• Peggy Downs

Charter Schools: How to Win the Grants Game

Updated: Sep 9

“There’s a lot of money out there,” confirms Marc Koenig at Nonprofit Hub. “Over $50 billion dollars are awarded every year through foundations. If you aren’t applying for a piece of the pie, that’s money left on the table—or being given to other organizations,” he adds.
Keeping the Pipeline Full: Why Grants are a Critical Part of Your Fundraising Strategy for Growth

You have a vision. Your charter school has the potential to improve the lives of countless children and their families. Public funding goes only so far, but private donations can be difficult to find and inconsistent. What’s the best way to improve your school’s impact and increase your influence? Consider grants…not just the occasional grant that shows up on your radar, but a systematic approach to developing a grants pipeline.

What is a grants pipeline?

Grants provide funding to charter schools from nonprofit organizations or government agencies. A grants pipeline is an organized approach to seeking and submitting multiple grants over time, developing a reliable funding stream for your program. “But I don’t have time for that!” you may be saying…Maybe that’s because the process seems overwhelming and frustrating. But it’s not as hard as you may think. Let’s take a look at a simple framework you can use to build your grants pipeline.

Charter School Leaders

Classroom Grants for Teachers will provide a new resource to help your teachers build new skills. You will be able to download and share the training. This is not a streaming video. I understand that you want to make this training available to your teachers. There are no restrictions.

Why? Because I believe that teachers who write grants become school leaders who write grants. And I am here to support charter school leaders with the resources and training you need.

Share the training with your teachers individually, or provide access during a professional development day. It’s yours to use as you wish.

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Framework: “How to build a grants pipeline”

There are three key components of a successful grants pipeline. You need to support, simplify, and sustain your grant-writing efforts. What does this mean? Take a look at the list below and think about your charter school.

1. Support– all members of the community support the programs funded by the grants and the grant programs align with school vision to achieve student-focused results.

  • Time + resources: You dedicate the time and staff needed to manage the grants process, including searching, writing, and overseeing grants.

  • Community: Parents and staff members understand the importance of grant funding, and cooperate in efforts to manage grant programs.

  • Leadership: Administrators and board members provide consistent leadership and accountability for grants, aligning grant proposals with school’s mission and vision.

  • Vision: Your grant proposals are calibrated to your school’s mission and vision, not causing you to veer off in different directions, but rather reinforcing and supporting your core values.

2. Simplify–Your process to develop and manage grant programs is practical and clearly defined.

  • Organized: The information a grant-writer needs is easy to find and has been edited for consistency and accuracy. You have a tracking system that shows what grants you are interested in, what grants you have applied for, whether you were approved or denied, and deadlines of upcoming grants.

  • Systematic: You have a single person who is accountable for the process, and that person has goals and focus areas to guide grant-seeking efforts. You know your short-term and long-term goals, and these goals align with your school’s mission and strategic plan.

  • Replicable: You have the process so well designed that a different person could step in next week and take over the task with no loss of momentum.

3. Sustain– Plans and projects reflect thoughtful attention to long-term goals and consistent focus.

  • Routine: Grants are a regular part of your planning conversations. You or your designated grant-writer spend a predictable time managing your grants pipeline (~5% per week, or 2 hours, once it is established)

  • Accountability: The grant-writer reports opportunities, results, and concerns at regularly scheduled meetings. Goals are monitored and reported to the community, and success is celebrated.

  • Embedded: Once established, grants management is simply part of the school culture.

Take note of the qualities you already have in place and check those off. Look for the ones that you “sort of” have in place, or could develop fairly quickly. Work on those first. Then develop a plan to get the last ones in place, those components that are the farthest away from you now. Before long, you can have a fully developed grants pipeline that can begin providing consistent funding to support your charter school’s long-term goals.

Check out these related posts

Why do grants matter? (My shocking secret)

Stop ignoring classroom grants (Here’s why)

Do I really need a grant-writing committee?

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Check Out this Book and Take Your Grant Writing to the Next Level

Peggy Downs works with school leaders who want to leverage grants to dramatically increase funding, impact, and credibility for their schools. More info and a ton of free resources are waiting for you at:


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