• Peggy Downs

5 Steps to Develop a Grant Proposal for Your School

Updated: Mar 6, 2021

Grants are available for schools to fund future needs and current unexpected needs. I am sure you have lots of those! Keep reading to learn my process for developing a grant proposal that grantmakers will want to support. I will share my latest resources and some basic tips on how to write a proposal that is worth funding.

What is most important right now? Is it urgent? Does it have a significant impact? Start there.

In a recent survey of my readers, the number one reason many of you signed up for my mailing list is “to learn about grants.” That makes sense! I also learned that some of you struggle to find appropriate grants. I’ll help you with a link below to a wonderful free database for education grants. Let’s get started!

1. Make a List

You might know exactly what you want to do already. If you do, start by making a list of all the things you need to purchase to meet your goal. If you are not sure what you want to do, start by brainstorming a list of possibilities. Focus on important problems that affect your students right now or in the near future. Keep adding to the list until you run out of ideas, and then sort by priorities.

I like to prioritize by:

  • Important – aligns with your school’s mission and strategic plan

  • Urgent – impacts student safety or academic progress

  • Impactful – affects a large number of students, or affects a smaller number greatly

What is most important right now? Is it urgent? Does it have a significant impact? Start there.

2. Set Your Goals

Writing a grant often involves other people. You need information, support, and fresh ideas to do your best work. Set goals to keep yourself on track. What do you want to accomplish first? What needs to be done later? Who can help? What are you likely to forget if it’s not on a to-do list? List your goals as action statements with deadlines for best results.

3. Visualize Your Program

If you are typically a linear thinker like I am, you may find yourself taking notes in outline form, but it can help to visualize a problem from a new perspective.

Download this free worksheet to help Visualize Your Grant Program.

Start in the center and identify the problem you want to solve. Follow the arrow to the top right and write what you think is causing this problem. Try to identify the underlying cause that, if removed, will resolve the problem. You don’t want to create a partial solution that doesn’t actually fix the problem.

Move clockwise and fill in the solution you propose. Continue to the next box and consider any obstacles that stand in your way. In the next box, briefly list what you think you need to solve the problem. For example, you might need to order new technology or offer a new kind of training. Then move on to list who can help. This might mean reaching out to your parents, finding business partners, or speaking to board members who might have connections to important financial supporters. Finally, summarize what you can do to solve the problem. This work will become the core of your grant proposal.


Interested in more handy worksheets to support your planning? Check out my new Great Grants Planner which includes Visualize Your Grant Program and much more!


4. Find a Grant

To keep things simple, let’s start with a small foundation grant. That means you’ll be looking for a grant from a nonprofit organization and keeping the dollar amount fairly low, under $10,000 if possible. You’ll be more successful later with larger grants if you can show success with smaller ones first. I recommend starting with this free database:


Set up a free account and then go to “custom search.” Select a search by deadline and then select your state. Check any boxes that relate to your organization, such as “charter school” or “private school” and the grade levels you want to serve. To narrow your search, click any boxes for focus or content areas and search. You’ll be presented with a list of many grants that might work. Click on “read more” for any that look interesting.

As you look for grants that might be a good match for the program you have in mind, you should look for these details:

  • Deadline – does the grant have a due date that works for your program?

  • Funding Amount – does the amount offered or the range match your needs?

  • Eligibility – is your organization eligible for this grant? Watch for unusual restrictions such as memberships in an association, specific geographical areas, or demographics.

  • Grant Priorities – does this grant support the type of program or spending you need to meet your goals?

5. Write Your Proposal

Once you find a grant that seems to work for you, it’s time to prepare for the application. You’ll need to read the grant summary carefully and make note of all documentation and information that is required. Give yourself plenty of time to complete the application and be sure to edit your work carefully. Submit before the due date and make a note of when and how they will notify winners.

For more detailed training in grants, sign up for my free 7 Day Write a Grant Challenge.

Do you have an idea for a grant but no time to write it?  Complete one simple task a day for 7 days and you’ll be ready to hit “submit”!

  1. Pull together your school information

  2. Develop your program idea

  3. Create your plan

7 Days ~ 7 Simple Steps

Join the 7 Day Write a Grant Challenge now.


Looking for more resources to support your grants efforts?

Check out my e-books and training courses to learn more!

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My Mission: to help 100 school leaders write successful grants in the next 5 years, empowering you to create and lead the schools you envision.

Learn more and find a ton of free resources at:


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