Thursday, August 9, 2012

Finding Grants For Your Classroom: Places to Start

Every teacher (except for teachers who have a lot of disposable income) reaches that point where they just can't keep spending like crazy on their classroom. OR, they spend on the basic supplies, but really want supplements, technology, etc. and just can't afford the out of pocket expense.

My wife stays home with our youngest child, so we get by on my teacher income, and it's hard, not impossible, but we cut it close sometimes. For this reason, I use most of my disposable income, check that, all of my disposable income, on my family. I don't have a lot leftover for the classroom apart from extra pencils, glue, and other essentials. Yes, I easily spend more than the $250 that we can write off on our taxes. I'm willing to bet that if you're reading this, then so do you.

I'm currently wanting to get some new technology and resources for my classroom, things like tablet computers, a projector, cool science and social studies resources, and maybe even some cool opportunities for summer professional development. The teacher who learns how to write and receive grants becomes an invaluable asset to their school. Today's post is about where to start, and more specifically how to use the best websites out there that list teacher grants.

Obviously the place to look first is Donor Choose (I just got my first grant from there funded a few days ago, check out my excitement HERE). Now don't say that Donors Choose isn't a grant site, because really, what is a grant? It's you asking someone or an organization for money to purchase things, and that's exactly what Donors Choose is. It's easy to use, you can create your account and have your first request posted in well under an hour. There's really no reason not to do it, it's completely free.

OK, I got that one out of the way, now let's get started on the others:

  • Grant Wrangler: Grant Wrangler is a search engine for teacher grants. I've gotten five grant requests completed from Grant Wrangler. There are small grants, and major national grants. Some are extremely competitive, and others are easy to come by. Just dig deep, and try for the ones that you qualify for. 
  • Kids in Need Foundation: There are links to grants through major corporations. These grants can be highly competitive, but the good thing is that many corporations give out millions in grants, the trick is getting yours in at the right time.
  • Grants 4 Teachers: This site is where you go if you're looking for a high dollar grant. You might have heard of people getting $50,000 for a mobile laptop lab, or $25,000 for iPads. There's a decent chance that they started here. Enter the information they ask for, and you'll be given a large list with many different entities that offer money. It's definitely worth a look.
  • Grants Alert: Another good place to find possible funding sources.
The keys to successful grant writing involve: 
    • Be precise: Grants that are general, or don't seem to have the work put into them in terms of precision, won't even be considered. If you're being asked to itemize items, reference the prices exactly, where you found the prices, and include sales tax in your state. You need to come across like you researched this and know everything, because you should.
    • Grant writing isn't just something you sit down and do in five minutes. The exception is Donors Choose. You can do a good grant there in a short amount of time, and as long as it's well written and compelling, they take care of the pricing and shipping and all of that stuff.
    • Focus on items that will reach a large number of kids over a number of years: Many companies that give grants will choose who they fund based on formulas that involve number of students reached, and even sometimes how many students over x amount of years will be reached. Of course the one shot grant can get funded, just be compelling.
    • It all comes down to proving that you and your students are worthy of the grant, and backing it up. If the grant asks you to provide photos or proof, do it in the given amount of time. 
    • Do your research: Think hard about what you need. A $200 grant won't be that hard to find funding more, but a $25,000 grant will probably be competitive and hard fought.
There is money out there for all of us who want it and will use it. It just comes down to knowing where to look, how to write, and having the passion to persist when your hard work doesn't pay off for awhile. Just stick with it, the first time you get a grant funded, there's really nothing quite like it, you'll be hooked forever. 

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