The Bookends of Education and Funding Opportunities

As educators, we spend much time reading and studying. We know reading is the foundation skill for learning. Perhaps in your classroom you have compiled many books to share with young learners that demonstrate the importance of reading. Sometimes we use bookends to support the series of books and make the book titles stand out. My sister knows my love for horses and gave to me a pair of glass horse bookends that I proudly use to support the many resource books I have on grants, RFPs and other funding sources. By positioning them on the opposite ends, this pair of supports enables my books to be easily accessible to me. Lately in my survey of grants, I am seeing the bookends of education quickly becoming a growing funding movement. The bookends of education are Early Learning and Workforce Development.

These opposite ends of the education continuum are the bookends of a student’s educational career. Beginning with preschool learning through college and career readiness, the bookends of education bring lifelong benefits to each student and level the learning field. As a result, the areas of early childhood learning and career and college readiness/workforce development are quickly rising as major areas for investment among federal, state, local, and private funders. A growing number of public and private funders are issuing calls to action and supporting efforts in the bookends by offering grant opportunities.

Between the bookends, and standing tall, is also an area of growing interest and increase funding – the Whole Learner. The bookends frame and support the efforts of social emotional learning, school culture and safety, personalized learning, and family engagement. These are just some of the many supports contributing to the success of the whole learner and appearing in many grant applications.

As the 2019-2020 school year approaches, consider how your school offers solutions to support the bookends of education. Perhaps you offer solutions to benefit the Whole Learner. Look to funding to support the continuum of learning. It is available, here and now!

Put the Fun into Funding

 

Finding the right grant;

Crafting a logic model;

 Forming partnership;,

Creating the project design;

Detailing a budget;

Writing the application; and

Submitting all of this in a timely fashion

Wow — all these tasks sound like a lot of complicated and all-consuming work and really no fun.  It is a lot of work. Now in my 46thyear working in funding, it still remains a lot of work. Hopefully these years of experience and skills that I have learned around funding can bring you less sleepless nights, less sacrifices with your family and friends, and less tensions as the deadline for grant submission closes in. But most importantly, I hope to put the fun back into funding.

Let’s put all these multistep tasks into one whole-task condition. A grant proposal is really a call to action. It is a cohesive, persuasive, and well-researched need for change.

It begins by defining the problem you are trying to solve. It involves obtaining buy-in on the need and solution from internal partners (such as your school principal or superintendent) and external partners (such as business officials, PTA staff, evaluators, and/or community leaders). Taking the concept and mapping it out in a logical manner helps create commitment with the partners. During this time, be searching for appropriate, matched-funding sources. Don’t carry the burden of working on all these tasks alone — look for a small but devoted team. Establishing and following timelines and schedules that are doable and obtainable will lessen the anxiety and tensions during the process. When defining the project, think simple and clear outcomes, not complicated or confusing. Details for your budget should be realistic. Consider short, laser-focused sentences when writing.

At GrantsAlert, we remind ourselves to always strive for the fun in our funding work. My horse and I enjoy special moments when we come together and bond with laughter. As your small grant team or your larger partnership teams meet, take time to bond around your call to action. Enjoy the process and find the fun in funding!

 

 

 

 

 

Three Reasons to Fall in Love with Funding

February is a time of year when we are surrounded by images and messages of love. Perhaps you, or someone you know, may be considering a Request for Proposal to the love in your life.

At GrantsAlert, we fall in love everyday with being able to help you uncover the resources to make a difference in the lives of your students. We think of it as a love affair with funding. We propose to you, three reasons why you should fall in love with funding.

  1. Funding brings the financial means to make a difference in meeting student achievement goals.
  2. Funding builds your capacity to identify evidence-based solutions to meet your pressing educational needs.
  3. Funding strengthens your skills in planning and preparing to benefit your school and community.

As we buzz around looking for grant opportunities, we want to alert you to the vast opportunities that exist and hope that you take advantage of these funding resources for your students and community. So as the school year moves forward, consider a deeper relationship with funding and let us help you fall in love with funds.

Fall Funding: Challenges & Opportunities

The arrival of fall means your students are back in school. This year, we saw an increased challenge for teachers and schools as they struggle with the lack of resources to meet the demands of a new school year. We read about many, many of you reaching deep into your personal pockets ($479 deep according to this article!) to make the learning experience for your students conducive to a supportive school climate.

We also witnessed the tragic impact that many schools, most recently in the southeastern region, have had to overcome due to devastation from Mother Nature. One of our team members experienced, first-hand, the weather disruption by Hurricane Florence. Her family, including her school-aged children, has been displaced and left homeless. As she shares her story about the social and emotional affects to her children, we are reminded of community supports in time of need. Whether grants or fundraising efforts, we see signs of financial giving and support when we look around us.

Donorschoose allows teachers to crowdfund for classroom supplies and resources. Often, generous benefactors will match donations for specific subject areas or windows of time. This fall, several celebrities and philanthropists matched donations for various subject areas.

GoFundMe is another site that enables fundraising through online sharing. GoFundMe is the #1 site for crowdfunding campaigns, which range from raising money for family emergencies to supporting local school projects.

This fall, we also noticed many foundations stepping up with grants to purchase basic classroom needs.  Though the most recent deadlines have passed for some of these programs, there are a number of groups that offer financial support.  The American Association of Educators offers classroom grants to support projects, materials such as books, software, manipulatives and more.  The Kids in Need Foundation offers an online fundraising toolkit to help with classroom supplies.  Target offers grants to support field trip excursions for classrooms.

Search GrantsAlert.com to find more opportunities to support your classroom.  We hope your fall is off to a happy, safe, productive, well-funded start.

The Power of Community: Helpers are all around us

Summer’s hit documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, tells the life story of beloved television host Mr. Rogers. It’s a powerful film that highlights the importance of community and of the “helpers” (using Mr. Rogers’ lingo) who surround us.

We were reminded of his noble vision of community when this story popped up on our Twitter feed a few days ago. This teacher—while traveling to visit family—told the tale of her students’ needs to a fellow passenger on the plane. Her story was met with unexpected generosity and kindness from strangers. She left the plane with hundreds of dollars in donations for her classroom.

Her tale reinforces that good is all around us—and that helpers can be all around us, too. Sometimes, all we need to do is tell the genuine, heartfelt story of our schools and students, and the need is met.

Are you struggling to meet the needs facing your classroom this year? Consider how you can share the story of your students with potential helpers in your life.

In addition to talking with people you meet in your day-to-day routines, remember that there are many other channels. Neighborhood businesses are often willing to support local classrooms or to display school supply donation jars. The PTA is a great resource for flexible funding. School or district foundations are another source of assistance. Local or regional community foundations can provide support; in addition to the core foundation grants, many of them also host donor-advised funds that support education needs.

Finally, there are online crowdfunding sites, such as Donors Choose or Class Wish. This model allows you to share your needs with a broader community, often resulting in a greater chance of success.

Wherever you seek funding to support your students, remember to tell the genuine, heartfelt story of their need. Whether it is shared on a plane or online, the compelling story is the reason people will choose to give.

“We live in a world where we need to share responsibility,” Mr. Rogers famously said years ago. “It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

Go tell your heartfelt story and find your heroes.

 

 

Successful Grant Writing: A Tip from Italy

One (very lucky) GrantsAlert team member just returned from a glorious vacation in Florence, Italy. Along with tales of rich gelato and amazing art, she shared a story about the Duomo—the city’s iconic dome—that resonated with all of us.

Back in Italy’s heyday, an iconic cathedral was built in Florence that included space to add a jaw-droppingly enormous dome.  The problem? Nobody knew how to design and build the dome structure to complete the cathedral. In 1418, the leaders launched a contest to see which great artisan was up for the challenge for the reward of 200 gold florins (the currency of Florence in the 1400s).

A number of men approached the leaders with design ideas. One of those men was Filippo Brunelleschi, who provided drawings that showed an enclosed dome without visible crossbeams for support. When asked how he would accomplish the dome without the typical supports, Brunelleschi allegedly showed them a turnip that he had carved as a model. (A favorite tidbit about that turnip: out of fear that others would steal his design, he immediately used the turnip to make a soup to keep his design secret safe.)  Brunelleschi’s design was ultimately chosen and is now the acclaimed Duomo of the Florence cityscape.

What does this architectural feat have to do with grant opportunities for educators?

The process—right down to the turnip model—has a lot of similarities with the grant protocol of current times.

While today’s process might be a touch more sophisticated, the core qualities of a successful applicant have withstood the test of time: creativity, clarity, and ingenuity.

Brunelleschi was able to convey his idea in a way that proved him to be the right designer for the job.  In the same way, successful grant applicants are able to clearly articulate their needs in order to thoroughly address their challenges.

As you apply for grant opportunities, remember to align your needs to the grant proposal with as much gusto as Brunelleschi did. Tap into your creativity to tell the story of your project. Be as straightforward as possible, without losing the enthusiasm of your work. And, don’t be afraid to sprinkle in an unexpected element (think: turnip) to help the grant reviewer see the soul of your proposal.

GrantsAlert is proud to be your resource for education funding opportunities so that you can win funds to make your school or district a masterpiece.

 

 

Welcome to the NEW GrantsAlert Site

“Optimization” is the latest buzzword.  It’s the 2018 version of 1998’s “thinking outside the box.”

But we know there’s nothing new or trendy about optimization for teachers. Teachers are perennial optimizers! Teachers work tirelessly every single day to make learning as great as possible for their students.

Today, in honor of teachers everywhere, we are unveiling our own optimized work: the new GrantsAlert site. This site includes everything you loved about the former site, optimized for easier use. You can now search by state or by subject to find grants. The site is designed with busy educators in mind.

Our blog will continue to share grant-writing tips and resources, as well as round-ups of the latest grant opportunities.

We hope you enjoy the new GrantsAlert site.  And if there’s anything that would make the site even better for you, please drop us a line to let us know.

Cheers to our favorite people and the original optimizers: educators!

 

The ONE Thing That Must Be in Your Grant Application

“If I’d asked the public what they wanted, they would’ve said a faster horse.”  –Henry Ford*

It’s human nature to think about our wants, but as Henry Ford poignantly notes, our wants are often just more of the same. In life—and in grant applications—it’s more important to focus on the needs. By doing this, we end up addressing the root problem.

Every successful grant application includes a strongly defined needs statement. When your grant application is tied to a well-demonstrated need, you’ll discover much more responsive funders.

So, where do you begin? Here’s a step-by-step guide to quantify and qualify the needs of your grant request.

Define the Need

Begin by providing context for your need. Typically, this is accomplished with numbers—whether it is demographics or test scores or recent research statistics. These numbers may come from third-party sources, or you may have uncovered them by conducting your own needs assessment. Either way, those numbers must help you tell a compelling story. Weave the numbers into a narrative to engage your reader as you explain how and why you discovered the existence of this need. The narrative offers the opportunity to share not just the quantitative needs, but also the qualitative needs. Remember to address the human interest aspect of the need, as this tactic strengthens a reader’s stake in your application.

Offer Supporting Evidence

After sharing data that applies to your specific need, broaden your scope to include additional research or evidence to support your needs statement. This may include research on a larger scale such as a state or national report. Essentially, you want to envision the need from 30,000 feet rather than immediately above your school campus. This provides a regional or national context for your need.

Identify Root Causes of the Problem

Once you’ve made the case for your need, do your best to identify the root causes. How and why does this problem exist? If your need is improved kindergarten readiness, a root cause might be the lack of early childhood literacy programs in your area. Or, perhaps it is caused by a lack of preschool books at the local library. It’s likely that there are several contributing factors and it is acceptable to include all of them, provided that you can link them to your identified need—but do not grasp at straws.

Align to Your Goals

By now, your reader should have a strong understanding of the need and how it came to be. Your next step is to explain how solving this problem aligns to the goals of your school, district, or organization. Let’s go back to the kindergarten readiness example. You want to solve this problem so that your kindergarten students come into school primed and ready to begin their K-12 education adventure. You are qualified to solve this problem because you understand the base of knowledge expected for an incoming kindergarten student, and you have an awareness of the successful strategies necessary to accomplish this goal.

Share your Vision

Every needs statement must conclude with a peek into the future: the vision. Tell your reader what the landscape will look like once you’ve carried out your project. Be as specific and realistic as possible. If you are requesting $5,000, do not claim that you will entirely obliterate childhood illiteracy in your city; ensure that your vision is in line with the scope and potential of the requested grant. Nobody wants to squash a requester who dreams big, but most funders want to work with people who are realistic about their ability to make an impact.

These simple steps will help you create a compelling, merited needs statement that will set the tone for the remainder of your application—and help you get what you need.

Stay tuned next month for solutions-focused grant writing.

*Sidenote: There is debate over whether Henry Ford really uttered these words. His great-grandson attributed it to him in 2006, but there is plenty of skeptism about the origin of the quote. If you’re curious, check out the full story here: https://quoteinvestigator.com/2011/07/28/ford-faster-horse/

How to Pick the Right Grant

In an ideal world, educators should be able to focus all of their energy on their students and pedagogy. Unfortunately, the reality is that educators often must focus on procuring resources, too.  More than ever, teachers and administrators are seeking funding and writing grants to support basic classroom needs.

While we cannot fix the root of the problem, we do want to help with the solution. And that’s why we’re creating a series of blog posts on grants. At GrantsAlert.com, we want to make it easy for teachers to find the best grant opportunities and then successfully apply for those funds.

Over the next several weeks, our blog will offer tips and tricks for grantseekers, so that you can get back to your intended focus: the students.

Today’s tip: picking the right grants.

In a world of limited funding, it’s tempting to stretch a little outside of the parameters to apply for a grant. But your time is valuable, and the grant reviewer’s time is valuable. You’re far better off investing your time in a grant that suits your needs and priorities.

Here are some easy guidelines.

Geography & Demographics

Many grants are tightly focused on specific geographic boundaries or demographics. Does this grant serve your geographic area? Is it intended to serve a specific demographic, such as children from low-income communities? Be mindful of these focus areas, and apply for funding only when your project aligns.

Use of Funds

Let’s imagine you’re searching for a grant to implement an afterschool program—including curriculum & materials, professional development, and funds to pay for staff. Do your homework by searching for grants that allow you to request funds for the specific needs you have. Don’t ask a grant giver to pay for staff salaries if the guidelines specifically prohibit it. Similarly, recognize that one grant giver may not be able to address all of your funding needs for this project.

Ensure that the scope of your project fits into the grant’s intended range of support. A grant that provides $500 for classroom materials is just a drop in the bucket for a $50,000 district-wide project. The range of funding offered by the grant should be in line with the funding you need to bring your project (or at a minimum, a defined subset of your project) to fruition.

Does it require matching funds? If so, do you have existing partnerships to fulfill this requirement? Line up some possibilities in advance.

Shared Goals

Perhaps most importantly, consider whether the grant giver shares your project’s goals. Let’s say you are seeking funds to create a new outdoor playground. Obviously, a grant giver with ties to health and wellness would value this project. But that may not hold true for the corporation that wants to see more kids learning to code. Without the fundamental connection of shared goals, your proposal will fail. Present the opportunity to the grant giver for which the project resonates.

Up Next: Writing a Grant that Clearly Identifies the Need

Stay tuned for the next post in our series, which focuses on defining the need for your project.

Calling All Grant Writers!

You’ve likely read the popular children’s book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Numeroff.  The darling little mouse begs for a cookie. And he gratefully receives it. But, with crumbs still on his whiskers, the mouse then requests a tall glass of milk. Here at GrantsAlert, we understand this little mouse’s chain […]