• Peggy Downs

Grants Toolkit for Schools

Updated: Aug 12

If you’ve been concerned in the past that you just can’t succeed with grants for your school, I want to put those fears to rest. You can do this. You just need the right person to show you how.


Many people think you need to work at a Title One school or at a school that works with any other high needs population to get grants. They have their own reasons for wanting you to believe that, but it’s not true.


If you have ever thought grantmakers only want to work with successful schools or well known programs, you could be right. They want to minimize their risk of investing in programs that won’t be successful. I’m here to help you prove to them why your program idea is a good investment.

You have a dream that could change the world for your students, and I want to show you how to make that happen.

So that’s what we’re here for. You have a dream that could change the world for your students, and I want to show you how to make that happen. My goal for this blog is to help two types of people. For those who are beginners at grant writing, you’ll find resources to learn how to start writing grants that can help your students become more successful. For more experienced people, you’ll links to resources that will make grant writing easier so that you can continue to have greater impact with future grants.


I’ve worked in charter schools for 20 years. I’ve been a founding parent, teacher, director and board member. Now I work with schools to help you create success with grants.


In the past two years, I have had an amazing opportunity to work with schools and nonprofits that support students. I’ve been able to help these organizations find and write grants that created new opportunities for the communities they serve. But it wasn’t always that way. Just a few years ago, I was just like you. Now, I want to share what I’ve learned to help you meet your goals.


Is Your School Grant-Ready?

Before you begin searching for grants, you need to be sure your school is ready. When you win a grant, you are forming a partnership with another agency to accomplish specific goals. You want to ensure your school is attractive with solid finances, leadership, and vision. You want to be ready to hold up your side of the agreement. Although there is some flexibility, I’ve found that meeting these recommendations will give your school the most competitive advantage once you begin applying for grants.


This one-page infographic shows you what it takes to make your school grant-ready.



Click here to download this free infographic and subscribe to my mailing list for Granting Your Vision.


  • Clear Vision for Grants - You know why you want to write grants, and can explain how your grant project furthers your school’s mission and strategic goals.

  • Strong Statement of Need - You can clearly express why you need the money, what you’ll do with the money, and why it matters.

  • Operational Efficiency - You can demonstrate that your school is financially sound, with proper fiscal policies and practices to support and protect grant projects.

  • Effective Leadership - You can show that your board members, administrators, and other key leaders have appropriate experience and credentials, and that your school has a track record of success in related activities.

  • Realistic Budget - You can offer a detailed budget that demonstrates your understanding of the project and your ability to manage all activities.

  • Proper Paperwork - Your school is approved by the IRS as a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization and has met all related reporting and legal requirements for your state.

Don’t Try to Do It Alone

As a 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? It’s time to establish a grants committee.


A strong grants committee will be able to:

  • Understand your most pressing school problems.

  • Gather and analyze data.

  • Develop solutions.

  • Understand financial priorities 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. When you establish a grant-writing committee, it signals to your organization that grants are a priority.


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?


Your Best People

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. They will have a deep passion for your school’s mission. They will want to develop their skills and be ready to challenge themselves. A team of about five people is typically effective—big enough to share the workload, but small enough to avoid scheduling nightmares.


Want to learn more about creating a grants committee? Check out this blog post:

Do I really need a grant-writing committee?


Your Guiding Statement

Your committee needs a purpose. Are you focused on a specific grant, like the Daniels Grant? Are you raising funds from multiple sources for a larger purchase, like a playground upgrade? Are you considering a federal grant or a major private grant? How much are you hoping to raise in grants? Who gets to decide which grants are worth pursuing?


Write a charge statement for your committee and use it to guide your decisions. A charge statement defines the committee’s purpose, authority, structure, and responsibilities. For greatest clarity and transparency, the committee charge statement should be formally approved by the board of directors. A charge statement has five elements:

  • Mission statement or statement of purpose

  • Committee membership

  • Authority

  • Responsibility

  • Meetings

You can use this worksheet to develop your grants committee charge statement which will guide your efforts and help you find the right grants.



Click here to download the Committee Charge Statement Worksheet and subscribe to my mailing list for Granting Your Vision.

Get the Tools You Need

Your school is ready and you have established your grants committee. Now what? You need a few tools to make the job easier.


When I was starting to work with grants, I found the process to be a little overwhelming. You start your search, follow the links to a few grants, find something interesting, realize your school doesn’t qualify, and then try to go back to the original search….and start all over again. It’s a bit confusing.


After many hours of searching through grant applications, tracking grant searches, and applying for grants, I’ve developed some worksheets to help make the job manageable. The Grant Writing Starter Kit provides all my most popular resources at once. No need to track down each file or download from your email. They're all here!



Click here to get your Grant Writing Starter Kit.


Start Local, Start Small

Now it’s time to start your search. Focus on small grants from local foundations first. The applications are typically much easier to complete and sometimes only require a letter of inquiry. The timeline for approval can be shorter and the reporting requirements are much simpler. Build a portfolio of successful small grant awards before you attempt a larger grant project.


Small grants are less than $10,000 and focus on a single program or purchase. Local foundations are a great place to start because you already share many of the same values as you both serve families in your community.



Ready to write your first grant application? Learn how to GET RESULTS WITH GRANTS in this training course: Get Results with Grants, Course 1.


Think about your community. Which nonprofit agencies serve your students or their families? Which ones operate to serve a similar need to the one you hope to meet? Get to know these agencies and find out which ones may offer grants.


Many schools simply start applying for grants and hope for the best. You can search for grants on www.getedfunding.com by choosing your state and selecting your project focus on the custom search page. It’s a good place to start as you get to know what types of grants are available. But there’s another way.


Grants are about relationships. You want to make a connection with the grant agency if possible before you apply. You can improve your chances of winning their support. Call or email them and discuss your idea. Ask questions to confirm their interest in your project and to verify that your school is eligible for this grant.


Let them get to know your school and share your excitement for the project. Give them the context that will help them look forward to reviewing your application. If this organization is not interested in funding your program, ask if they can introduce you to someone at another which might be a better match.


Find a foundation that aligns with your mission and your work. Once you build a portfolio of successful grants, you’ll have better luck with larger and national grants.


Build a Grants Portfolio and Move to Major Grants

Once you have your grants committee running smoothly, and you have a few successful smaller grants behind you, you will be well positioned to compete for a larger grant. This might be a major grant from a national foundation or it could be a state or federal grant. These grants tend to involve much higher dollar amounts, more complicated applications and reporting requirements, and tougher competition. You don’t want to try for a major grant without building your team’s skills first.


My best advise for you at this point is to do two things:


  1. Get the book, Writing to Win Federal Grants, and the related workbook. Share copies with your grants committee and work to truly understand what these grants require before you begin the application process.

  2. Hire an experienced grant writer who understands major grants. If the project is important to your school, it’s worth the investment and you’ll save many hours of time for yourself and your committee. You’ll still need to work with the grant writer to provide information and oversight on the application but his or her expertise should add value and improve the quality of the final product. I’ve developed this worksheet to help you find a qualified grant writer for your school.

Click here to learn more: Grant Writer Interview Questions.

This page contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). Thanks for your support in this way.


Make Grants Part of Your School’s Funding Plan

You can’t rely on grants alone. Successful school leaders understand the importance of developing all types of giving to sustain a school and create a legacy. You will have greater impact through lasting partnerships that support your goals.


You can develop a school wide funding plan that incorporates fundraising events, donations, grant seeking, and business sponsorships to provide long-term support and financial viability for your school. But that’s a whole new topic for another article. In fact, you can learn how to develop a funding plan for your school in this post:

Taking Control with a Funding Plan


Some Final Ideas

You have important work to do. If you want to learn more about grants, I recommend these resources.


If you prefer to learn from training videos, NonprofitReady.org offers a variety of free courses in grant writing and nonprofit leadership.


And while you are working on your grant proposals, you’ll want to be sure they are perfect! Save time and coordinate your editing work by providing Grammarly for your team.


This page contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). Thanks for your support in this way.

Grant Writing for School Leaders

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:

www.peggydowns.com

Like what you see?

Click here to subscribe

23 views
 

Subscribe Form

720 409-2157

Privacy Policy

All views expressed in this work are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. 

©2020 by Granting Your Vision. Proudly created with Wix.com