Making the Call
By Don Peek
October is here, and students are settled back into the school routine. This is the time of year many educators apply for grants. This period is a good time to apply because writing a grant proposal can take considerable effort, and while students are settled in but not yet getting excited about the holidays, you may have more time now than later for grant writing. If you're going to do all the work that goes into applying for a grant, you should give yourself every chance to focus on and win that grant.
One of the least utilized but most effective ways to increase the chances of getting your grant proposal funded is to make a phone call and speak directly to the contact person listed for that grant. Typically, this contact person will be more knowledgeable about the grant than anyone else. You might even get tips to better your chances for receiving the grant. At the very least, you can get more information from the contact person, and the more information you have about the inner workings of a grant the better your chances of getting that grant money.
A phone call is especially helpful when you are applying for foundation grants. Many foundations are run by a small board, and the contact person usually sits on that board and helps decide which grant applications to fund. The contact person can tell you if your project really fits the scope of the foundation. Matching your need with the intent of the foundation is absolutely critical, and a phone call can often save you tremendous time and effort. In some cases, you'll abandon your application to the particular foundation because you'll find that the fit is not there. More often, you'll be able to make your application much clearer and more persuasive by having one or more conversations with the contact person.
State and federal grant applications are much more complicated than those offered by foundations. For that reason, a phone call to the contact person can help tremendously as you plan. That contact person can clarify parts of the complex grant application. If you truly understand the information the application seeks, you can pinpoint your narrative and make your application much more clear and concise. Since almost all of these grants are competitive, speaking with the contact person may give you just the advantage you need to gain a higher score than other schools competing for the same money.
Please be aware that some granting entities ask you not to call them. Quite often they give an email address as an alternative to a phone number. Even though a phone call is typically more productive, use whatever means of communication is available to get all the information you can before you apply for a grant.
The easiest way to get contact names, phone numbers, or email addresses for a grant is to use a good grant database such as the one Grants4Teachers offers to you for free. .
I give information about applying for grants on a daily basis. I can't give you better advice than to "Make the call." One phone call will tell you:
1) if you should apply for a grant, and
2) how to apply more efficiently and effectively if the grant is a good match for your school.
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.