The Fourth Step: Finding Possible Grants
By Don Peek
If you want to secure grant money for your school, the first step is to understand in detail the main issues your school faces. The second step is to develop a solution that has the greatest likelihood of solving one of those problems. The third step is to find all possible grants that might fund your solution. And the fourth step -- the subject of this issue's article -- is to narrow down the list of grants to those whose criteria match your needs and then call a contact person to verify that match.
Over the course of a year, hundreds of grants will become available to your school. The tricky part, however, is finding among all those grants the few that might fund your plan and support your goals. That’s why it is so important to employ a comprehensive grant database. A grant database allows you to search quickly and easily for grants that match your needs. Yes, you could use your favorite Internet search engine to locate grants, but you will need to wade through thousands of search results -- many of which won’t apply to your type of school, won't match up with your specific needs, or have deadlines that have already passed. A good grant database allows you to tailor your searches and find likely matches in minutes rather than hours, days, or weeks.
Even when you use a good grant database, you still have additional work to do. In just a few minutes, a database can provide 30 reading grants for private schools in your state or 50 math grants for public schools. Once you've narrowed down and identified those grants, then your real work begins: you must search through those grants to find the ones for which you qualify. You will be able to eliminate some that don't tie in with your goals. You will eliminate others for which you might not qualify because your school doesn't meet one or more of the grant's criteria.
TWO INVALUABLE RESOURCES
Fortunately, good databases provide two essential resources to support your grant research.
The first resource is a live link to the grant's website. Use that link to find every bit of information you can about the grantor and the specific grant. Typically, the website will list more grant restrictions than a short database entry can list. If you find anything that clearly disqualifies your school from receiving a particular grant, simply go on to the next grant on your list. Almost anything you would want to know about grantors or the grants they offer can be found on their websites. Those websites are invaluable tools that will help you determine if you and that grant/grantor are a good match.
The second resource is a phone number or email address so you can communicate directly with the grant's contact person. Once you are quite sure that a grant matches the needs of your school, call or email the contact person. (I prefer calling that person myself.) I never start completing a grant application without first getting in touch with the contact. While that contact person cannot tell you that you will get the grant money you seek, he or she can certainly confirm that you are eligible to apply. You might also pick up from the person's voice a tone that is either encouraging or discouraging. If that tone is particularly negative, I would recommend moving on to the next grant on your list. I would definitely make this call -- even if it is hard for you to do -- because it can save you hours and hours of needless work.
If you don't make use of those two resources, you are wasting valuable time.
The fourth key to finding lots of grant money for your school is matching your school's specific needs with grants that meet those needs. To find those matches...
- Use a good, comprehensive database to narrow down the list of grants for which you might qualify.
- Once you find possible matches, use the live links provided in the database to do research on the grantor’s Web site.
- After you determine that your school is eligible for a particular grant, call the grant's contact person to verify your eligibility and elicit any tips for applying for that grant.
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.