Steering Your Way to a Winning Grant Proposal

Article excerpt

Two education grant--seeking experts take you step-by-step through the process of developing a project idea, finding a funding source, and writing a grant proposal.

Suppose you're a teacher or administrator in a school with very little extra funding for things like computers, Internet hookups, software, digital cameras and other technology. You would like to get a grant to install all these things in your school. Do you write one proposal simply asking for equipment and send it to a list of funders? Not if you're going for grant funding. Why? Because grant makers are trying to solve problems. They're focused on one or more deficiencies or barriers. They want to fund one or more projects that have the possibility of overcoming the deficiency, breaking down the barrier, and solving the problem.

Each funder has a pot of money dedicated to solving particular problems. So why don't they just spend money solving that problem? Why doesn't the grant maker who wants to end world hunger just give money to the poor to buy food? Because they don't have enough money to make a significant impact that way. It would take billions to accomplish that mission. What they do have is money to fund projects or model programs that might solve a portion of the problem and lead others to follow suit so that through their combined efforts, the problem can eventually be overcome. They're looking to spend their money on the best investments--the projects with the most promise.

We're not saying it's impossible to get grant money to fund your equipment. But, you do have to think through and articulate how you're going to use that equipment to help children learn something or do something better.

Start With a Project

To start the project development process, ask yourself some questions. What are the barriers that get in the way of the learning process? Are they social problems, mental process problems, or lack-of-experience problems? Identify the specific challenges you see in your work with your target population (your students).

Be sure that you're focusing on the real problem and not just a symptom. For example, say there is a lack of achievement in your seventh-grade science class largely because of widespread inattentiveness. Inattentiveness is a symptom. Not being able to understand the material in the available texts and lacking alternative resources are problems that can cause lack of attentiveness. Your project should tackle the cause, not the effect.

After you have a list of real problems to solve, choose one and focus your creative efforts and expertise as educators on a technique, a process, or curriculum change that has a good chance of overcoming a barrier and providing at least a partial solution to the problem. Bring together a team of colleagues to help you.

Suppose you decide to develop a project based on the real problem that a large number of children in science classes are underachieving and inattentive because the available material is too complicated or at too difficult a reading level. One possible solution is to redesign the science curriculum to meet the needs of underachieving students by providing access to more readable materials and encouraging independent research and experimentation. We don't have space in this article to fully develop the project design, but you can see where it's likely to progress.

What tools are you going to need to accomplish your project solution? You might need computers and Internet access. You might need software and reference books. How about field trips to local science-related sites? The list of needed resources grows as you build your project.

Never lose sight of the need to focus on the project rather than the equipment and materials. The grant maker is only interested in your equipment needs as they directly relate to and sup port the successful completion of your project. Ask for just enough for the project--no more and no less. …