Grant Guru Tip #14 by Gary Carnow: Reactive and Proactive Grantseeking

There are many kinds of grants available. This article will focus on two kinds of grants, reactive and proactive. Both have something to offer for your school or agency. Reactive grants come from agencies that have identified a problem and are seeking organizations to propose creative ways to solve the problem. These kinds of grants are often sponsored by either the federal government or by a state government. Foundations and corporations also sponsor reactive grants. On the other hand, proactive grants are those kinds of grants offered typically by foundations that release grant cycles under general interest areas. These grantors may or may not have competitions each year and often fund awards with those whom they have developed relationships with. Proactive grants require you the grant seeker to be proactive.holastic, and others.

As a grant seeker, you must sometimes be proactive and other times reactive. In the reactive mode, you wait for an opportunity to present itself. You might find a grant announcement at your local school, in the newspaper, in an educational journal or from an on-line source. You perhaps subscribe to a listserv offered by a county or state agency that weekly presents you with the latest grant announcements. A listserv is similar to a computer newsgroup or forum, except that the messages are broadcast to everyone on the list as an email. When presented with an opportunity, you need to carefully read the request for proposal to see if what you can do or deliver fits with what the funding source is requesting. Can you gather your team and complete the application by the due date? Do you have the resources necessary to react in the timeframe required by the funding source?

When I tackled my first grant, I just assumed this is how grantwriting worked. You find a grant request and you write a proposal. As I wrote more local, then state and federal grants, I realized this was actually a big business. I found people who wrote grants for a living. I discovered corporations that developed proposals for clients. The whole process was intimidating. With more experience, I soon became more involved in the proactive way of grantseeking.

As a proactive grantseeker, you begin with a problem or need. You gather your team and view these problems as opportunities. Your solutions will solve an educational problem and hopefully improve the achievement levels of your students. Your solution may become successful and you may be able to help others replicate your strategies. In earlier articles I have written about the power of brainstorming with colleagues. Through this process you and your team will develop a list of problems and opportunities. Select several problems or areas of interest and begin to develop program solutions. You are now on the road to developing a proactive system. Through this process, you will be able to search for local and national funders that have funds available. In future weeks, this series will point you in several directions on the Internet for you to pursue. For those of you who can’t wait, simply Google some terms and phrases to get started such as educational grant opportunities, how do I write a grant or school grants.

Becoming an organized grantseeker will help you prepare and track proposal development. Educational grantseekers are busy people, particularly classroom teachers, so giving some thought on how you will organize your materials will assist you. I doubt if you have the luxury of spending several days writing, instead, you will need to carve out blocks of time to work. The more organized you are, the easier it will be to pick up where you left off. Some people like to work with file folders, others prefer banker’s boxes and I like notebooks. I tend to keep a three-ring notebook for each problem area that I have identified. Many of the areas that I identify are cross-disciplinary and that creates another cross-referencing issue for you to work through. I use my notebook to store my notes from my team’s brainstorming sessions. These notes help me define and articulate the solution. I keep a section in my notebook of contacts and potential partners. I file newspaper clippings or journal articles that help document the problem. Eventually this notebook will become my “swiss-cheese proposal.” During the proposal writing process I will add tabs for each section of my proposal, including the abstract, narrative, evaluation, and budget.

I also create notebooks for reactive grantseeking. With these proposals I start with the request for proposal (RFP) and yellow highlight the action statements. This will tell me what I have to do. From the RFP, my notebook becomes the repository of the many versions of my writing yet to come. Some sections of the grant will be similar no matter what the proposal is about. For example, in the narrative it is common to provide information about your organization, it’s history, mission and goals, current programs and activities, as well as some accomplishments. These kinds of paragraphs become boilerplates, text that can be reused in other proposals without much change from the original. The more experience you gain, the more boilerplates you will produce. I like to keep mine in word, in a folder that I call Grant Boilerplates on my computer. I also keep a file of other kinds of writing about my school district produced by others for media releases or staff communication purposes. As a grantseeker, you become the unofficial historian for your organization.

Be it reactive or proactive, educational grantseeking is finding creative solutions to problems. As a grant writer, you will develop problems into opportunities. The successful grantseeker comes up with creative solutions and is able to translate grant activities into an understandable budget format. You will provide a narrative to describe what you want to do, how you will do it, who will benefit and also describe how you know you have been successful. The RFA will guide your format and whether you are reactive or proactive will determine your timeframe.

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.