The Heart, the Brains, and the Courage in Grant Writing

Every year, teachers quietly and anonymously pay an average of $500, and up to a $1,000, a year for supplies for their classroom.  Yet, this goes beyond pens and papers, and can include lessons and the tools needed to teach them.   For example, a recent Gallup, Inc. report shows that 43% of teachers purchase electronic learning tools with their own money, while only 19% apply for grants for these products.  Those numbers should be reversed with the goal being an ever-widening gap between the two.

We get it! Grants can be daunting, especially after a long day of teaching and a longer night of grading. But unless applying for a new library wing, most applications under $5,000 are no harder than a lesson plan. Plus, unlike a lesson plan, you can reuse the material for other grants without groans of bored students.  To get you in the right frame of mind, here are a few key steps:

  • Know your target– With a good tool like, you will be able to review a host of possible grants. Target those that fit your need and scope right now and keep a wish list of future grants.  Most often, the worst outcome of a grant is receiving one you cannot complete.
  • Take time to prepare– Pick a grant with a deadline a few weeks out, preferably months.Get a cup of coffee and read through what is being asked.  Send out requests for needed data or input and enjoy dreaming what you want.  A rushed grant is evident by the lack of true vision and uneven nature of the narrative.   A last second grant will also discourage future attempts, and this is a marathon not a sprint.
  • Write in your own words-Again unless it is a new building, your authentic voice will speak louder than technical jargon. Know your material, speak to your expertise, but don’t forget why this is important.  People fund change in other people, not simply implementation of programs.
  • Work with partners-The best grants are team efforts as no one is great at all things.If finances are not your thing, get someone to review your budget.  Grammar are not a universally learned skill.  Plus, your administrative office will often have data you will need. Humility is your friend.
  • Enjoy- This work will lead to a student learning a skill, realizing a dream or overcoming a barrier.

Once you have your game plan, start writing and don’t worry about a perfect first draft.  If you need help, ask your fellow teachers if they have applied for grants or search for a website (i.e.  If you are going for a complicated grant and need support, go to your administration and see if they know of any resources that exist.  Finally, if you need professional support you can contact a consultant, but understand and factor in the cost.  Many people try to pay for consultants or grant writers out of the proceeds of grants, that is a VERY slippery slope and should be avoided.

Grants are often like the Wizard of Oz.  A lot of noise, confusion and fear that dissipates once the curtain is peeled back.  Yet, also remember there were three others (and Toto) supporting Dorothy to get to the end of the Yellow Brick Road.

Good luck and may you not encounter any flying monkeys, they are the worst.