Funding Technology through Grants
Everybody has big plans for technology in their district, but the trouble comes in trying to fund their initiatives. Some districts are fortunate with their tax base or a local school support organization to help fund these programs. However, other districts live on the edge every year of having to drop valuable programs. Regardless of which category you belong in, you probably have considered writing for grants to supplement you funding. Having written several successful grants in the past, here are some things I have learned that may help you write for yours.
Read all the paperwork
Some grants have very little paperwork included in the application while others seem to have reams on documentation. Some of the documentation may seem unnecessary but if you don’t read it all, you may miss an important detail. Minor things can immediately remove you from consideration for a grant. One time we signed an application with black ink instead of blue and were immediately disqualified. How trivial is that!?! The note about the ink color was buried in one of those pages we thought was unimportant.
Read previous successful grants
Not all agencies do this, but if the agency you are applying to posts previous successful grants why not read them to get a better sense of what the reviewers are looking for. As you read look for how those grants were laid out. Were the sections really filled out or were they short and concise? What was the level of language used? Were there “buzz words” used? How often? Did they include charts, graphs, and pictures or were they just text? How complete was the budget page? Were items grouped together in an overview was each item broken out separately with descriptions and potential vendors included? Reading previously awarded grant applications is a guarantee that they will be reviewed or judged the same this year but they will give you an idea of how to prepare.
Highlight the key words and phrases
After you have read all the documentation and any previous successful grant applications, go back and re-read the “important” sections of this grant application – the portion that gives the format and the questions to be answered for a completed application. Those may include sections about the need to be filled, demographics of your organization, proposed budget, grant analytics, and personnel. As you read through those sections, highlight or underline or circle or somehow mark the key words and phrases that you must respond to as part of your grant application. Do this step at least twice. You may want someone else to do it as well to make sure you didn’t miss anything. I will usually pull those sections out and paste them in a blank document that I work through before pasting back into the grant application form. I especially do this if the grant is being submitted through a web form.
Determine what to write for
Too often when asking people what to ask for in a grant, you will get a laundry list of things they want. In my experience, very few grant agencies are interested in buying things. They are more interested in achieving results. Yes, you can’t have one without the other but funding agencies are more worried about the second one. Your job as the grant writer is to predict the possible outcomes of buying the things your people want. Your administration may want tablets for every student and that’s a great goal. But how will those tablets impact education? The follow-up questions in your discussion with the people giving you input on what to ask for is how you can come up with the reasons why buying things will have a return on investment for the granting agency. Those reason become the anticipated results of buying things and will be used to show whether or not your grant project was successful. While reporting on your grant’s success will be one of the last things to happen in the grant process, you need to consider it now because if you are awarded the grant, you will need to do later exactly what you say now.
Write the grant
This step needs time to do well. It would be great to say that I’ve never written a grant in the last minute, but that wouldn’t be true. What I can say is that most of the grants written just before their deadline were not successful. As a writer, I know that I need to put a piece of writing aside for a day or two and then come back to revise it. I will work on this post for about a week before publishing it. In that time, I will revisit it 3 or 4 times (and still probably miss a thing or two).
Ask for help
Once you have the (almost) final version of the grant written, ask someone else to read it and give you feedback. Preferably someone with some grant experience. Give them all the documentation so they will know what to look for. Don’t just let them tell you what they think, have them mark up your document with corrections so you know what to work on. Always take feedback with a grain of salt because they haven’t been in on all the discussions, but use their comments to help with the final version of the grant.
One more time read through your grant app just to be sure. Also read through the documentation one more time to make sure you fully understand how to submit the paperwork. It doesn’t always happen, but I like to send it in before it is due. That way if there is a problem, I can resend if needed. If it is to be mailed, it may be worth the extra expense sending it certified. If it is to be faxed make sure that you print a confirmation of delivery sheet from your end. If it is emailed, check the delivery confirmation and opening confirmation boxes on your email client. That isn’t a guarantee that you will get them back but it is a start. I will usually follow up with a call or email to insure they received the application.
Good luck and have fun writing!!