I've written a time or two on this blog about forming grant committees. This is the perfect time for you to form your own grant committee at the campus or district level if you don't already have one. If you do already have one, make sure it’s functioning properly.
Unfortunately, the fiscal climate for schools does not seem to be getting much better. Every superintendent I've heard from lately speaks of little else besides budget shortfalls and tightening budgets. One of the only ways many districts will be able to increase expenditures next year or even keep their budgets at the same level will be through an infusion of grant money. If you are in one of those districts and anticipate that you will need money on a district, campus, or even a classroom level, you need to be making plans now in order to win the grant money you need.
Most grants are competitive. To be able to submit grant applications that will be funded, your school must understand its most pressing problems, gather statistical information to prove you have problems, develop solutions to these problems, and develop budgets to remedy these problems. It doesn’t matter if your problem is an increasing gap in test scores between at-risk students and those who are not, an alarming decline in your reading scores, or increasing truancy numbers. You must define these problems, find solutions, and finance those solutions.
Good grant committees can do all of these things and much, much more. A grant committee can help define a school’s problems and use a comprehensive grant database to match grantors with those problems. Committees can find outside grant-writing help, fund the training of district or campus personnel in grant writing, or even have individuals or teams of committee members fill out grant applications.
While it is true that poor grant committees can slow the entire process down and get little accomplished, good grant committees tend to quickly focus on major problems, do intensive searches to find appropriate grants, and find grant writers who work quickly and efficiently to produce quality grant applications well before the grantors’ deadlines.
No more than 10-15% of all school districts in the United States have full-time grant writers. Almost no individual campuses have them. If you don’t have a full-time grant writer (and maybe even if you do), you need a grant committee to assess needs, find appropriate grants, and to assign someone to apply for those grants.
As school funding gets tighter, grant money will become more and more important to your district and your campus. I suggest that you form an active grant committee now.
Yes, times are tough. Grant money is becoming more and more important to schools everywhere. Get ahead of the game and ahead of the competition by forming your grant committee this week, not later than this month. Meet often at first. Assess those problems. Find grants that will fund your solutions. Get those grant applications in the mail throughout the summer and in September and October.
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.