Research Your Grant Opportunities
By Don Peek
Most grants are competitive. That means you may have to beat someone else out to get the grant money you need. When you play the grant game, there are winners and losers. One of the very best ways to make sure you get your grant funded is to do research on both the grant itself and the grantor involved.
Whether you get your initial information about a grant from a grant database like the one provided for you by Grants for Teachers, a newsletter, or a blog such as this one, you never get complete information about the grant in the brief glimpse that’s typically given. You have to do some research. The better your research, the better your chance of getting grant money.
Your very best source of information about an individual grant is the grantor’s website. Almost all of the organizations that give grants these days have a website. Most of them are very good about giving pertinent information about their organization and the individual grant or grants they give.
Your research should start by focusing on a few key points. You must make absolutely sure that your school or organization is eligible for the grant you’re researching. You might not be in the right region, state, area, or city to qualify for the grant. Some grants are very restrictive. Being a public school might disqualify you. Being a private school might disqualify you. You might have to be a 501(c)(3) organization to qualify for the grant (even though schools often still qualify when grantors post this qualification – call or email the grantor to be sure).
Once you’re sure you qualify for a grant, you need to make absolutely sure you know the deadline for submitting your application. Sometimes grantors require you to submit a letter of intent or have you take a qualification quiz weeks before the application is due. If you miss the deadline for those types of pre-qualifiers, the actual grant deadline date is unimportant because your application will not be considered anyway. Read all of the information on a grantor’s website to make sure you do not miss any type of deadline that might be posted.
You should next do research to see how closely your reasons for needing grant money and the grantor’s reason for giving grant money match up. If the grantor gives money for quality after-school programs, but you have a reading problem, the question then becomes can you tailor an after-school reading program that will benefit your students and raise their test scores. If you can, you probably have a match. If you can’t work the reading program you need into a quality after-school program, you should just look for another grantor.
Finally, make sure you jot down the contact information for the grantor, especially the grant contact person. Get both the email address and phone number if they are available. I would never write a grant without having a conversation with that contact person first. That exchange itself is an important piece of research. You should be able to get some type of indication from the contact person whether or not you should submit an application. The contact person will not tell you whether or not you will get grant money, but you can often tell from that person’s responses if it is worth your time to actually apply for the grant.
So, after you use the Grant for Teachers free grant database, you still have some work to do. If you find a grant that looks like a good fit for your school or organization, it is then time to put on your researcher’s hat and start digging on the grantor’s website. It’s absolutely worth your time to do this research before starting to write any grant application.
Don Peek is an expert in school funding. He has run The School Funding Center since 2001. Its database contains over 100,000 grants available to all types of schools in the United States. Don worked in education for 20 years as a teacher, principal, and assistant superintendent before becoming the VP then the president of the training division of Renaissance Learning, developer of the Accelerated Reader.