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Before You Open: Grant Strategies for New Charter Schools

Updated: Jun 2

Starting a charter school is an ambitious and rewarding endeavor, but securing the necessary funding can be a daunting task, especially before your school has officially opened its doors. Grants are a vital resource for new charter schools, providing essential funding to help you establish your programs, hire staff, and create a strong foundation for future success.

Securing grants during the planning phase of your charter school can be challenging but not impossible.

In this blog post, we will explore key strategies for finding and applying for grants during the crucial pre-opening phase of your charter school. By understanding the types of grants available, where to find them, and common pitfalls to avoid, you can enhance your chances of obtaining the financial support needed to bring your vision to life.

We will address the following FAQs to guide you through the grant application process:

  1. Can we get a grant before our new charter school opens?

  2. Where do you find grants for charter schools?

  3. Is it better to start with small foundation grants or large federal grants?

  4. Can we apply for multiple grants simultaneously?

  5. What are the common mistakes to avoid when applying for grants?

By the end of this guide, you will be equipped with valuable insights and practical steps to navigate the grant application process effectively, setting your new charter school up for success from the very beginning. Let's dive in!

1. Can We Get a Grant Before Our New Charter School Opens?

Securing grants during the planning phase of your charter school can be challenging but not impossible. Here's what you need to know:

Possibilities and Limitations of Securing Funding During the Planning Phase Getting a grant before completing your first year of operation can be difficult. Grant funders often require evidence of community support, student enrollment, and sound financial practices. Without a track record, it can be tough to convince funders of your school's potential. However, demonstrating strong planning, a clear vision, and community backing can enhance your chances.

Examples of Grants Accessible to Pre-Opening Charter Schools While many grants are geared toward established schools, some are available for those in the planning stages:

  • Charter School Program (CSP) Grants: These federal grants are designed to support new charter schools, offering funds for planning, program design, and initial implementation.

  • The NewSchool Venture Fund: This organization provides grants and investments to support innovative new charter schools. However, these opportunities are highly competitive and require a robust application.

  • Charter School Growth Fund: Offers support to promising charter school models with the potential for expansion and replication. Again, competition is fierce.

  • Small Foundation Grants: Some small foundations might be willing to support a new school if their mission and values align closely with your school's goals. Building a strong narrative around your vision and the impact you aim to achieve can attract these funders.

Initial Steps for Grant Readiness To improve your chances of securing pre-opening grants, consider the following steps:

  1. Build Community Support: Engage with parents, local businesses, and community leaders to show strong backing for your school.

  2. Develop a Solid Financial Plan: Outline your projected budget, funding sources, and financial controls to demonstrate fiscal responsibility.

  3. Create a Compelling Vision: Clearly articulate your school’s mission, educational approach, and the need you aim to fulfill in the community.

  4. Gather Enrollment Interest: Collect letters of intent or interest forms from prospective students and families to show demand for your school.

  5. Establish Governance: Form a capable and committed board of directors with expertise in education, finance, and community engagement.


2. Where Do You Find Grants for Charter Schools?

Finding grants for charter schools involves leveraging various resources and platforms to identify potential funding opportunities. Here’s a guide to help you navigate the process:

Reliable Platforms for Grant Research The first step in finding grants is knowing where to look. Reliable sources include government websites, private foundations, and specialized grant search engines. These platforms provide a wealth of information and are essential for effective grant prospecting.

List of Specific Databases and Tools

  1. This is the primary source for federal grants. It offers a comprehensive database of public grants and federal grant applications. You can search by keyword, agency, or eligibility to find grants that match your needs.

  2. GuideStar provides detailed information on nonprofits, including grantmakers. A membership offers more in-depth data, which can be useful for identifying potential donors.

  3. A free database tailored to education grants. It allows for keyword-based searches and alerts, helping you stay informed about new opportunities.

  4. Google Search: A simple yet effective tool. Use search terms like "nonprofit grants" along with your city or region to find local funding sources.

  5. State Nonprofit Associations: Many state nonprofit associations maintain lists of members who offer grants. These can be valuable resources for finding locally-focused funding.

  6. Charter School Associations: Reach out to your state or national charter school associations. They often provide recommendations and resources specific to charter schools.

  7. Other Charter Schools: Networking with other charter schools can yield insights into successful grant applications and potential funders.

  8. Key Stakeholders: Engage your staff, board members, and active parents. They may have connections or knowledge of funding opportunities.

  9. The Grantsmanship Center: Offers training, information, and access to a paid grant database. It's a great resource for those new to grant writing.

  10. National Charter School Resource Center: Provides comprehensive support for charter schools, including funding opportunities and technical assistance.

  11. Charter School Growth Fund: Invests in high-performing charter schools to help them expand. They offer resources, strategic advice, and networking opportunities.

Subscription-Based Grant Databases Consider investing in subscription-based databases for more extensive search capabilities. Many offer trial subscriptions to help you determine their value.

  • Foundation Center (now Candid)

  • GetEdFunding

  • Grant Forward

  • Grant Gopher

  • Grant Station

  • GrantScape

  • GrantWatch

  • Instrumentl

  • School Funding Center

These databases typically allow for keyword searches and customized queries. They are regularly updated to provide the latest information on available grants.


Check out this curated list of 50 Grants for School and Nonprofits. Sign up for our mailing list to access these resources and receive regular updates on grants and resources for charter schools.


Effective Research and Prospecting Tips

  • Set Dedicated Research Time: Allocate specific times for grant research to ensure thorough and focused efforts.

  • Save Links for Future Reference: When you come across potential grants, save the links. This will help you manage your prospects without delving into details immediately.

  • Utilize Social Media and Networking: Platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter can be useful for discovering grant opportunities and networking with funders.

Suggested Keywords for Grant Searches

  • After-school program

  • Art

  • At-risk students

  • Bullying prevention

  • Character education

  • Community service projects

  • ELL/ESL/Bilingual education

  • Facilities maintenance

  • Gifted and talented programs

  • Library and media resources

  • Literacy initiatives

  • Music education

  • Professional development opportunities

  • Rural education

  • Special needs education

  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) programs

  • Technology integration

  • Underserved students

  • Youth development

By exploring these resources and employing these strategies, you can significantly enhance your chances of finding and securing grants for your charter school.

By carefully considering these factors and developing a tailored approach to grant-seeking, you can strategically secure funding that supports your school’s growth and innovation.

3. Is it Better to Start with Small Foundation Grants or Large Federal Grants?

Benefits and Challenges of Small Foundation Grants Versus Large Federal Grants

Consider the capacity of your founding team and your funding needs. There are benefits and challenges to small foundation grants and large federal grants. Let's look at these in more detail.

Small Foundation Grants:


  • Accessibility: Small foundation grants are often easier to apply for and have less stringent requirements compared to large federal grants.

  • Faster Turnaround: The application and approval process is typically quicker, allowing you to secure funding more rapidly.

  • Relationship Building: Small foundations often value personal connections. Building relationships with local nonprofits that serve your students and families can enhance your chances of success.

  • Flexibility: Smaller grants can offer more flexibility in how funds are used, which can be crucial during the early stages of your charter school’s development.


  • Limited Funding: The amounts awarded by small foundations may not be sufficient to cover large-scale projects or significant operational costs.

  • High Competition: Despite the smaller grant size, competition can be fierce, especially from other local initiatives and organizations.

Large Federal Grants:


  • Substantial Funding: Federal grants often provide larger sums of money, which can support major projects and comprehensive programs.

  • Prestige and Credibility: Securing a federal grant can enhance your school’s credibility and attract additional funding from other sources.

  • Support for Scaling: Large grants can be pivotal in scaling innovative programs and expanding your school’s impact.


  • Complex Application Process: Applying for federal grants involves detailed proposals, extensive documentation, and strict compliance with guidelines.

  • Longer Approval Time: The review and approval process can be lengthy, delaying the availability of funds.

  • Rigorous Reporting Requirements: Federal grants come with stringent reporting and accountability requirements, which can be resource-intensive.

Tailored Approach: Strategies Based on the School's Capabilities and Needs

  • Align with Strategic Goals: Ensure that your grant-seeking efforts align with your school’s strategic goals. Focus on grants that support your innovative programs and unique target population.

  • Start Local: Begin by reaching out to local nonprofits and foundations. Building strong relationships with organizations that serve your students and families can create a supportive network and pave the way for future funding opportunities.

  • Diversify Funding Sources: Don’t rely solely on one type of grant. A mix of small foundation grants and larger federal grants can provide a more stable and diversified funding base.

  • Capacity Building: Assess your school’s capacity to manage and report on grants. Start with smaller grants to build your experience and gradually move to larger federal grants as your administrative capabilities grow.

  • Targeted Applications: Focus on grants that directly align with your school’s programs and needs. Tailored applications that clearly demonstrate how the funding will support your goals are more likely to be successful.

By carefully considering these factors and developing a tailored approach to grant-seeking, you can strategically secure funding that supports your school’s growth and innovation.


4. Can we apply for multiple grants simultaneously?

Yes, you can apply for multiple grants simultaneously. In fact, it's a recommended strategy to submit your project or program proposal to several grant funders to increase your chances of receiving funding. Even the same proposal can be submitted to multiple funders.However, there's a caveat when you receive multiple approvals. You can only purchase an item or implement a project once using grant funding. Most likely, you'll need to provide receipts or documentation for your purchases or expenditures.

Recommended Approach

  1. Submit to 3-5 Funders: I generally advise clients to submit their project proposal to 3 to 5 grant funders, allowing sufficient time for responses.

  2. Accept the First Approval: If one funder approves your project, accept that grant funding.

  3. Decline or Modify Subsequent Approvals: If another funder approves the same project later, you have two options:

  • Decline the subsequent funding, as the project has already been funded.

  • Contact the funder to inquire if they are open to modifying the project scope or objectives to utilize their funding for a different purpose.

This approach ensures that you maximize your chances of securing funding while adhering to the guidelines and avoiding duplication of expenditures.

Wrong Way
When applying for grants, particularly in the competitive field of charter schools, avoiding common pitfalls can significantly increase your chances of success.

5. What Are the Common Mistakes to Avoid When Applying for Grants?

When applying for grants, particularly in the competitive field of charter schools, avoiding common pitfalls can significantly increase your chances of success. Here are some frequent errors and tips to ensure your applications stand out:

1. Lack of Alignment with Grant Objectives

Mistake: Failing to tailor your application to the specific goals and priorities of the grant provider.

Tip: Carefully read the grant guidelines and objectives. Ensure that your proposal clearly demonstrates how your school’s mission and projects align with the funder's goals. Highlight the specific ways your program meets their criteria and addresses their priorities.

2. Incomplete or Inaccurate Applications

Mistake: Submitting applications with missing information, errors, or incomplete sections.

Tip: Double-check your application before submission. Create a checklist based on the grant requirements to ensure all sections are completed accurately. Have multiple team members review the application to catch any errors or omissions.

3. Weak Narrative and Lack of Evidence

Mistake: Providing a weak or unclear narrative without strong evidence to support your claims.

Tip: Develop a compelling narrative that tells your school’s story and clearly articulates your vision and goals. Use data, research, and concrete examples to back up your claims. Include success stories, testimonials, and statistics that demonstrate the impact of your proposed project.

4. Unrealistic Budget and Financial Projections

Mistake: Submitting a budget that is either too high, too low, or lacks detailed justification.

Tip: Prepare a realistic and detailed budget that aligns with your project’s objectives. Break down costs and provide justification for each line item. Ensure your budget is consistent with the scope of your project and provides a clear financial plan.

5. Ignoring Grant Guidelines and Instructions

Mistake: Overlooking specific guidelines, such as formatting requirements, page limits, or submission deadlines.

Tip: Follow the grant guidelines meticulously. Adhere to formatting requirements, respect page limits, and ensure timely submission. Failure to comply with these guidelines can result in your application being disqualified.

6. Lack of Collaboration and Stakeholder Involvement

Mistake: Not involving key stakeholders or collaborators in the grant application process.

Tip: Engage stakeholders, such as teachers, parents, community leaders, and potential partners, in the planning and application process. Their input and support can strengthen your proposal and demonstrate community backing.

7. Poor Evaluation and Sustainability Plan

Mistake: Failing to include a solid plan for evaluating the project’s success and sustaining it beyond the grant period.

Tip: Outline a clear evaluation plan with specific metrics to measure your project’s success. Additionally, provide a sustainability plan that explains how you will continue the project after the grant funding ends. Highlight any potential future funding sources or strategies for maintaining the program.

8. Lack of Personalization in Applications

Mistake: Using generic templates or failing to personalize the application for each grant.

Tip: Customize each application to reflect the specific grant you are applying for. Personalize your narrative and approach to resonate with the particular interests and goals of the funder. Show that you have put thought and effort into tailoring your proposal to their unique requirements.

By avoiding these common mistakes and following these tips, you can create stronger, more compelling grant applications that stand a better chance of securing funding for your charter school.



Securing grants for a new charter school can be challenging, but with the right strategies and resources, you can successfully navigate the pre-opening phase and lay a strong financial foundation for your school. By understanding the types of grants available, leveraging reliable sources for grant research, choosing the right grants to apply for, and avoiding common pitfalls, you can enhance your chances of obtaining the funding needed to bring your vision to life.

At Granting Your Vision, we specialize in helping charter schools like yours achieve their funding goals. From identifying suitable grant opportunities and crafting compelling proposals to providing ongoing support and expert advice, our team is dedicated to ensuring your school's success. We offer comprehensive services tailored to the unique needs of charter schools, helping you secure the resources necessary to provide high-quality education to your students.

Whether you are just starting out or looking to expand your funding strategies, Granting Your Vision is here to support you every step of the way. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you in achieving your mission and driving academic excellence.

Together, we can make your charter school a reality and create a lasting impact on your community.


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