The Better Ways to Win a Grant
7/21/2008 By: Gary A. Carnow
TIPS FROM T&L GRANT GURU
Funding from grants is often at the core of a successful technology plan, but writing
proposals requires a bit of magic and a lot of time. Grants can be a good way for
educators to collaborate on building strong programs, but some creative thinking is
also required. Here are eleven hints that can help you rake in the funds.
#1 Find a brighter idea
#2 Get better organized
#3 Prepare an elevator spech
#4 Get a support group
#5 Set your watch
#6 Fill in the holes
#7 Judge for yourself
#8 If you got it, share it
#9 Known when to stop
#10 Make it a practice
#11 Party and give thanks
TIP #1 FIND A BRIGHTER IDEA
Becoming proactive at identifying needs will serve you well.
When a grant Request for Proposal (RFP) becomes available, the
grant seeker with good ideas will be ahead of the game. This is
really the cornerstone of the grant-writing process. So what is a
good idea? How do you go about getting these ideas? Ask your
colleagues to identify problem areas that might benefit from a new program
or a new way of doing things. The needs you identify may suggest
a solution or a set of activities to solve a problem. Some ideas may come
from looking at student achievement trends.
For example, your fourth grade
writing scores may consistently
trail fifth grade scores. What are
some possible reasons for this?
Ask existing groups what problems
they have identified. These
include: PTAs, faculty committees,
department chairpersons, administrator
groups, parent advisory councils, student organizations, and civic organizations.
Other ideas may rise from pressure within your school
community. For example, parents of your school may be satisfied
with academic gains, but want to see a stronger arts
program. Brainstorming is an excellent way to track down
good ideas. At the idea-generating stage, asking questions of
many stakeholder groups will lead to grant and program
ideas. Be sure to involve students as you search for needs.
(See Barbara Bray's article for more on developing
TIP #2 GET BETTER ORGANIZED
Many years ago I found myself drowning in scribbled
notes on paper napkins, journal articles that I
wanted to save, and reams of paper that just didn't fit
into a heading in my filing system. I started saving
these odds and ends in a lateral filing system. These
half-baked ideas and random inspirations are great as grant
starters. When I can't figure out how to file something that I
may want to access later, I simply place the material in a file
folder and give it a number. I number
my folders sequentially,
then write a few
key words on the folder,
and enter the information
into a database or
spreadsheet. When I
need to get my hands
on that favorite article, I
simply type in a keyword
and I easily can
find which numbered file folder to look in. As
things in the file are no longer wanted or needed,
I throw out the contents, recycle the numbered file, and
change my electronic file with new key words. If you really like
this method, you can invest in an automatic sequential numbering
machine (a hand stamping device) with five or six digits
that will stamp your folder with a number and rotate to the
next number in sequence.
TIP #3 PREPARE AN ELEVATOR SPEECH
First you must have a sound idea that makes
logical sense. What is the problem that you are trying
to solve? What specific activities will kids do?
How will you know when you have achieved your
goals? Can others replicate what you did? Answer
these questions and create your own elevator speech. This
sales presentation should take less than a minute, the time
it takes to ride an elevator in a tall building from the street
to the penthouse.
TIP #4 GET A SUPPORT GROUP
There is nothing like a support group to make a
grant application actually happen. Getting a grant
team together early on will help you through the
process. With the RFP distributed among team
members, highlight the program mandates.
Determine from the group what you have in place and what
you would like to accomplish. Take a look at the gap. The
work of your grant team will be to identify what is now and
where you would like to be in the future.
Team writing of
the actual narrative
is not recommended.
grant tends to have
neither a clear focus
nor a single voice.
The narrative writer
should use the support
group as a
sounding board. Discuss whether or not your proposal makes
sense. Is it doable?
Keep group members involved by involving them in authentic
tasks—developing partners for the project, creating
required forms, and proofreading.
TIP #5 SET YOUR WATCH
A grant proposal
takes time to develop
and write. Estimate
how long you think it
will take, and then
multiply by five. This is an
accurate reflection of how long
the process will actually take.
Scheduling your own time and
that of your support group can
keep you on track. It is not
uncommon to put in long days throughout the process, so
plan for the unexpected. The copy machine will go on the fritz
the day you need to make five copies. Your mailing service
closes early the day the proposal has to be in the mail.
Schedule, plan ahead, and have a back-up plan.
TIP #6 FILL IN THE HOLES
Take the time to read and re-read the RFP thoroughly.
Make several copies and carry one around
with you. Highlight action verbs. Follow the guidelines
RFP, and create
notebook with a section
for each part of the
proposal. Most proposals
follow a similar format
and your tabs will
probably look something
like this: abstract,
of needs, goals and objectives,
activities, key personnel, evaluation, and
budget. As you complete a section, place it
behind the appropriate tab and fill in the holes. I like
to begin with the budget. This forces me to think through
all aspects of my project, and it helps to determine if my
project will be doable given the available funds.
TIP #7 JUDGE FOR YOURSELF
Many RFPs include a scoring rubric to guide you in the
preparation of your proposal. If one is included,
write to the rubric. It's also a good idea to offer
your services as a grant reader. This invaluable
experience will help you to recognize what grant
readers see. You will gain experience in the grant
writing process by reading outstanding proposals,
and learn even more from reviewing mediocre ones.
You will see first-hand how readers scored each component
of a proposal and find examples of how different
grantseekers tackled the same RFP.
TIP #8 IF YOU GOT IT, SHARE IT
Grantfunders like to invest their money in projects that
take on a life of their own. In planning your proposal,
pay particular attention to how you will share
your project with others. Will yours be a model visitation
site? Will your project produce reports or
products that others may want? Will others be able
to adopt and adapt your project? Will you create
news releases, a project Web site, or have other ways to
share what you have accomplished?
TIP #9 KNOW WHEN TO STOP
on a proposal is
the easy part.
Knowing when to
stop is less clear.
After writing and rewriting,
at some point you need to
let go and place your energy
elsewhere. Go with your gut feeling. You do not need to
make every correction that others may suggest. Use suggestions
that make sense to you.
TIP #10 MAKE IT A PRACTICE
How do you become a
grantwriter? Most people don't
start out to be grantwriters, but
opportunities present themselves,
and they jump at the
chance. There are many
books, workshops, and conferences
devoted to grantwriting. The winning grant writer
will write well, will have a flair for organization, and will draw
readers into the writing. Grantseekers may benefit from taking
a community college class in journalism. Learning how a
reporter crafts and organizes a story translates directly to
grantwriting. Practicing journalism skills will help you succeed
at proposal preparation.
TIP #11 PARTY AND GIVE THANKS
Celebrate all your
hard work and the
work of your team.
Plan milestone events
that mark your
to take lots of pictures, tape video
interviews, and gather testimonials along
the way. Make sure to thank your funders, partners,
and participants. Give credit to those who make your project a
success. Throughout the grantwriting process, you will need to
gain new skills and take on jobs that may be unfamiliar to you.
You will soon become a skilled publicist, social director, author,
researcher, and tour guide.