Do I really need a grant-writing committee?
Updated: Mar 7
"I wish I had a grants committee..."
A school director said that to me just this week. You might agree with her, or you may be thinking:
"I don't have time for another committee!"
"Who would I get to help?"
"Isn't it easier to just do it myself? (or not...)"
Is a grant-writing committee worth your time? Let's find out!
Let's start with "why"
As a charter school leader, odds are good that you don't have access to a full-time grant writer. So who is going to write that grant? A strong grants committee will be able to:
understand your most pressing school problems
gather and analyze data
understand finance concerns and develop a budget
research and find potential grant opportunities
These are all things you can do yourself, if you have time. However, having a committee makes grant writing a priority. The scheduled meetings will be on your calendar, and therefore on your mind.
A good grants committee can quickly focus on major problems, bring new perspectives to discussions, and produce quality grant applications by working together. So how do you set up an effective grants committee?
Grants are competitive and you need your best people on the team. As you recruit members to join your committee, consider this:
What are your expected outcomes?
What skills do you need?
How will you recruit new members?
Your ideal candidates will:
have specific skills that you need
have a passion for your school's mission
want to develop their skills
be ready to challenge themselves
For each role, you will need to define the specific job duties they will be responsible for. Clear communication and thoughtful planning can save you stress and frustration later. A team of about 5 people is typically effective - big enough to share the work load, but small enough to avoid scheduling nightmares. Some experts have recommended the following roles for a successful committee.
Researcher - searches for grants, identifies grant opportunities, shares deadlines and documentation requirements with committee
Writer - does most of the actual writing of the proposal and related supporting documents
Copyeditor - edits the draft proposals for accuracy, clarity, and consistency
Records keeper - manages the paperwork (real or digital), grants calendar, and committee task lists
Proposal Coordinator - leads meetings, reports activity to board of directors or other authority and seeks approval as needed, manages committee in accordance with mission, goals, and agreed tasks
Of course, these roles can be filled by anyone in your community. Do you have a parent volunteer who would be a great copyeditor? Do you have a teacher who would make an excellent writer? Can your Assistant Principal fill the role of records keeper or researcher?
Grant-writing is a long-term commitment. Does your team have the stamina, perseverance, and communication skills to see the grant through to the end (and then on to the next proposal)?
Team projects go through a predictable cycle over the course of the project. First, the group is getting to know each other and setting the social norms. There doesn't appear to be much progress but this is an important part of the process. Somewhere around the midway point of the project, there is a wake-up call. Team members suddenly realize they are running out of time. There will be a moment where they either decide to kick into gear and start making decisions or they decide to give up and walk away. Knowing this, you can manage your team by providing small benchmark goals, lots of encouragement, and an understanding of group work dynamics.
New Series by Peggy Downs
Book 1: Start-Up Guide for School Grants (Answers to the Questions You Should Be Asking)
Book 2: Charter School Grants (Save Time and Write a Better Grant)
Book 3: Grant Writing for Impact (Leverage Grants to Dramatically Increase Funding, Impact, and Credibility for Your School)
Each book in this series addresses a different level of grant writing skills. Just getting started and full of questions? Start with book 1. Ready to write your first grant? Choose book 2. Interested in learning how to develop a school grants program? Then book 3 is for you.
Each book offers links to free resources to help you be successful with school grants.
Order yours on Amazon today.
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Your committee needs a purpose. Are you focused on a specific grant, like Daniels Grant? Are you raising funds for a larger purchase, like a playground upgrade? Or are you planning for the long-term to develop a consistent and reliable funding stream for your school? Write a mission statement or charge statement for your committee and use it to guide your decisions.
Your grant-writing committee has an incredibly important job. Initially, your team needs to:
Establish fundraising goals in accordance with mission or charge statement.
Set expectations for ongoing research.
Develop a mix of funding sources through various grants.
Develop an action plan, including areas of responsibilities, timelines, and evaluation measures.
It is the committee's responsibility to ensure intentional strategic grant-seeking efforts for your school.
Share the News
Once your grant-writing committee is established, it can be helpful to post news about your work on your school's website. Winning grants and sharing your work publicly shows the community and future donors that you are professional and committed to the grants process. It can attract additional donors and support all your fundraising efforts.
Your Grants page might include the following information, for example:
Mission or Charge Statement
The Grant-Writing Committee's mission is to seek out and apply for grants that address Global Academy's funding needs as identified by the board or directors and administration.
The Grant-Writing Committee will apply for grants that support the current school priorities. For the 2019-20 school year, the committee has established the following funding priorities.
$20,000 for STEM program
$5,000 for Music Instruments
The Grant-Writing Committee was successful in winning the ABC Community Grant in the amount of $45,000 in 2019. These funds will be used to improve the school's playground and ADA compliance.
(Name of main contact for committee)
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Start your grant writing journey today. Take the 7 Day Write a Grant Challenge.