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10 tips for successfully getting a school grant

Do you want to help your child's school pay for the science fair or buy playground equipment? Here's how to find and get grant money to help.

By Karen Greenwood Henke, Founder of Grant Wrangler

Did you know that teachers spend an average of almost $500 of their own money on supplies for the classroom each year?

Yet, foundations in the U.S. give away billions, yes, that's right, billions of dollars to support education. There are grants and awards for almost everything: classroom projects, technology, curriculum development, field trips, school gardens, educational travel, teacher recognition, and more.

As a parent, you can help your favorite teacher find these opportunities and make your child's classroom a rich, welcoming place full of wonder and excitement for learning. Here are 10 tips for finding funding for your school.

1. Meet with your child's school principal or other administrator to determine what the school needs.

Grants and awards are typically made to the school, so it is important that you search for grants that match the school's needs. The school or district may already be pursuing grants. You can help review proposals or identify new sources. School districts used to hire a grant writer to help with this process, but those jobs are far and few between today. You'll want to find out about your school's resources so you can coordinate your efforts.

2. Meet with your child's teacher to determine what the classroom needs.

Some grants are made directly to classroom teachers. Grants fall into several categories: classroom supplies, subject area support (science, history, government, arts, literacy, etc.), lesson or curriculum development, and awards for past projects. Ask the teacher about upcoming activities and plans to brainstorm what the class needs. Grants often come with obligations so it's important to work closely with the teacher to determine which ones might be best.

3. Identify keywords to narrow your search.

Before you start googling "classroom grants," save some time by making a list of keywords to narrow your search. Some typical grant topics to use in your search:

  • Subject area (math, science, literacy, arts, history, etc.)
  • Grade level (elementary, secondary, third grade, etc.)
  • Grant type (classroom grant, after-school grant, recognition of a science teacher, etc.)

4. Use a grant listing index to search for grants and sign up for alerts.

Even though there are billions of dollars out there, many opportunities are hidden deep within grant-giving Web sites. Educational publications and grant listing services can help you search for grants without trolling the whole Internet. Many of these services have alert emails you can subscribe to for updates. Some sites require a subscription, but there are plenty of free resources as well.

5. Gather information on potential opportunities.

Grant-giving Web sites are often tricky to navigate. Look for the most critical information first: the deadline, eligibility requirements, and judging criteria. If you can, take a look at the application. Do you think the amount of time required to complete the application is in proportion to the amount of the award? If not, move on to the next grant.

Karen Greenwood Henke is the founder of Grant Wrangler, which helps teachers find cash for their classrooms and encourages more groups to give to schools. She got interested in technology and funding for schools when she led efforts to wire classrooms in Silicon Valley, California, in 1996 as project director for NetDay.

Comments from readers

"I teach in a Middle School. There is a courtyard that is a mess.I would love to see a visual and dramatic art area for the students to create and perform. Does anyone know of any available grants? "
"For playground grants, manufacturer BCI Burke has a Grant Resource Center ( with a search engine for available grants. These are mainly geared towards schools and non-profits. "
"Do you know of any grants to look for that help grandparents who have adopted grandchildren? In particular, I'm looking for help with child care expenses. I have a child in PreK and one in the third grade and my child care is over $800.00 per month. I need some help and would appreciate any information you can offer where I can look."