Successful grant writing
Have you watched your science budget shrink over the past few years? Has the thought of holding a bake sale crossed your mind as a way of funding your lab?
Despite the shrinking budgets of many of our schools, there are funds available for science education; you just need to know where to look, when to apply, and the characteristics of a winning application.
Be sure to search the Internet often for any local funding opportunities. Inquire directly to local companies to find funds and materials they are willing to donate to your class.
Here are some tips for designing successful projects before seeking grant funding:
- Be passionate about the project. When choosing a grant, you must really want the funds to obtain the resources for a project that you truly are in love with.
- Pick what you know. Research what you don’t. Design a project that goes beyond what is already being taught. Be knowledgeable about your topic. If you need to back up your proposal with facts, make sure to do your homework.
- Involve your colleagues. Many grants ask about partner involvement and extension to other areas. Partner with the math teacher to provide stronger instruction in data analysis; the media specialist for web design, a project blog, or video support; or a colleague across the state with the same passion.
- Include more than one subject or department. This makes getting chosen for the grant more likely because it becomes a larger concept that crosses curricula and impacts more students.
- Connect your project to the community. Include local groups like garden clubs, beautification groups, or local wildlife park staff.
- Have clear, concise, and measurable goals and objectives. No organization will award you money if it doesn’t know exactly where and how the money will be used.
- Apply to as many grants as you are eligible for.
- Look for grants that are awarded annually. Examine the projects that have been funded in the past. That helps with project ideas and guidance for completing the grant application.
- Don’t get frustrated. You might get turned down the first 6 times you apply for a grant. Each time you write a grant, you’ll become better at it. It just takes practice.
No matter the size of grant, $500 or $500,000, the information that you are expected to supply will be the roughly the same. That is why advanced planning is critical. Below is a short list of information that most grantors expect to see.
- Background information. Clearlymake a case for why you need the grant and why your project will positively impact students.Call attention to how the project will increase science content knowledge and/or technology skills, alter the way students feel about science and technology, or provide career readiness. You may need to supply classroom, school, and often district-level student demographics that may include gender, socio-economic status, free and reduced lunch percentages, and ethnicity. Classroom and school achievement data may be required. Don’t forget about your qualifications either. Be ready to make the case for your ability to manage a grant.
- Mission Statement. Succinctly summarize the project and identify the expected outcomes. Many writers do this in one sentence.
- Project Goals and Objectives. State goals and objectives clearly. Make sure they are specific, measurable, and free of educational jargon. You don’t know who will be reading your proposal.
- Timeline. Be specific and realistic.
- Assessment. You need to plan for assessment on several levels. First, have several assessment methods for each objective. If increasing student science knowledge is an objective, possible assessments are pretests and post tests for science content mastery, a project, or student self-assessment. If there is a technology or an engineering objective, perhaps assess via a design-and-build competition or skills checkoff sheet. In every case, you will need to assess at the student level, materials level, personnel level, and financial level (cost/benefit) as well as have a summative statement regarding the entire project. Quality assessment is most important and can affect additional funding opportunities.
- Materials, supplies, personnel. Be explicit about the materials and supplies you need. Check the grant requirements carefully for how this section is organized. Vendors may each need their own sections, and you may need to separate office supplies from chemicals and consumables from durable goods. Read the fine print of the request for proposal (RFP).
- Cost and funds requested. A couple of reminders when calculating cost—don’t forget shipping and taxes where applicable. Also, many institutions have a policy where a percentage of grant money is transferred to the institution for administration fess. If that is the case in your situation, you may be short of money to completely fund the project. Check the grant requirements carefully, you may need a single spreadsheet or one per supplier. You principal or district grant writer should be able to help with personnel costs. Remember, your time is valuable.
When all the boxes are checked, give the grant application package one more look.
- Know the deadlines and meet them.
- Be sure to read and follow closely the application instructions and requirements.
- Have someone else review your application and/or proposal for content, accuracy, and grammar.
- Have your principal review your application to make sure that your proposal falls within school and district guidelines.
Grant writing is a skill, and like any other skill, it requires practice to master. There are online services that you can employ to help with grant writing. Your school, district, or professional organizations often have designated personnel to write and administer grants. Seek them out and ask for advice. Always remember, the big goal is to make science education better, more accessible, and more engaging for your students.