It’s becoming more and more common for school districts to have to rely on teachers, parents, and community members for funding. I’m incredibly thankful for those generous individuals and organizations of the world — the ones who supply teachers with the necessary materials required to successfully engage their students on a daily basis. I’ve been fortunate to have received several grants to put to use with my own students over the years (a classroom set of Kindles, a classroom set of Kindle books, and three classroom sets of novels). The fact of the matter is, though: I’m just one teacher. There are tons of teachers who deserve to be outfitted with whatever it is they need. My guess is — if you’re reading this — you’re probably one of those teachers!
I haven’t received everything I’ve applied for, but I’ve had fairly good overall success when it comes to winning grants.
Here are my tips:
- Start small. I’m not suggesting you limit your options. I’m just pointing out that the pool of potential applicants for grants offered at the local level is much smaller than the number of people who apply for grants at the national level. Your chances of receiving a grant are far better if you have less competition. Therefore, seek out grants through your school district and/or community first. Then, look to your state. Then, go national.
- Focus on applying for one grant at a time. Think quality over quantity. Don’t send out tons of applications with the same copy/pasted paragraph. Sit down with your application, spend time with it, and submit it knowing you’ve given it everything you’ve got. You want to show whoever it is who’s judging your application that you want this more than the other candidates, and you deserve this more than the other candidates, and to do that you’ve got to take the application seriously.
- Brainstorm. Why should you receive the grant? Why should your students receive the grant? What’s the problem your classroom faces, and how would winning the grant solve that problem?
- Pay attention to minimum/maximum page counts. Never write less than the minimum, never write more than the maximum, but always write as close to the maximum as you can.
- Be thorough. Answer each question to the best of your ability. Consider what the reader would want to know, and write to that effect. You’re sharing information about you and your students with a complete stranger. This person probably doesn’t know much of anything about your classroom. What would you tell that person? Furthermore, many grant applications require applicants to research the prices associated with the items being requested. Include links to the websites with the best deals, as well as taxes, fees, and shipping costs. *Keep in mind that money might be limited, so bonus points are given to those who can find more for less, as the goal of those awarding grants is often to use what’s available to impact the most students possible.
- Be compelling. How will you provide support for your argument, both with numbers and words? For example, “Seventy-five percent of my students receive free or reduced-rate lunch benefits. This is due to the fact that the majority of their parents’ household incomes fall well beneath the federal poverty level of $24,600 for a family of four. My students’ lack of monetary resources makes it incredibly difficult for them to obtain basic school supplies. They simply cannot afford to purchase paper, pencils, and various other items crucial to their success in the classroom. The funds awarded by this grant would absolutely benefit my students by allowing them to focus not on their barriers to learning, but instead on mastering the information presented to them.” This argument utilizes hard data. It also touches on the emotional side of things. Your application has to have both.
- Be confident. I like to imagine I’ve already won the grant while I’m completing the application. Therefore, whatever I write won’t come across as me simply asking for something, but will instead focus on the ways in which receiving the grant will help my students. Additionally, articulating the outcomes of your efforts proves to the reader that you’ll likely follow through with your claims.
- Spell check! Grammar check! Check everything twice. Find a fellow teacher to read through everything before you submit it, and don’t forget to double and triple check the e-mail you send with your attachments (and don’t forget to attach your attachments)! It sounds elementary, but it’s important. Along those same lines: use black ink, 12-point font, Times New Roman.
I’d love to learn about the tips that have proven successful for you, too. What are your best practices when it comes to seeking out and applying for grants?