We all dream of ways to transform students’ lives through ed tech. But one thing that stands in the way for even the most ambitious school district: funding. And receiving funding often relies on the ability to write a successful grant application.
Applying for a grant isn’t an easy task – even for the most passionate educator and innovator.
You could spend forever researching potential grant opportunities. But eventually, there comes a time when you have to sit down and write. Here are five steps that can help you write, and hopefully win, a grant application.
STEP 1: GATHER YOUR MATERIALS
Before you start the actual writing, you need to gather your materials. This includes all the pre-writing research you’ve done on the particular grant for which you’re applying.
It helps to organize all your materials in three main categories.
- Category One: Action Summary. This includes helpful information you’ve already gathered on the grant, including contacts, due dates, page limits, font size and margins, letters of intent requirements, online application requirements, and award dates.
- Category Two: Grant Writing Guide. Develop a guide for any information relevant to the narrative you’ll have to craft for the grant – one you can easily circulate to everyone on your grant writing team.
- Category Three: Key Vocabulary List. Keywords from a request for proposal (RFP) form are critical to writing a great grant application. Create a reference list of all important words and phrases – especially the ones that recur throughout the RFP. You want your vocabulary to match theirs.
We have more details on these three pre-writing material categories here.
STEP 2: COMPLETE YOUR APPLICATION FORM
According to Education World, there are three general parts to any grant application:
- the application form(s),
- the narrative, and
- the budget.
“Grant writers and grant givers alike caution applicants to give equal weight to all three sections,” the site’s tip sheet notes. And this means treating the application not as an annoying list but an integral part of the entire package.
This means being meticulous and complete in filling out the application. Read the questions before you fill out the form, fill in your answers (Education World suggests typing your answers if possible), then go back and proofread all your answers.
STEP 3: WRITE YOUR NARRATIVE
The narrative part of a grant application is, understandably, the most intimidating part of the grant application process. It requires you, the grant writer, to become a storyteller. Someone who can craft a persuasive, research-based, and results-focused story designed to convince a funder that your school district’s project – and not another’s – is the one worth their money.
When writing your narrative, make sure you include all of the following pertinent information.
- Background. Include any relevant history and mission of your school/district as it pertains to the purpose of your project.
- Needs Assessment. Use data to demonstrate the educational needs this project is designed to address.
- Goals. Link your goals to your Needs Assessment statement to show how your project will help solve a critical problem in your school/district.
- Objectives. Make your objectives read like measureable steps. Craft them in a way that’s specific, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.
- Timeline. As a way to connect with time-bound objectives, include a concrete timeline with start and end dates, as well as a schedule of the project’s key activities.
Just because you’re making a formal request for funds doesn’t mean your narrative should be devoid of passion. Employ some of the skills any great writing has, including a hook to draw your reader in. Illumine and enlighten your reader with the possibilities of your project.
One danger the National Education Association suggests keeping an eye out for: the heavy use of jargon. Just because you’re asking for technology doesn’t meant your narrative should read like an instruction manual. In the NEA’s words:
Impose a ban on “eduspeak” and unfamiliar acronyms. Nowhere in your grant should the following sentence appear: “Using a group of school-age learners, we will endeavor to capitalize on NCLB-specific requirements and shift the paradigm for meeting tangible literary and technological benchmarks.” Reviewers will be much happier to read: “We want to provide one class of third-graders the equipment needed to produce a book report podcast.”
We have some additional tips for grant writing here.
STEP 4: BUILD YOUR BUDGET
Ideally, you’ll have gotten a head start on this before you sit down to write your grant application. Education World suggests you build a budget that’s consistent with your narrative and that it covers all the resources you’ll need for this project (and omits any costs for items not mentioned in your proposal).
“Your budget should be specific, reasonable, realistic, accurate, and flexible – in case the funder wants to negotiate the funding amount,” they write.
STEP 5: CHECK YOUR WORK
It’s something teachers tell their students all the time, and it extends to grant writers as well. Once you’ve finished writing, take an hour away from the documents, then return to them with a fresh eye. Check for consistency, clarity, and anything else.
One tip: give your work to someone else to look over. Sometimes it helps to get the perspective of someone outside the grant application process.
AN OPPORTUNITY TO PERSUADE
No, grant writing isn’t easy.
But there’s a lot of helpful tips, tricks, and strategies out there to sharpen your grant writing skills so that the next time opportunity knocks, you’ll be able to persuade it inside with great writing.