ATPE News Magazine

Summer 2019 | Volume 40 | Issue 2

Feature

Funding Your Classroom

Every teacher has projects that they would love to make happen in their classroom, and grants can be a great way to find funding to support your goals. Ever wondered how to find a grant and apply for it? We’ve got all the info you need to get started!

Types of Funding

Looking for grant funding for classroom projects can be a complicated process. Where to look for that funding depends on what you are hoping to accomplish and project scale (e.g., the number of students benefiting, total project budget).

There are three main types of grants that provide funding for classrooms, schools, and districts: foundation grants, federal grants, and state grants.

Foundation grants can range anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to $25,000 to $50,000, although most will likely be in the range of several thousand dollars. As these awards tend to be smaller in amount, they are best for smaller, single-classroom projects, such as an individual teacher hoping to purchase calculators for their classroom.

Federal grants may provide several hundred thousand dollars of funding (or more) and are thus more appropriate for large-scale projects. District-wide initiatives are usually a good fit for federal funding options because they involve more students, and increased funding is required to accomplish project goals.

State grants fall somewhere in the middle, with funding that can range between tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The funding opportunities could be relevant to an initiative at either a single school or multiple schools.

Where to Look for Funding

Foundation grants are perhaps the hardest area for new grant seekers to find relevant opportunities. There are a few free databases or listservs that one might stumble across, but for these free ones, the quality of content isn’t always the best. In this instance, that old adage holds true: “You get what you pay for.” The quality clearinghouse databases for foundation funding are almost always behind a paywall.

The Foundation Center’s directory of foundation funders is a great resource, but it comes with a price tag (fconline.foundationcenter.org). Thankfully, many libraries will maintain a subscription to this database so that organizations in their community can have access to the knowledge inside! Have a chat with your local research librarian to see if your location has a subscription or if they can connect you to a nearby library system that does. From there, the librarian should be able to help narrow funder prospecting results based on who is making grants in your area and for what purpose. It’s always a nice surprise when you uncover a grant maker who is just up the road!

Federal grants are best searched for at grants.gov. You might find some opportunities from the Department of Education, but other agencies also offer grants throughout the year that might align to education and training within your areas of interest. For example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Environmental Protection Agency both have environmental education grants for which districts are eligible. The US Department of Agriculture has a grant supporting distance learning initiatives for rural, low-income communities, as well as a grant supporting agriculture education. The National Science Foundation frequently funds partnerships between districts and higher education research faculty members studying best practices within STEM education.

State grants can be found by perusing state agency websites to see what is available. Fortunately, the Texas Education Agency is rife with funding opportunities. You can search for options directly on their website at tea4avoswald.tea.state.tx.us/GrantOpportunities/forms/GrantProgramSearch.aspx.

Writing a Grant Proposal

You’ve done it! Your school or district has selected the perfect grant opportunity. Now it’s time to sit down and write that winning proposal. But where do you start, and what should be included in your grant application? 

First and foremost, check the program announcement or website to see if the funder has provided a specific application form or list of questions. Be sure to follow directions fully and completely. As for the application narrative itself, most funders require similar information. If they have not provided a specific format, the following narrative components provide a good structure for articulating your project.

Need

  • A description of the need addressed by the project. Document any recent issues, shortcomings, or challenge areas. This need should be aligned with the funder’s reason for offering the grant opportunity.
  • An independent justification establishing the need. Add information from your district or provide other local, regional, and statewide data. Funders love to see data backing up the existence of your stated problem area.
  • Other contextual drivers for implementing the project. Add information from other schools or districts that highlight your current need.

Approach

  • A concise description of the project. Add details here on the nature and scope of the project.
  • Advantages over other alternative solutions. Discuss what other approaches you have considered at your school or district and why you chose the solution you did.

Outcomes

  • Narrative description of benefits that you expect the project to bring. Relate the outcomes you expect to see based on implementation of the project to your initial discussion of needs.
  • You may include a chart further detailing expected outcomes, suggested indicators, targets, and timeframes. Share specific measurements that you will report to the funder at the end of the funding period.

Future Funding/Sustainability

  • Articulate your plan for how your district will budget to ensure the continued maintenance of the program or project after the funder’s initial investment ends.
  • If you are requesting support to pilot an initiative, detail specific plans for using data gathered during the pilot to improve forthcoming efforts as well as funding future rollout to a wider audience.

 
10 Tips for Maximizing Grant Success

Do your homework! Learn as much as possible about the grant program and the funder before you apply.

Use recent local and regional data to illustrate trends or identify “challenge” areas within your community.

Include SMART goals. They should be specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound.

Grants fund projects, not products. Start with your projects’ needs and objectives, then emphasize how the project you are requesting funding for will help you accomplish specific activities.

Talk to vendors rather than pulling prices for grant-funded items off the internet. Quotes provided in the budget will be more accurate, and vendors can help make sure you’re including everything that is necessary.

Provide a detailed budget justification. Be sure to connect each line item to a specific activity that will help you accomplish your goals.

Don’t include materials beyond those specifically requested by the funder. They have enough to read, and extra materials can detract from your message.

Start early! Funders like specific details about how their money is going to be spent. You’ll have more flexibility if you’re not applying at the last minute.

Get an outside set of eyes to edit your proposal and provide feedback. If your draft makes sense to someone who isn’t intimately familiar with the project or your school, odds are good that it will make sense to the funder, too.

Follow directions! Funders specify page limits, which attachments to include, font type and size, paper margins, and section headings for a reason. Inability to adhere to these requirements gives the funder an easy reason to disqualify your proposal.

For more information on how to seek grants, check out the Grants Office webcasts at grantsoffice.info/webcasts.aspx.
 
 

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