More Ways to Strengthen
Your Grant Proposal
By Don Peek

When grant readers feel that your grant project is likely to successfully address your school's problems, your application will normally rank high among their list of finalists. Last time, I discussed referencing a school with a similar population and a similar problem as a model for your own grant program. That is one way to strengthen your grant application.

Another somewhat similar way to strengthen your grant proposal is to use a successful pilot program in your own school as a model for a larger program funded by grant money. To do this, you obviously have to do two things first: 1) set up a pilot program that addresses the issue you have identified in your school, and 2) make sure it is successful and can be replicated on a larger scale.

Let me give you an example: When I became a middle school principal, our math scores were poor, especially at the seventh-grade level. After examining many alternatives, we decided that the Saxon Math program would benefit our students. On average, our seventh-graders were almost two years behind according to their standardized math scores. We didn't have a lot of money to spend to fix the problem, so we decided to pilot the Saxon Math program in one classroom. At that time, Saxon had a pilot program of their own that gave us 15 math books for a classroom when we purchased 15 books at the regular price.

We made sure that the pilot classroom was representative of our larger population. We made sure all of the classes were taught in a similar fashion except the pilot class that used the Saxon Math program exclusively. And we closely monitored results throughout the year. When our students were retested in the spring, the progress of the pilot class was far superior to the other classes. In fact, they had almost erased their two-year lag.

You may not agree with using the Saxon Math program. At the time it was fairly controversial. That's not the point. The point is that it worked for us as a pilot program, and we were then able to use that success in a grant application that netted us thousands and thousands of dollars to implement the program in all our other math classrooms. It worked very well there, too. We knew it would based on the results of our pilot program.

We used our pilot for math, but you can use a pilot program for anything: early childhood, discipline, reading, science, PE, or social studies. The subject of the pilot doesn't matter, but your pilot should be representative of the population with the problem, and it must be scalable. If it is, and you can show success with it for at least a semester, you have a very good chance of getting grant money to expand your program.

You can strengthen your grant application by referencing the success of a program in a similar school with similar problems, but the best way to strengthen your grant proposal is with the results of a successful pilot program in your own school. This method takes a little longer to develop, but it almost assures those who evaluate your grant proposal that your expanded program using grant funds will be successful.

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.

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