With the tight budgets school districts face today, many teachers are turning to grants to supplement the resources in their classrooms and enhance their students’ learning opportunities. Grants can enable teachers to invest in special projects, purchase equipment, and engage students in motivation-based activities.
There are many grants available, especially for K-12 teachers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). STEM grants are especially important in fostering greater participation in the classroom among low-income and minority students. Companies are struggling to employ a diverse population in STEM fields. One of the main reasons students of color and girls don’t pursue careers in STEM fields is because they don’t do well in math and don’t take rigorous math courses in high school. Yet, if students are engaged in math in the early elementary years, then they are more likely to enroll in higher math course offerings as high school students and pursue STEM careers. Using grants to fund special projects can make math more interesting for students and increase their math skills, which is why many STEM companies award grants for this purpose. These special projects might include after-school tutoring, Saturday math literacy camps, and science academies.
To learn more about the grant-funding process and what reviewers look for, you may want to apply to serve as a volunteer reviewer on community-based initiatives. As a grant reviewer, you will know exactly what grant panelists are looking for, and you will be able to use that knowledge to your advantage when you craft your own proposal.
The next step is finding grants to apply for. Research available grants in your content area and compile a list. Create your own grant calendar, marking submission deadlines for grants that interest you. Many grants are available for teachers to choose from; however, you must decide which grants best fit the needs of your classroom. It’s best to apply for multiple grants, because it can increase your funding opportunities and enable you to serve more students. When you’ve decided what to apply for, follow these tips to improve your chances of success:
1. Start small. Mini-grants range from $100 to $1,000. Federal and private donor grants are typically above $1,000.
2. Create a budget. Your budget must make the connection between your objectives and activities.
3. Set clear, attainable, and measurable objectives. You might aim to have 100% of students increase their achievement in mathematics; this can be measured by looking at test data before and after students take part in the grant’s activities.
4. Support your problem with statistics and data that reinforce your argument. The reviewers want to know how the grant will help address the existing need. Don’t make them guess. Justify the need for grant funding by providing relevant data and statistics.
5. Include an evaluation plan in the proposal. Most evaluation plans consist of gathering quantitative data from surveys and questionnaires and qualitative data from focus groups, interviews, and observations.
6. Follow directions precisely. If the grant requires a specific font, use that font.
7. Review your work. Have someone edit your final draft prior to submitting it.
8. Keep copies for yourself. That way, you can begin working on your project once you receive approval for funding.
9. If your proposal is not funded, you can request the reviewers’ comments. Read the comments thoroughly. Understand what the reviewers were looking for and what errors you made. Learn from your mistakes so you can get an accepted proposal next time.
10. If your proposal is funded, document all of your program activities. The funder wants to ensure that the project was carried out as specified in the narrative.
A complete version of this article appeared in the December 2013/January 2014 issue of Educational Horizons.