The Grant Guru Tip #1 by Gary Carnow: Building Our Grantseeker’s Toolkit

Creating a proposal to raise the funds you need is both a science and an art. This weekly feature will provide you with a step-by-step approach to grant writing. Each week we will focus on a grant topic and over time you too will become a grant-writing guru. By frequenting this website, you will have the opportunity to ask your own questions and share in the conversation. Think of this column/blog as your own own personal grantseeker’s toolkit. So go ahead and bookmark this web site.

As your guide and facilitator, let me introduce myself. I have been fortunate to have a career that mirrors the growth of the educational technology from the nineteen seventies to today. I am a K-12 technologist with over thirty years of public school experience as a teacher, master teacher, teacher advisor, consultant, technology coordinator, grantwriter and technology director. I have written and have been responsible for over seventy-five million dollars worth of grant funding. Both my funded and unfunded proposals have molded my experience. I have presented technology grant workshops throughout the nation and I have a lot to share about the grantwriting process. You can even Google me and find a fifteen-year old picture.

When Technology and Learning suggested we call this blog “The Grant Guru,” I cringed. I had visions of the Beatles dressed in their Sergeant Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band attire traveling to India to learn from the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. What exactly is a guru anyhow? Today, in India, a “guru” is used with the general meaning of “teacher.” In our western culture, a “guru” is often used to describe anyone who acquires followers, not necessarily in the religious or philosophical sense. So let it be, the Grant Guru is born.

This year as we work together on-line to create a community of grantwriters, I will post an article in this series weekly. We will use this blog to share and build our knowledge. I’ll be checking in on the blog to answer questions, post thoughts and see what all of you have to say. Our electronic community will become a great resource and I look forward to your participation.

My goal is for you to become familiar and then experienced with the grantwriting process. If you are new to the grantwriting process, these weekly columns will serve as a great introduction. If you have written a grant, this space will assist you in sharpening your skills and hopefully encourage you to create new programs and seek new funding sources. As funding opportunities arise, we will certainly link to what our participants have found, however, the main focus of our work will be to master the grantwriting process.

Our overall approach follows a toolkit model. In fact, throughout the year as we build our expertise, we will be building our Grantseeker’s Toolkit. Toolkits in the business world often follow the work of Eric von Hippel, an economist and professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is known for his concept of user innovation. User innovation proposes that end-users, not manufacturers, are responsible for new innovation. Users are the ones that possess the knowledge about needs. We will borrow upon von Hippel’s perspective on user toolkits to guide our work. His process includes five components:

1. Learning by Trial and Error
This is the way research has shown that most problem solving is done. Creating a grant proposal is solving a problem. We will use trial and error to put the pieces of the proposal together.
2. An Appropriate Solution Space
The solution space will either limit or increase the chance of user innovation. A process that I use is what I like to call a “swiss cheese proposal.” This notebook approach will assist you in the preparation of a fundable proposal. More about that in future weeks.
3. A User Friendly Toolkit
In this model, we will build on skills you already know, to prepare winning proposals. The toolkit will be user-friendly, for example, as an educator you already know how to write a lesson plan. You will soon see how lesson plans and grant proposals are related. I like to say “If you can write a lesson plan, you can write a grant!” My apologies if someone has already been credited with this phrase.
4. Commonly Used Modules
As part of our work, we will use a library of standard modules, this way you can focus on the parts that may be truly unique to your proposal. The standard modules will provide you with a template to follow.
5. Results Easily Created
A toolkit allows you to go into manufacturing without error. For our work, we will use our toolkit as guideline for future proposals. Through authentic feedback we will be able to improve future proposals.

In building our toolkit, there will be a new topic posted to the blog each week of the coming year. The blog will serve as our learning space and provide you with an opportunity to have someone by your side as you approach the world of grant writing. In fact, more than just someone, you will have our entire collective community of people with you.

What you are interested in learning? I want to build this blog into a useful tool for you. What topics would you like to see covered? Also, feel free to write questions you need answered. I’ll be checking in on this blog to answer questions, post thoughts and see what all of you have to say. Our electronic community will become a great resource and I look forward to your participation.