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10 tips for successfully getting a school grant

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By Karen Greenwood Henke, Founder of Grant Wrangler

6. Determine who is offering the grant or award.

Several different types of organizations offer grants for schools and classrooms. Grants and awards from associations like the National Gardening Association, International Reading Association or National Science Teachers Association may require membership to apply. Corporate foundations often give to their local community, but many offer national grants such as General Mills Home Town Helper grants and Oracle's ThinkQuest program. Many communities have community foundations and family foundations that give based on their particular areas of interest.

7. Stay focused on small one-time grants.

These are grants that your school can easily incorporate into their planned activities. Unless you are on the school board or in a community leadership position, avoid multi-year, major reform projects. These grants require significant support and organizational resources.

8. Give the teacher a short list of a few grants and offer to help write the application.

Most teachers are pressed for time. Don't send them every grant you find, but give them a short list of the most relevant grants. Include:

  • The name of the program
  • The sponsoring organization
  • The deadline
  • Eligibility requirements
  • A link to the application information, not just the top-level page of the grant Web site

Offer to help, but let the teacher decide how to proceed.

9. Offer to review the application or help research information.

You can help with the application by conducting research or reviewing the teacher's draft. Use the judging criteria or last year's winners to make sure that the proposal is a good match. Other things to look for:

  • Is the application specific enough? The judges might not know anything about your community or classroom.
  • Is it memorable? The teacher's excitement should shine through the text.
  • Is the spelling and grammar correct? Double-check the budget to make sure everything adds up.
  • Is the teacher's voice coming through? Avoid the temptation to do heavy rewrites.

10. Support your teacher and your school.

Most grants are competitive, which means there will be winners and "non-winners." If your teacher wins, help implement the grant by volunteering your time or researching bargains on the items to be purchased. You could even notify the local press about the award (with the school's permission). If your classroom doesn't win, acknowledge the effort and encourage the teacher to try again.

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."