’s requirements. There’s an old saying that applies to grant writing—don’t go to the hardware store to buy a gallon of milk. Make sure the mission, goals, and requirements of the granting agency match the objectives and goals of your project.
4. Know what is expected with each application. Most funding sources have very specific requirements for the application form—often right down to the size of the font and the number of pages. Many granting agencies offer webinars that outline the requirements.
5. Write a concise narrative of the proposed project. Include the purpose of the request, the need or problem being addressed, how you will address it, the population or community the project will serve, and why this project at this time.
6. Before submitting proof, proof, proof. Review all of the formatting requirements. Get fresh eyes to proofread for spelling and grammatical errors. There is nothing more frustrating than to get rejected because of spelling mistakes or an incorrect format, but it does happen.
7. Be prepared to do what you promised. If you get the grant, remember it is a contract. The funds must be spent as outlined in the application. Final reports and periodic updates are usually required, so an accurate accounting of the project activities and how the money is being spent are essential. This is true even for very small grants. In these reports, be honest about what went well and what didn’t and provide explanations.
8. Don’t get discouraged by rejection. Grant writing is an art that can take time to develop, and even the best grant writers get turned down. If you don’t get funded, lick your wounds, learn from it, and submit another application (to a different organization, or make appropriate adjustments and resubmit at a later time to the same organization). The time and energy you put into an “unsuccessful” application has produced language, budgets, and planning that can be used in the next one.
9. Success with one grant can lead to others. Showing that you get and execute a grant makes you more fundable. Grantors want to see that you will follow through without them having to track you down.
10. Grant writing skills can enhance a teacher’s resume. When looking for a first teaching job, or a position in a new district, showing grant-writing skills and experience might be what moves a resume to the top of the list.
This piece originally appeared on The Research Institute’s blog. It has been edited for republication.
About the Presenter: Dr. Christina Reagle has been writing for and receiving educational grant funds for more than 35 years. She is the Director of TRI’s Center for Educator Preparation and Effectiveness (CEPE), which currently manages eight externally funded projects (grants and contracts).