Getting Classroom Grants
By Don Peek
Many classroom grants offer sums in the $500 to $1,000 range. That's really not much money, but if used properly that money can change a classroom as much or more than $500,000 can change a district.
I am a firm believer in encouraging teachers to write grants, no matter how small the sum. For teachers who have earned grant money in this way, it is much less about the money and so much more about the change and the excitement the grant money can generate.
While this blog has some readers who occupy district-level administrative positions, including district grant writers, thousands of readers are classroom teachers. If you are a district grant writer or an administrator, I hope you pass this blog along to classroom teachers in your building or district. It might amaze you how much grant money can be generated if enough teachers have access to information about the classroom grants that are available.
As I said above, grants are not really about the money. They are more about change, creativity, and hope. Classroom teachers can often stretch $500 to $1,000 a very long way. It doesn't matter if it comes from Target, Wal-Mart, Lowes, DonorsChoose.org, or a host of other businesses and foundations that offer classroom grants. A small grant can make a big difference to a classroom with a creative teacher.
I've known teachers who purchased a special set of books, organized a unique field trip, developed an unusual set of math manipulatives, purchased unique art supplies, developed an anti-litter campaign, or started a number of other interesting programs that would never have happened without the money from a small classroom grant. It's amazing how much some of those teachers accomplished with unexpected, outside-the-budget money. What would you do in your classroom with an extra unbudgeted $1,000?
It's interesting to me how many foundations and businesses offer smaller classroom grants. Millions of dollars are funneled to classroom teachers in this way. Many grant givers have chosen this route because they want to have a direct impact on the needs of individual classrooms and students. They feel they can do so much more by giving $500 to 100 teachers than by giving $50,000 to a district. They often view the small classroom grants they give as seed money. If that small amount of money can have a large impact on one classroom, perhaps a district will end up seeing sense in routing that same amount of money to other classrooms for the same impact.
Applications for classroom grants are usually short, and they can often be completed online. They require very little time to complete and are not nearly as complex as larger grants. Since most classroom teachers spend at least $500 of their own money on classroom materials each year, it could be well worth their while to give up an hour or two to complete a couple of simple applications that might yield that much grant money for their classrooms each year.
Getting a small classroom grant can make a big difference to teachers, classrooms, and students. It's not just the money that matters. It's the excitement that money can generate when injected into the classroom. It's free money on which small classroom dreams can be built.
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.