They Said It: Gary Carnow offers his tips for developing a concrete plan that will attract the attention of potential funders.

6/29/2012 12:00:00 AM

Talk. Pitch. Do.

In these times of shrinking school budgets, everyone is looking for funds to help their school sustain just the basic needs for maximizing student achievement.

To set yourself apart from every other school asking for money, you need to develop a concrete plan and be able to “pitch” it to potential funders.

You can begin by facilitating brainstorming sessions followed by discussions to determine where you are and where you would like to be. Ask your colleagues, “What are the biggest challenges we face?” This simple question will potentially lead to a spirited discourse. At the idea generation stage, welcome all suggestions. It’s not uncommon to hear a laundry list of technology “needs.” Reserve your judgment for later.

Using a template of questions will help your team organize their thoughts and visualize what students and teachers will do. Asking who, what, when, where, why and how questions will guide your process. These sample questions will get you started and help you develop a part of your proposal.

• What is the problem? By recognizing your current situation and your target population, you are developing your needs assessment for your proposal.

• Why is there a problem? Use data to support your needs. Your data might be anecdotal (i.e., stories) or quantitative (i.e., numbers). Your data often suggests the need.

• What issues are related to the problem? Isolating the magnitude of the problem helps your team explore the causes, social issues, escalation or recurrence of the problems you describe.

• How will you solve the problem? The activities you suggest become your project’s objectives. Describing specific activities makes your proposal believable.

• How will you measure what you have done? Your evaluation should show your funder how your program works, how you will meet your objectives, and how you will know the worth for your efforts.

After you add an introduction, a milestone activity timeline, and a budget, you will have a grant proposal.

When you clearly define how you will get from here to there, you create the road map for your journey. Your ability to articulate your message will help people rally around a shared cause. Locally committed parents and educators will go the extra mile to collectively get you where you want to go. Your stakeholders are the people most invested in the academic success of your students and are your biggest supporters. If you find a funder, that’s great. If not, the process may have been so powerful that you will find a way to do it without outside funding.

Dr. Carnow is the Chief Technology Officer for the Pasadena Unified School District in California.

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