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:

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, 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 […]

Funding Matchmakers Bring You Tradition, Twists, and Transformation

Many thanks to our friend, Joe Mizereck, who since 1996 has dedicated his time and his talents to supporting education and other social organizations by finding and following the money through What an amazing opportunity to walk in his shoes and continuing his untiring “Tradition of Funding Excellence! “ is honored to have our three pillars of funding – search, analyze, and match – converge with At we too have a rich history and earned the reputation of being the foremost funding matchmakers to the education community.  We are thrilled to have this opportunity to  apply our unique skills to continue Joe’s vision for the best in funding insights by enabling you to harness the power of GrantsAlert.

These are challenging times in the world of education funding, with many twists and turns. Where can you find trusted funding insights and learn to navigate the quick twists in funding? Right here at GrantsAlert!

And while all the twists and turns are happening, there is a transformation also underway in funding. More and more funding is moving toward state and local control and decision-making.  So in the months ahead, we are going to help our education community be prepared for this renovation in funding.

On behalf of Joe, we thank you for turning to and trusting GrantsAlert. Our commitment to you as Funding Matchmakers is to:

·      Continue the Tradition of GrantsAlert,

·      Help you navigate the funding Twists, and

·      Provide you a solid foundation for the funding Transformation taking place.

AWESOME ALERT: Paula Love to Carry The Torch Into the Future

For months I have been looking for the right person to take over and continue the work of  A few weeks ago this wonderful woman called me and clearly understood all the work and love I have devoted to this site and she declared her interest in securing the site, breathing new life into it and moving it into the future.  That woman was Dr. Paula Love and the more I learned about Paula the more convinced I became that if she decided to actually purchase, I would be placing it in the best hands possible.

Here’s the good…No, great news…I am passing the torch on to Paula and I couldn’t be more excited or thankful.

For some background on Paula, I found an excellent piece written by MCH Strategic.  They said:  “ Known in the industry as the Matchmaker of Funding or the Funding Doctor, these phrases truly capture the essence of’s Dr. Paula Love. She is a renowned funding expert with decades of experience delivering grant strategies for for-profit and nonprofit organizations, state and local educational agencies, schools, and institutions of higher learning. Without a doubt, Dr. Love knows funding from every perspective, from the classroom to the boardroom. Her nearly 40-year career has earned her great respect as a highly successful funding guru, but it is a little known fact that this work actually began at an early age. Young seven-year-old Paula rallied a community, raising so much money for cystic fibrosis that she made the front-page headlines in a prominent newspaper. Her desire for funding continued into her high school years, where she led her classmates to raise the bar in fundraising. And that passion for helping others continues today, bringing funding resources to companies, classrooms and organizations. Dr. Love is a highly skilled funding consultant with a wealth of insight to offer to every company and organization she assists, helping improve processes and efficiencies while uncovering new opportunities for financial growth.”

In the coming weeks and months, Paula and her talented team are going to be working on the site and transforming it into an even more powerful tool for America’s educators and workforce development folks who need the information and guidance Paula and her team can provide. I cannot wait to watch all this unfold and know that I am making a great decision in handing my baby over to Paula.  She shares my passion and desire to make a difference…to do good by helping others do good.  I really am a very blessed man.

Thank you to all my friends and colleagues who have used and/or contributed in some shape or form to its success.  It’s been a great ride…and it’s only going to get better with Paula Love at the helm.

Here’s Paula’s contact info:

Dr. Paula Love, President

P.O. Box 706

Newton, NC 28658

800-766-8002 ext. 1 (office)

704-462-2342 (direct)

443-474-7004 (cell)