Use Summer Vacation to Write School Technology Grants

A relative told me in 2001 that cell phones would never be popular and he would “never own one of those contraptions.” In 2007, he purchased a flip phone and told me he would not text or call me on the cell phone as it was “only to be used in case of emergencies.” In 2009, I was flabbergasted when I received a text wishing me a happy birthday. He recently told my daughter, “I can’t live without my phone!” As the saying goes, never say never.

Hesitation with technology is like the funding uncertainty of the current federal budget. Do you want to enter the new school year with money for new technology? With the school year winding down, summer break is a perfect time to write next year’s school technology grants.

The following tips, websites and current information can help you develop winning technology grants.

Contact Those You Already Know

As with any research, the first things you should consider when looking for school technology grants are what and who you know; the contacts in your rolodex (aka Contacts in your phone), corporations and non-profits you work with.  These simple ideas can save you time, frustration and earn you money for technology.  Fundraising statistics show that people, foundations and corporations give to people they know, and not necessarily give to a cause they feel strongly about.

Test the waters this summer with your contacts to bring in that much-deserved money for technology.

Track STEM Opportunities Online

A great place to start your online school technology grants search is Stemgrants.com or Stemfinity.com. These websites are one stop shopping for all things STEM to include technology grants. Funding opportunities are bountiful, but I would recommend reading “10 Errors Proposal Teams Should Avoid,” prior to starting.

Grant funding opportunities change as deadlines pass and the latest programs become available.

Leverage Local Connections

A foundation that embraces education and STEM is Corning, the glass, stoneware and optical physics giant. A local school in Corning, New York, The Alternative School for Math and Science (ASMS) opened in January 2004, the result of a group of concerned citizens, parents and educators. These civic leaders knew the importance of STEM and more importantly knew employees at Corning. They followed funder relationship advice, and leveraged their Corning contacts sitting in the community’s front yard.

Corning donated and fully funded a 35,000-square foot ASMS school building. In turn, Corning leaders had a long-standing partnership with Samsung, whom together fully funded ASMS and became the first independent school in the United States to adopt the full Samsung School solution across all grades. The Samsung School solution is an integrated one-to-one learning platform combining Samsung Galaxy tablets, interactive whiteboards and other technology, melded together with powerful interactive classroom software.

More than 75 percent of ASMS graduates further their higher education in the STEM field; the national average is 16 percent.

Connect on Common Ideals

Small school districts without private sector giants in their front yards can also attract school technology grants from foundations. Captain Planet Foundation makes grants available to schools with an operating budget less than $3 million dollars.

The foundation’s EcoTech grants are created for digitally savvy students so they do not have to choose between “the screen” or “the green.” In this technologic theme, the Captain Planet Foundation inspires teachers and students to discover how technology can solve some of the environment’s biggest challenges. Past funding included the merging of robotics and sensors to search lakes, collect data and organize clean-ups; and developing an aquaponic and hydroponic system using remote sensors.

So go out and phone, text or email a contact, research and write school technology grants or apply for an EcoTech Grant for your school. Embrace the summer, but most importantly don’t take a break applying for technology grants.

Foundation Funding Alternatives for ‘Sanctuary Schools’

In my 20 years as an educator, I found there is a fine line between being brave and acting foolish. Many places around the United States are claiming to be “Sanctuary Cities,” which means they support immigrant-friendly practices (not a legal definition). Meanwhile, the federal government through an Enhancing Public Safety Executive Order threatens to hold back federal funds from these Sanctuary Cities, including school districts such as Los Angeles Unified, who last year received $585 million in federal funds. Can you imagine losing over a half billion dollars to provide a free and appropriate public education to all young people in a large school district?

The past few months remind me of a 1976 science fiction movie called Logan’s Run where people live in a so-called perfect society. At the age of 30, society members are executed in a public, carnival type event; however, a few runners escape to sanctuary. Logan is a government agent who is ordered to hunt these runners and destroy their Sanctuary. But Logan had moral courage, and kept the whereabouts of the Sanctuary a secret from the government. Be brave like Logan, and hunt for alternative grants in your Sanctuary City before your federal funds are held hostage.

To help navigate you through the art of being brave, consider these alternative grants in case your school district’s federal funds are being held hostage.

After School Programs

The current presidential administration has proposed cutting $1.2 billion from after school programs, including 21st Century Community Learning Center grants. Afterschool programs motivate children to stay in school, provide tutoring/homework help, keep students off the streets and encourage interest in science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) career areas among other evidence-based benefits. Some major, alternative corporate and foundation grant resources funding afterschool activities are:

You can request grant guidelines from the Anschutz Foundation, 1727 Tremont Place, Denver, CO 80202.

Literacy, Math and Other Content Areas

Although there are indications that Title I funds may increase, school districts and teachers always need more funding for curriculum, supplies and other content area program requirements. Some grant resources for content areas are:

Students with Special Needs

Since No Child Left Behind has ended and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is on the chopping block, the current administration is not focused on helping students with disabilities and supporting the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Federal IDEA funds may need to be supplemented with other private funds. Some available grants in this area are provided to school districts by:

Nutrition, Health & Wellness

Since ESSA is being dismantled, a focus on healthy eating and wellness for students seems to be falling by the wayside. Many students only receive decent meals at school through healthy breakfast, lunch and summer programs. It is difficult to learn on an empty stomach. Here are some resources to help school districts find funding in this area:

If you want to search more grants Foundation Directory Online is free to access at many public libraries.

About the Author

Judy Riffle, Ed.D, is a former teacher, university mentor, and K-12 central office administrator with degrees in special education, Deaf education and educational leadership. She was a school district Director of Federal and State Programs in Arizona, including additional hats as a grant writer/manager, English Language Learner Director, Homeless Student Liaison, technology committee facilitator, fundraiser and teacher professional development coordinator. Dr. Riffle began writing state, federal, corporate and foundation grants in 2008 for a school district, and branched out to independent grant consulting in 2011. Since 2012, she has served on six federal grant review panels. Encompassing over 20 years of experience in the field of education, she also serves on the Grant Professionals Association Grant News Publications Subcommittee, Grant Professionals Foundation Marketing Committee, the GPF Silent Auction Committee, and several nonprofit Governing Boards.

A Logic Model: Successfully Working with a Grant Professional

Growing up in the ‘70s, Star Trek was my “go-to” television show. I had a huge childhood crush on Captain Kirk, but I admired Spock’s one-line logic zingers. “Logic is the beginning of wisdom … not the end”; it appears as if Spock was speaking of logic models.

These two words “logic models” strike fear in the heart of many. However, they can be a valuable tool for planning a grant project or any type of process.

As a grant consultant, I work with all sorts of clients across the country. Whether I consult to a small non-profit or a large university, I use logic models to plan, implement and evaluate the grant project. Some grant projects are far more challenging than others; sometimes, the challenge is the project, and occasionally, it is the grant seekers. How can we make this collaborative process better? Honing my inner “Spock,” I thought it would be fun and logical to create a logic model showing the responsibilities of both the organization and the grant professional. This is a simplified logic model format without all the bells and whistles, but it paints a picture of how a successful grant partnership can work. As suggested by other highly respected grant professionals, I began by articulating the outcomes, and then worked backwards.

As Spock said, “Insufficient facts always invite danger, Captain.” Use this logic model and your grant project will never be in danger of “not being funded:”

judy_riffle_logic_list

The 4Cs: Grant Reviewers are Not Mind Readers

I have served on six federal grant review committees, all valuable learning experiences. Serving on a grant review committee is hard work, and reviewers often end up scratching their heads while reading proposals. It is a grant writer’s job to make it easier for reviewers to get through a stack of grant proposals without too much stress or groans. Since grant reviewers are not mind readers, create a clear, concise, cohesive and compelling proposal. Carnac the Magnificent (Johnny Carson mind reading skit) is not one of the 4Cs or the elusive fifth C. The following tips will strengthen your grant writing skills.

Be Clear

Follow your English teacher’s advice, and clearly tell the reviewer about your project by answering the following questions. Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Don’t force the reviewer to read your mind. Explain acronyms the first time you use them, and later in a long narrative to help a tired reviewer easily read your proposal. For example, do you want the reviewer to guess if E.D. stands for Executive Director, Emotionally Disturbed or something more graphic? Reviewers are prohibited from looking up information not included in a grant proposal. Don’t ever make them guess or read between the lines. In addition, they may have never written a grant before and may not be experts on the subject area you are writing about. Before you submit the final grant proposal, have a trusted friend or colleague review it who does not work in the grant subject field. The goal is for a reviewer to understand and implement the project simply from your description. Always use correct grammar and spelling. David Lindeman provides helpful copy editing tips, such as using MS Word’s readability tool, in a Grant Professionals Association blog. In addition to writing at a seventh to eighth grade reading level and restricting use of passive voice to less than 20 percent of the time, I advise aiming for a Flesch Reading Ease score of 60 to 70.

Be Concise

Answer each grant question thoroughly with concise, well thought out and simple language. Use charts, graphics or other methods allowed by the funder to break up the narrative, make complex ideas easier to understand and provide a rest for weary reviewer eyes.  Avoid overly long sentences and unnecessary words such as: that, according to, kind of and definitely.  The Purdue Online Writing Lab provides great examples of words to eliminate and conciseness on their website.

Be Cohesive

A good rule of thumb to achieve cohesiveness is to prepare the grant budget prior to writing the narrative. When a budget is completed at the last minute, it is difficult to ensure alignment with the project description. Experienced reviewers often place the budget and narrative side by side to ensure both sections tell the same story. Avoid surprising or overly expensive items in the budget. Strive for reasonable, allocable and allowable expenses.

Be Compelling

The need section must grab the reader’s attention immediately. Tell a story about the people you serve including valid and reliable statistics. Use research three years old or less, unless it’s classic research accepted over time or there is no current evidence available. To make a greater impact on the reader, generally avoid passive voice. Ensure all community or organizational needs you include in the grant narrative are addressed in the project design. Make all grant sections flow like a beautiful symphony. Aim for the reviewer to feel compelled to fund your project without any lingering doubts.

In my experience as a reviewer, I still remember proposals that left me without unanswered questions to ponder and the inability to deduct many points. These types of proposals are rare, yet the competition is high. Don’t cause groans from reviewers because of a lack of clarity, conciseness, cohesiveness or compelling argument in grant proposals.

Carnac the Magnificent bestows the gift of the 4C’s upon you. Reading your mind is not a required skill of reviewers.

 

Winning 21st CCLC Grant Tips

21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) grants assist with enrichment programs for outside of school time. Subjects include math, reading, science, technology and youth development to support classroom instruction during the school day. Activities occur before school, after school, and/or during summer, intercessions or holiday breaks. Title IV, Part B, of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act authorizes federal funding to state departments of education, who in turn award these grants to schools and other entities. Grant programs focus on students attending low-performing schools; 40 percent or more of students must qualify for free or reduced meals. What goes into winning this funding? Here are ten tips to guide you.

  1. Read everything available about the grant funding in your state. Read and re-read the grant application guidance, highlighting important things to remember. Search for past funded 21st CCLC grants to review, often available to the public on state department of education websites. Find newspaper articles such as this one describing successful out of school time programs.
  2. Gather data to make an impactful need statement. This includes current enrollment, demographics, free/reduced student lunch counts, academic indicators, completed needs assessments, and school improvement plans. Describe achievement gaps. How are the needs of students on the fringe of meeting academic standards being addressed at the school site? When describing the need for the grant program, focus on each school and surrounding neighborhood instead of only state, city, or county statistics. Provide truancy, discipline, teen pregnancy, dropout, adult literacy, socioeconomic, drug use, health, and community crime statistics. How are these risk factors affecting students? Why do students at your school need out of school programming? Share sad stories! Provide a sense of your school neighborhood and your families. Choose 3 to 4 highest priority risk factors and align them to your grant program plan.
  3. Utilize program planning tools from your state or other states to help guide the grant process. Arizona provides downloadable documents such as a partner planning tool, budget planning tool, and program planning tool here. Use these tools with the grant team, and adjust them as needed. Create your own form such as a simple table with the headings: Information Needed or Task, Person Responsible, and Date Completed.
  4. Create a strong evaluation section. Avoid only listing or discussing instruments used; instead, clearly elaborate on the methods and procedures used in evaluating the program. How will family engagement be measured? What is the specific timeline as to how often meetings will occur and data will be analyzed? Who will the evaluation team be within the school, and how are they qualified? How will in-school data be used to refine, improve, and drive programming?
  5. Provide a specific professional development plan. Detail a training plan for 21st CCLC staff instead of only a list of topics to be addressed. How will partners (subject matter experts) be involved in planning and providing professional development?
  6. Make the program fun and inviting for students and families. Put your passion and creativity into this section. How will you sell and explain this innovative program to staff, students, and families? Find some ideas here. What will make students want to attend rather than stay home or hang out with friends after school? Provide a clear, specific plan of how the site coordinator/principal will recruit and retain students, adult family members, and teachers in the 21st CCLC program. What public forums will you hold about the program; when and where will they be held? How will you promote a 21st CCLC school culture in supporting a strong future for students?
  7. Connect and elaborate on goals. Create a logic model to help guide the grant writing project, and ensure every part of the proposal matches that logic model. Provide a map or schematic. Don’t leave any questions unanswered in the reviewer’s mind, and strive for a proposal that reads like a well-played symphony.
  8. Create Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely (SMART) objectives. SMART guidance helps you write objectives correctly. Download Writing SMART Outcome Objectives under “Downloadable Tools” on the Arizona Department of Education webpage. Here is an example of one of the department’s SMART objectives: “The percentage of regular attendees who meet or exceed the AzMERIT Math Standard will increase 10 percent by the end of the school year.”
  9. Address every suggested improvement in this year’s application. If you have reviewer feedback from past failed applications, rewrite the comments into question format for school site applicants to answer. Try making a checklist of all items that need to be addressed.
  10. Remember the three magic budget words: reasonable, allowable and allocable. Download the Cost Principles Matrix in the “Downloadable Tools” section of the Arizona Department of Education CCLC webpage.

Wake up the reviewer with your application. Enjoy putting creativity into your 21st CCLC grant, and make teaching fun. Good luck!

Gearing Up for the 2017 Education Grants Landscape

“You’re a puppet….no, you’re a puppet!” Negativity surrounded the 2016 U.S. Presidential election; none of us in the education profession are sure what the FY17 grant landscape will ultimately bring. Will the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) be abolished? What will entitlement funds such as Title I look like? Will these allocations continue to decrease? Instead of focusing on ugly politics, I’d like to provide some tools for planning your FY17 grant potential.

Grant Readiness: When planning for grant funding, this is the first item organizations need to analyze and review annually. In your organization, are all the ducks in a row to stand strong in the competitive grant arena? Diane Leonard, a frequent article contributor for GovGrantsHelp.com, offers a free online tool to help determine an organization’s grant readiness here. This Grant Readiness Assessment Strategy Prep (GRASP) tool only takes 10 minutes, and should be done at least once a year to show growth and to help identify areas still needing development. At a recent Grant Professionals Association (GPA) annual conference presentation, Diane outlined the following six grant readiness areas: registration processes, internal capacity, internal controls/policies, strengths, needs, and goals. The GRASP tool is a fantastic aid for strategic grant planning.

Where to Find Grants: Consider federal, state, local, and foundation grants. Google “education grants” or use grant databases such as: GrantFinder, the Foundation Directory Online (often free in public libraries), or local grant databases such as the Arizona Guide to Grants Online. Subscribe to grant blogs or newsletters such as Grant Gopher. Join a professional association such as GPA. If teachers apply for grants, ensure your school or district has a policy and procedure for this.

Grant Calendar: While some organizations prefer grant project software, here is a sample grant calendar template to consider. A grant calendar should be a living, breathing document shared with the grant team. Add opportunities as they come up, and delete those where changing funder priorities don’t match your organization’s current project needs. Use color coding such as green for grants that should be written first, and yellow for those that can be completed later as time allows. Change the template mentioned above as needed such as adding a Funder Relationship Building column for notes, or columns for Completion Report or Reimbursement Request deadlines and when they have been completed. Make it yours and match it to your organization’s needs.

Federal Grant Forecast: The DOE FY17 federal grant forecast can be found here. If your organization is ready and able to work on one of these highly competitive grants, bookmark this page and refer to it often for updates. Make sure all your registrations such as SAM.gov are correct and not expired; SAM.gov requires annual updating. Accurate and current registration on this site also affects your ability to apply for and receive federal and state grant funding. For example, make sure the entity/organization name is correct and that the organization’s General Statement of Assurances (GSA) and SAM.gov core data page are submitted on time to your state DOE as required.

Recommended Books for Grant Writers: Any book written by Dr. Beverly Browning is helpful. She wrote Grant Writing for Dummies and many others. Some people recommend The Only Grant-Writing Book You’ll Ever Need by Ellen Karsh and Arlen C. Fox. A list of suggested grant writing books can also be found here, compiled by Michael Wells.

Where To Find Sample Funded Education Grants: Wish you could find a funded 21st CCLC grant or Title I application to guide you? Most states and many federal grant programs provide links to funded applications for the public in the interest of transparency and accountability. For example, to find Arizona Department of Education grants, go here, choose a county, a school, and then choose Funding/Funding Applications on the left side of the webpage.

Staying Positive: Dean Karnazes advises us, “Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.” Here is a useful, reflective article from Dr. Lynda Wastyn with a link to her presentation slides from the 2016 GPA conference, “We Have a New President! What Does that Mean for Federal Grants?” Her tips include: signing up for grants.gov alerts, referring to spending bills, reading budget proposals, and increasing creative projects and collaborations. Perhaps those of us in the K-12 education profession and grant world are worrying too much about 2017; it takes a lot of work to radically change budgets, and one person only has so much power, as dictated by the U.S. Constitution. Here’s to staying positive and not giving up on the 2017 education grants landscape. Don’t become a “puppet.”