K-12 School Computer Networking/Chapter 24
Educational Grant Writing for TechnologyEdit
Usually for a designated purpose, an educational grant is a sum of money or resources that is donated to a school. The person(s) or institution who authors the grant is called the grant writer, while the person or, more likely, organization that donates the money/resources is called the grant maker.
Writing grants is an excellent way to augment a school's resources; however, grant writing is a process rather than an event. The actual writing is only a small part of the overall process. For the purposes of your planning, I’ve organized the process in the subsequent stages:
•Identifying a need
•Conceptualize a project
•Researching for donors
•Draft the proposal
•Implement the project
•Thank the donor
Long before you ever put pen to paper (more likely finger to keyboard), you should ask yourself some very important questions. Why are you about to engage in this arduous and time consuming project? And, is it worth it? Prior to taking any of the more formal steps that I have laid out, conduct an informal cost-benefit analysis. Are you passionate about the project to the extent that you’re willing to commit yourself to it?
Only proceed if the answer is an honest “yes”. Writing a grant may seem somewhat like typing a paper for a college class; but, it’s different in one very important way. There is no A-. Either you are funded, or you are not. Engaging in grant writing is, by nature, entering into a competition. Therefore, the quality of your work must be par excelam. A halfhearted attempt isn’t worth making.
Assembling a TeamEdit
It is better to work alone than to toil beside colleagues who cannot or will not make a positive contribution to your project. Having a teammate who is resistant, indifferent, or incompetent is a burden, but sometimes working with other people is unavoidable. By planning ahead and starting your project early, you can avoid needing the help of colleagues. Rewriting a poorly drafted piece can be more time consuming than authoring it from scratch. A common mistake is presuming an individual is a competent writer because she/he appears to be intelligent. Good writers only become good writers through practice.
As technology coordinator, it is unlikely that you will have the means to dole out a reward or the authority requisite for coercing other teachers into helping. If you are going to assemble a volunteer army, you’ll need a phenomenon referred to in educational academia as “teacher buy in.” Especially, when the task you are proposing is not rewarded in some way (typically with extra pay), motivating colleagues to perform can be extremely frustrating.
Making the project appear like it’s a worthwhile endeavor, “teacher buy in” means that you sell the idea of proceeding with a project to your colleagues . Often, striking a deal works well. When participating colleagues understand that they will benefit upon the funding of a project, the quality of their work escalates due to their newfound degree of stakeholder-ship.
Although grants can be written without the help of administrators, it is good to involve supervisors for several reasons. First, they may be able to pay you for extra work or free you from your other obligations. Secondly, if you are awarded the grant, you will most likely need their help in implementing the resources into the school culture. A grant is not successful if the school acquires a wealth of resources and nobody uses them. Finally, if you are awarded the grant, and they hear about it from an outside party, the administrators might feel slighted and react with anger.
Identify a NeedEdit
Identify a specific need you have that obstructs the attainment of an educational goal. The need should be related to an educational outcome derived from some measure of student learning. For example, one doesn’t begin the grant writing process with the idea “I want a Mac lab.” Rather, begin the process with the idea, “I want my students to become proficient with digital multimedia.” Or, “I want my students to understand the basic tenets of graphic design, so they can incorporate these skills into an online portfolio.”
Although this seems like a semantic step, it will galvanize the specific points you will address in your statement of need. The nature of your starting point is critical because it will inform you as to both the software and hardware requirements requisite to fulfill your grant. Additionally, better understanding your desired outcome will inform you regarding the various forms of teacher training you will need to integrate.
Design a ProjectEdit
After you identify a specific need, then you can begin to conceptualize a project. Build your project from your original educational goal. First, brainstorm a series of ideas. It helps to have a colleague(s) who is professionally “operating on the same wavelength.” Make a conscious effort to make a logical decision. Oftentimes, we become attached to ideas because they are our own. Remember to be open to the ideas of others.
When beginning to conceptualize your project, keep in mind, “Is this practically feasible?” Getting funding to replace your computer lab is reasonable. Installing a retractable dome above the school’s playground is unreasonable and a waste of time. You are going to have to explain this project in detail, so consider the feasibility in terms of not only money, but time and legality as well.
Among the most important aspects of a grant proposal is a quantifiable measure of success (or failure). Grant makers want to be able to discernibly prove that their money has not been wasted. So, conceiving of a finished product that can be photographed, measured, and displayed is advantageous toward the success of your grant. The numbers of clients served is additionally important to the attractiveness of the proposal. For example, having you students host a school-wide film festival that is the culmination a whole years work is attractive because the number of participants can be measured. And, there is a tangible product complete with photo opportunities.
The Search for DonorsEdit
I would categorize the way one goes about finding a grant maker in two separate groups. The first way is to cross reference your need with the mission statements of foundations and philanthropic organizations. The Foundation Center in Manhattan is an excellent resource which archives charitable foundations throughout the United States. Of course, you can search online for NGOs and foundations that are a good match. Remember—these organizations raison d’être is funding projects like yours. Without projects like yours foundations are failing to achieve their mandated goals.
Here are some places that might help you find a prospective donor:
[Discovery Education http://school.discoveryeducation.com/schrockguide/business/grants.html]
[Grant Alerts http://www.grantsalert.com/]
The second way of identifying a project is by maintaining open lines of communication and seizing opportunities as they come along. Regularly check websites in your school district that post tech grant opportunities. Utilize professional organizations and trade shows. Grant opportunities are showcased in trade journals for teaching, supervision/administration, and technology. For example, grants are posted in NYC in the principal’s weekly newsletter. Google the descriptors for educational grant AND technology (you can reduce the number of hits by including your location) whenever the thought crosses your mind. Ask individuals in administrative rolls for any information they might have because they may have information that they themselves are to busy (or apathetic). Persistence typically pays off. If you always keep your eyes out for potential ways to score a grant, eventually a good candidate will fall in your lap.
Draft the ProposalEdit
Drafting the proposal is the part of the process you colleagues associate with grant writing. In regard to writing, the style should be hyper-journalistic. It should be extremely concise and as brief as possible. Your use of language should be accessible and clear without sounding inarticulate. Avoid using any professional jargon because the person reading your grant will probably not be an educator.
Remember the main idea from the first paragraph…grant writing is a process not an event. So, write and refine, then rewrite and re-refine until you have it just right. As with any piece of writing, never submit it until you’ve had someone who you trust review it for errors.
Some grants are structured with predefined templates that have very specific parameters. Read and reread the direction, and follow the directions exactly. Grant makers will eliminate documents based upon disqualifications for not writing in accordance with the rules of the grant. This means that they won’t even read any of your hard work if they suspect that you have violated the terms of the grant. There are few things more discouraging than working for weeks to draft the perfect proposal, patiently waiting for a response, and getting it back only to be informed that your work was unread due to a technicality.
If you are submitting a grant which does not have a predefined form, a typical grant is structured in the following way:
•Statement of need
In the introduction section, state the nature of your project. Highlighting the most positive aspects, profile the school. Oddly, grant makers would rather give money to a school with a proven track record of success than an institution in extremely high need that’s falling apart. Always consider that they need to feel like their money won’t be wasted. The introduction should showcase the educational outcome rather than the school need. For example, “The brilliant students from PS 123 are high achievers despite coming from a socio-economically disadvantageous family situation. Evidence for this exists in the following form….” Never bash the school; instead, point to any measurable degree of recent progress. Elevated test scores are an excellent point of fact. Don’t be afraid to interpret statistics to make your school appear as good as possible.
Statement of Need
The statement of need is a carefully walked tightrope. Essentially, the trick is to make the school appear clearly in need without seeming desperately needy. In your statement of need, specifically state the materials you will need to make your project a success. Again, don’t denigrate the school by making it sound excessively dilapidated (even if it is). You want to give the impression that your school is a highly functional environment in spite of some of its economic hardships. Never give the impression that the school is dysfunctional or unsafe. Grant makers won’t fund you if they think their granted resources will be stolen.
The project outline is the heart of your grant. Demonstrate to the reader that you have a precisely clear picture of your project. Instrumental in developing an excellent project outline is the formulation of a good “hook.” A “hook” is a special aspect of your grant that makes it stand out from your competitors. Your “hook” should make your grant stand out, and it should demonstrate a degree of creativity in your planning. A good "hook" might include ways of incorporating special needs students to tutor younger children or having ESL students learn English by working with artists.
Include a clear timeline, and a definitive measurement for success. State the number of clients the project will serve, and if the project can be carried into the following school-year. Remember to make the project serve students, teachers, parents, administrators, and community members. If possible, fit all this information onto a single page.
The budget authoring process is feared by many grant writers. Different organizations have different rules about the nature of the budget they can fund, so research as much as possible before you get to pen the budget. Many foundations have strict rules about the distribution of funding. Some grant proposals stipulate that X% must be dedicated to teacher training (which is actually a good idea from their standpoint). You need to know all those nuances before you start to write. A good way of getting an indication is by reading mission statements.
Be careful not to “gouge” the budget. Budget “gouging” is when a grant writer applies for funding they don’t need, so they can use the money for something else. When the grant gets funded, they use the original earmarked money for something entirely different. Consider the following example of budget gouging: A school has a technology budget of $30,000 to purchase hardware for a new lab. Instead of buying the lab, they get a grant funded to pay for the lab. Then, they use that $30,000 line item to buy office furniture and pay for substitutes.
Grant makers are aware of budget gouging. And, if they suspect you are conspiring with your administration to misrepresent yourself, they will immediately disqualify your proposal. Therefore, it is best to keep honest when drafting your budget.
In summary, your budget should mirror your project proposal. Keep it brief, modest, and honest.
Implementing your ProjectEdit
A grant isn’t truly successful until those educational objectives you began the process with are achieved. The work isn’t done once the boxes arrive. In fact, as any grant writer knows, no good deed goes unpunished. A wealth of resources causes its own new set of problems.
Teachers can be just like children. You may have authored a successful grant that provided half your staff with laptops. Suddenly, you find that the other half of the staff won’t talk to you. Or, the people to whom you gave the machines either don’t know how or simply refuse to use them. Or, they may complain that their Internet doesn’t work. Or, they may complain that it’s no good without a printer.
Don’t be discouraged by a delusional sense of entitlement or pettiness your colleagues may exude. These issues can be mineralized by clear communication. If teachers are left to gossip about why only ½ the staff received resources, they will often come up with worst-case scenario answers. It may behoove you to send out a letter, have the administration issue some form of communication, or speak up at your monthly union meeting. Whatever you do…it is best not to leave the teachers guessing.
Furthermore, good communication will help you to get those teachers to “buy in” to facilitating those educational goals that you set out in your grant. It helps to host teacher trainings with briefings and debriefings. The same way you would never give a young child a laptop without first inspecting her/his degree of computer literacy, you should require teachers to participate in some type of training before you bequeath them the materials. If not, you will find that many of the teachers will misuse them, infect them with malware, or never turn them on. Then, you will find that they believe it is your responsibility to repair the broken resources because you delivered them.
Thank the DonorEdit
As with all things in life, it is a good idea to present the grant maker with some formal statement of thanks. This statement may entail having students make “thank you” cards or inviting the donor to the school for some formal presentation. The end objective should be to leave the grant maker with a feeling of appreciation. A statement of thanks serves two purposes. First, it demonstrates to all participating parties (the donor and the members of the school community) that positive progress is being made in your school culture. Secondly, it will open the door to future opportunities between your school and the grant making organization.
Maintaining Your SanityEdit
(a la Dr. Thane Terrill)
Writing and submitting a grant is no assurance the grant will be awarded. Because grant makers, specifically grant readers, are fickle human beings like the rest of us, excellently penned grants often go unfunded, while grants may be awarded to writers of low quality proposals. The awarding of grants seems very unfair at times, but don’t be discouraged because persistence will eventually pay.
It is a good idea to maintain a light hearted approach to grant writing. If you expect grants you’ve written to pay out, there is a good chance you will be disappointed. Grant writing isn’t like working at a typical job where you work hard, so you get paid. When a grant gets funded, it is always a combination of hard work and good luck. Keeping in mind that luck plays a factor, the best attitude to have is to constantly learn from your mistakes.
Although there is no assurance in the educational grant writing game, there are ways to increase your likelihood of success. Think about it like a game of blackjack—you want to make discussions that will best improve your odds of success. In a sense, you are gambling that all your hard work researching, establishing contacts, and writing will pay off.
You begin a grant by assessing the things that the school needs.
There is a good bit of luck involved in grant writing.
After you secure a grant, you have fulfilled your responsibilities.
When you draft a grant, it is good to use technical jargon; so, the reader believes you're intelligent.
Geever, Jane C. (2004). Guide to Proposal Writing. New York, NY: The Foundation Center.
Wiske, Martha S. Teaching for Understanding with Technology. John Wiley & Sons,. 2005.
Frotier, Paul (2005). Networks and Networking. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
Chapter 24 Answer KeyEdit
You begin a grant by assessing the things that the school needs. (False)
There is a good bit of luck involved in grant writing. (True)
After you secure a grant, you have fulfilled your responsibilities. (False)
When you draft a grant, it is good to use technical jargon; so, the reader believes you're intelligent. (False)