Support when you are writing a grant proposal is crucial to your success. Support comes in many forms. A colleague may be a great sounding board for your ideas. A professor or other professional mentor may encourage you and point you in the right direction. People support is extremely helpful to the grantseeker.
For teachers that are just starting down the road to proposal development, I always recommend that you look for and respond to “mini-grants.” These grants may be offered by your local educational agency or perhaps from a local service club. Often these grants are for $250 or $500 and provide you with the funds you need to do a really exciting project of your own choosing. These kinds of grants are aimed at classroom teachers and offer great grantwriting experience. As always, look for a clever approach and an interesting idea. These smaller fund grants help you nail down that elevator speech, the two minutes you have to sell your idea. The support you receive from a local grant-making agency or service club will often go above and beyond your dreams. People respond to innovative ideas and volunteers will step forward to assist you in your program. Remember to write a formal letter of thanks to the granting agency. Take pictures, write news releases and give credit to your supporters.
Larger grants require different kinds of support. I recommend that as a classroom teacher, you run your idea by your principal and perhaps other supporters in your district office. Your administrator may have leads for you. Even if you are not funded, often times these people are able to help you find the resources you are seeking. Guy Kawasaki refers to these people as “angels.” His book “Selling the Dream,” describes the process of evangelism – convincing people to believe in your ideas as much as you do. I teach a class for those wanting to become computer coordinators at a local state university. I have used this book in my class as required reading for over fifteen years. For at the heart of any proposal, is a really good idea that sells itself.
Some state and federal grants require matching funds. Sometimes these funds are in-kind and sometimes they must be a percentage of the total grant provided by your local educational agency into the grant program. In-kind means a payment for goods or services with something other than money. For example, an in-kind match might include your time. Perhaps your grant proposal requires a grant coordinator, part of your salary and benefits could be the in-kind match. You can’t propose this kind match without support of administration.
In larger grants that involve a consortium of partners, support also comes in the form of letters. These letters of support are of two kinds. One may be from a potential partner to the project. A second type of letter may come from your program collaborators or other community leaders that substantiate the need for the program. In most cases, you as the grantseeker will write the letter for your supporter to edit, print, sign and place on their letterhead. You will need to work in advance to get these letters. In the mad rush to finish your proposal, stopping to gather letters of support will be the last thing you want to do. Remember that you will want to include the original letter, not a faxed, hard-to-read copy. Make sure these letters are very specific. Make it clear to the grant reader what this letter-writing organization is providing and have the letter address specific needs of the grant proposal. Get a letter of support from every organization that you have highlighted as a partner in your proposal and also from every formal partner. You can learn more about letters of support with a little Google research. Here is a weblink to get you started: http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/Business/Guidance/LettersOfSupport.htm.
Last week, I outlined some of the roles that people can take on to support you in your grantseeking. I wrote about a grant lead, grant researcher, grant analyst, a school historian, a needs manager and the collaboration organizer. The collaboration organizer is the person that fosters the relationships with collaborators in your school and your community. This point person can help you prepare letters of support, email the text to potential collaborators and follow-up on collecting the completed letters of support. They may need to drive over and pick up a letter at the last minute. Hopefully you will find a collaboration organizer that pays attention to all of the details.
Often grantseekers find support to help research grant opportunities and in learning to put together grant proposals. If you are not already familiar with the The Foundation Center, now is the time to get to know the resources they provide. You can learn more about the center at their website at: http://foundationcenter.org. The mission of The Foundation Center “is to strengthen the nonprofit sector by advancing knowledge about U.S. philanthropy.” The Center was established in 1956 and is a leading authority in connecting nonprofits to grantmakers. They also provide training programs and many publications. Many of their resources can be accessed for no charge at one of five regional library/learning centers and a national network of more than 340 cooperating collections. Another worthwhile resource is The Grantmanship Center located in Los Angeles, California but offers workshops throughout the country. The Center’s website is at http://www.tgci.com. In addition to their services, the website has a great collection of articles related to proposal writing and grantseeking.
During the grant proposal process you also need the support of your family. You will find yourself working late nights as you try to do your full-time job and fulfill your other responsibilities. Gaining the help and support of your family will keep you focused and help you through this stressful time.
Dr. Gary A. Carnow serves as the Director of Technology and Information Services for the Alhambra Unified School District. Dr. Carnow is the co-author of two software products published by Knowledge Adventure. He is also the co-author of three books, Prolific Thinkers (1986, Dale Seymour Publications), Software-in-a-Book: The Cruncher (2001, Teacher Created Materials), and Software-in-a-Book: KidWorks Deluxe (2001, Teacher Created Materials). He has authored numerous publications and learning resources for Apple, IBM, Scholastic, and others.