How to Write A Classroom Grant: Ideas and Examples for Teachers

How to Write a Classroom Grant: Ideas and Examples for Teachers
If you are new to writing grants, my hope is that this post will empower you to take the first step. If you have written grants before, but are looking for some tips and tricks to make your proposals even stronger, you are in the right place. This post will walk new and veteran grant writers alike through the process of identifying needs in your classroom and school, finding grants to meet those needs and then putting together a solid proposal that clearly articulates your passions and goals as an educator.

As a fellow educator, I know you have a lot on your plate. I also know that, at times, the process of applying for grants can seem overwhelming. Let me assure you: You can do this! You already have the knowledge, skills and ideas you need for this process This post (also available as an eBook) will walk you through the process of putting it all together. If you have any questions, comments or concerns throughout this process, please feel free to reach out to me at any point: Contact Page.   

Part 1: Why Apply for Grants?

There are many reasons to apply for grants – for your classroom, your school and your own professional learning. As evidenced by the myriad grant databases that exist, grants can play an important role in supporting classroom ideas. Teachers can be exceptionally creative and innovative and the additional funding provided by grants can help overcome barriers to realization. There are many reasons why new ideas may be difficult to realize, but funding is certainly near the top of that list. 

63,864 
Number of Grant Opportunities Available 
According to the School Funding Center (2018) 

$7,723,603,453 
Total Amount of Available Funding 
According to the School Funding Center (2018)

It is an unfortunate reality in today’s world of education that schools often struggle with funding. Grants can help to ameliorate some of the funding discrepancies – but to be clear, they are not the solution to schools’ funding problem. The only way to truly address issues of school funding is to reexamine fiscal policies related to education and make it clear in the communities in which we live that education is a priority. Being an advocate on issues of education policy is not an easy task, but it is a necessary one.

In addition to the purely monetary motivation for applying for grants, it is also important to acknowledge the role grants can play in enhancing professional learning. There are numerous grants dedicated to helping teachers enhance their practice by learning new strategies, attending conferences, collaborating with others, and by expanding their worldview. Apart from stated professional learning goals, the process of applying for and administering grants can also help teachers build skills in project management, persuasive writing and peer networking. 

How is this guide organized? 
  • Parts 2 and 3 (below) discusses preparations for writing a grant, including a framework for conducting a needs analysis, guides to compile demographic information and tips on district policy as well as information for locating and evaluating grants. 
  • Parts 4 - 6 (forthcoming) will be shared in a follow-up post that walks you through the major elements of writing a grant, discusses grant submission and what to do after award notification, and highlights important information about managing your grant. 

Part 2: Needs Analysis

If you already know exactly what you want in a grant, feel free to skip over this section. If not, this section is designed to help you brainstorm ideas for developing your own grant proposal. When developing a grant proposal, it’s important to keep the big picture in mind. 

Although it can be easy to focus only on what needs to be improved, don’t forget to consider the assets your students and families bring to the class setting as well. Think about your students and your school in terms of both strengths and needs will allow you to create a more comprehensive proposal.
  • Strengths - What are your students and school doing really well? List as many ideas as you can.
  • Needs - What could be improved? Again, list as many ideas as you can here.
If you need help getting started with identifying strengths and needs, feel free to look through the list below to help spark your own thinking. The list below is certainly not exhaustive, so please add your own ideas as well. You know your students and your school best! The next step will be narrowing your brainstorming down to a specific area of focus.

Potential Strengths and Needs

Advanced Learners · Afterschool Programming · Art and Music Education · Athletics · Civics and Citizenship · Collaboration Skills · College and Career Readiness · Communication Skills · Community Service  · Creativity · Critical Thinking Skills · Curriculum Resources · Diverse Literature · Environmental Education · Family and Community Connections · Field Trips · Financial Literacy · Racial Equity · Foreign Language · Global Awareness · History and Social Studies · Makerspaces · Media Literacy · Multicultural Education · Multilingual Learners · Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) · Personalized Learning · Professional Development · Reading and Writing · Safety and Health · School Supplies · Science, Technology, Engineer and Math (STEM) · Social and Emotional Learning · Social Responsibility and Ethics · Special Education · Student Leadership and Voice · Technology Literacy · Technology Resources · Trauma-Informed Teaching · Vocational Skills · LGBTQ+ Awareness · and so much more!!

Narrowing Your Focus

If you could receive funding to support one of these areas, which one would make the biggest difference for student learning and success? Which of these areas are you most passionate about? Spend time thinking about these questions, and once you decide on an area of focus, write it down.
Knowing your ‘why’ is important for crafting a compelling narrative, so be sure to record your thinking. Why did you choose this particular focus?

Now that you have narrowed down an area of focus and thought about your own personal motivations for pursuing this work, think about the specific skills and resources that you would need to make improvements in this area. Do you or your colleagues need any specific training or professional development? What resources will you need to implement your idea? How will you make improvements in this area? What do you need? Record your thoughts. 

Awesome! You’ve just completed a basic needs analysis and you now have an idea (or two) to help guide you as you look for and evaluate grants.

Snapshots

Many grants will ask for basic demographic information on you, your students, your school or even your district as a whole. To make that process easier, it may be helpful to record some of information. Use the following snapshot ideas to compile demographic information across a variety of categories.

This information can be used later when writing your grant narrative to provide a more detailed picture of your educational setting and needs. Providing specific demographic details will ensure that your narrative comes across as well-informed. Don’t worry if you’re not able to fill out every prompt. The goal is to capture as much information as you can to facilitate the grant-writing process that happens next.

Teacher Snapshot

First and foremost, it’s important to keep your resume up-to-date. Even if you’re not interested in looking for another job, having a current resume can be useful for a number of professional activities. In addition to a current resume, compiling the information below will give you a quick reference for completing even the most detailed grant applications. Add additional pages to each section as needed.
  • Education Background - Which schools have you attended? What degrees have you earned?
  • Licenses and Certificates - List any teaching licenses and/or certificates here.
  • Teaching Experience - Which schools or districts have you taught at? What classes did you teach in those positions?
  • Educational Interests - What areas of education are you most interested in? You can use the Needs Analysis section for help brainstorming ideas.
Classroom – School – District Snapshot

The following data prompts will help you gather information on either your classroom, school or district. Feel free to duplicate this page as needed to collect information on multiple classrooms or schools. Because much of this information relates to general demographic figures, you will likely find some of it listed publicly on your district website or in your state department of education databases. 

For information that is not listed publicly, be sure to check with your district to be sure what information you can legally share without violating student privacy laws. You may want to consider including both the number as well as the percentage for each of the below. 
  • Total Number of Students
  • Ages / Grades
  • Graduation Rate
  • Racial Background
  • Ethnic Background
  • Language Background
  • Advanced Learners
  • Special Education / 504s
  • English Learners
  • Students with Interrupted Education (SIFE)
  • Homeless and Highly Mobile Students (HHM)
  • Migrant Families
  • Pregnant and Parenting Teens
  • Migrant Families
  • Title I Eligibility
  • Assessment Scores / Growth Data
  • Other Data
District Contacts and Policies

It is also important to identify any district contacts or policies regarding outside grants. If you work for a smaller school or district, it is possible that you may not have any dedicated staff or policies regarding grants. 

If you work for a larger school district, however, it is likely that there are dedicated staff members or policies regarding grant application and implementation within your school. Knowing who to talk to with questions regarding your grant and what you can expect when you apply for your grant can help you preempt some possible challenges.

Coming up with a plan to deal with potential indirect administrative costs, restrictions on sharing student information and limitations on conducting research will help to minimize any disruptions or challenges to your work. Some schools and districts have policies in place to take administrative or indirect grant fees directly from any received grants. 

Oftentimes, these fees are set as a percentage of overall grant funds. If you didn’t include any room in your budget for these fees, these costs can leave you in a financially tight spot. To avoid this challenge, find out if your district assess any administrative fees (and if your grant funders allow indirect costs). To avoid having these fees taken out of your grant, you may need to provide evidence to your district that administrative fees are unallowable expenses.

Does your school or district have any restrictions on sharing student information (pictures, data, etc.) with an outside organization? In most cases, the answer will be ‘Yes’. Knowing how to navigate these policies will be helpful when grant funders ask for pictures of the grant in action or details about the students being impacted by the grant. 

Do you need picture releases for each of your students? What type of data can be shared outside? Knowing what you can and cannot share and how to secure permission for sharing certain types of student information will make the application and implementation process much smoother.

In addition to specific policies are administrative costs and sharing student information, you will also want to find out if your school or district has any special requirements for conducting research within your classroom, especially if the results of that research will be published. 

Many teachers frequently conduct action research within their classrooms as part of their Professional Learning Communities or other professional development processes. When results are only shared internally within the district, there are usually not many limitations. However, outside grant funders may occasionally ask you to conduct research to be published outside the district. In these cases, you will need to know how to proceed to ensure that you are in compliance with established school policies.

Regardless of whether you have any district staff or policies regarding grants, it may be helpful to seek out colleagues who have gone through the grant process before. They may be able to give you support as you navigate the application, and hopefully the implementation, of your grant. 

Your colleagues will be your best resource in knowing who to talk to for each element of your grant process. If no one at your school has done much work with grants, you may want to seek out some advice from colleagues in other schools so that you can learn from the experiences of others and pave the best way forward with new policies and procedures within your own school. 

Section Summary 
  • Conducting a needs analysis can help you recognize potential grant opportunities.
  • Once you identify your strengths and needs, you can narrow your focus.
  • Preparing demographic profiles on yourself, your classroom, your school and your district will
  • prepare you to complete grant applications will relevant certificates.
  • Your school or district may have specific policies regarding grants.

Part 3: Locating Grants 

Your first step in applying for a grant is locating a grant that meets your needs. There are two main categories of grants for educators: classroom grants and professional learning grants. 

Classroom grants are those grants which will be used directly in the classroom - to implement a new program, purchase new materials and resources, fund a classroom fieldtrip or scale and expand instructional strategies that have already demonstrated success. 

Professional learning grants are grants designed to support continuing education and leadership opportunities for teachers. These may include funding for teachers to attend local or national conferences, to engage in content-specific research opportunities or even to participate in international study programs. 

"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." - Thomas Edison

Locating the right grant can sometimes seem overwhelming. There are an abundance of online databases that contain links to classroom grants and professional learning grants; however, these databases can often be a source of frustration as they are filled with broken links and discontinued programs. Trying to stay up-to-date with current grant programs and the ever-changing digital landscape of links is a challenge for almost any organization. 

Many teachers dive headfirst into grant databases, trying to find a program that works for them without fully considering their unique needs and strengths. To make a teaching analogy, this is much like searching for lists of fun lesson activities without first considering the standards and objectives that need to be met.

I recommend using a process of backwards design to structure your grant proposal. Although this section lists some of the most popular and up-to-date resources for locating grants, I suggest only giving this list a quick skim at the moment. 

Once you determine your needs in the Needs Analysis section, you will want to come back to this list and spend some time doing research into the available grant options. To help you out with the process of locating grants, I maintain two lists that you can use as starting points for your research: Classroom Grants and Grants for Professional Learning. You may also want to visit some of the following databases and websites:

· Grants.gov Federal Grant Database
· Grants 4 Teachers
· Philanthropy News Digest
· Fundsnet Education and Literacy Grants

Once again, try not to get lost in the black hole of grant options right away. Give it a good skim so you know what is out there and then really spend some time thinking about your needs and strengths. The following sections will walk you through the process of identifying the unique context in which you work and brainstorming ways to improve educational opportunities within that context.

Evaluating Grants

So, you have gathered information about yourself, your students and your school. You have identified some specific needs and have some ideas about how you could improve in a particular area.

Now it’s time to dig deep into grant lists and databases and find one that will work for you. Once you identify some possible grants, you will want to carefully evaluate each grant to see if it is worth your time and energy. I know how busy educators are and I don’t want you to invest your time and energy into a applying for a grant only to find out later that your grant proposal included unallowable expenses or that grant deliverables and follow-on projects would be unfeasible in your setting.

Do your homework on each and every grant you are interested in. Pay close attention to each of the following areas:

· Funding Priorities – Does the funding organization have specific funding priorities? Regardless of how well written your grant is, if it doesn’t match the organizational funding priorities, your odds of winning the grant are significantly decreased. 

· Audience - Audience matters. Writing a grant for an individual donor-funded site like Donor’s Choose will look very different from writing a grant for a well-established education foundation. Be sure to know what type of organization is funding the grants. 

· Allowable and Unallowable Expenses – What exactly can grant funds be used for? Can they be used for professional learning? Administrative or indirect expenses? Technology resources? Grants can vary widely with what are considered allowable expenses. 

· Submission Deadline – When do you need to submit your grant application? Be sure to give yourself enough time so that you don’t have to rush. 

· Decision Notification – When will decision notifications be made? Again, grants can vary a great deal with how long it takes between your initial grant application and notification of the decision. Some grants may take only a couple months, while others may take more than a year. If you have any time sensitive elements to your project, the timeline for reviewing and awarding grants can be especially important. 

· Requirements – What are you required to submit as a part of your application? Is there a dedicated application form? Do you need references or a letter of support? What do you need to include in your grant narrative? 

· Deliverables and Reporting Requirements – Do you know what will be required of you if you are awarded the grant? Some of this information may not be available during the application process, but if it is, make note of what those requirements are.

If there is information available about past grant recipients, take the time to read about them and look through their project proposals if possible. Reviewing grants that were previously awarded will give you a good indication of what grant funders may be looking for. Use the evaluation recording prompts below to keep track of your research.

Grant Evaluation  
  • Grant Name - Record the name of the grant. 
  • Organization Name - Who is funding the grant?
  • Grant Amount - Is there a minimum or maximum amount?
  • Submission Deadline - When do materials need to be submitted?
  • Submission Requirements - What is required with your application?
  • Allowable Expenses - What will this grant fund? Are there funding priorities?
  • Unallowable Expenses - What expenses are not allowed with the grant funds? 
  • Decision Notification - When will you find out if your application has been successful?
  • Reporting Requirements - What deliverables are required after the grant?
  • Other Notes and Comments - What else do you know about this grant?
Section Summary
  • There are many free and subscription-based services available to help you locate grants. 
  • You will want to spend time evaluating each of the grants you are interested in. 
  • Basic information like funding amounts and submission deadlines will help to keep you organized while other information like organizational priorities and allowable expenses will give you a better shot at being funded.
Be sure to check out the second blog post in this series (forthcoming) for more details on the major elements of writing a grant and important information about grant submission, award notification, and managing your grant. 

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