Ten Tips for Grant Writing

Ten Tips for
Grant Writing
1. Adhere to every requirement
listed in the Request for Proposal
(RFP). The RFP for any grant will
provide a template for organizing and
formatting the proposal. Pay attention
to details like page limits, margin and
font sizes, and headings, as well as
the specific content required in each
section. To assess your compliance, ask a
volunteer to check the proposal against
the RFP.
Changes require adaptability
and creativity to meet the
needs of the community.
2. Identify needs versus wants.
Need, in a grant proposal, is the large
concept that makes your current library
inadequate. For instance: “As a result
of the state’s adoption of new science
standards, science curriculum for
third-grade students has changed. The
library lacks age-appropriate reference
materials for students’ research on the
new units.” What you want is new library
materials. What you need is to provide
opportunities for students to meet the
expectations laid out in the standards.
When possible, refer to more than one
content area standard (e.g., language
arts requirements that students use
more nonfiction texts or mathematics
standards that require students to
construct viable arguments and critique
the reasoning of others).
3. Focus on students and how they
will benefit. Define goals in terms
of what students will be able to do.
Funders expect to change learning for
children, not supply “stuff.” For example,
you might note that the students will
practice higher-level thinking skills
or express understanding of key unit
concepts as measured by the classroom
teacher’s assessment (such as a final
product). Be realistic, though. Don’t
promise far more than the work will
likely produce. In fact, unless the RFP
requires it, avoid promising improved
test scores on large-scale assessments.
Too many factors outside of your
school’s control affect scores.
4. Write SMART goals: Specific,
Measurable, Attainable, Realistic,
and Time-bound. Not all measures
have to be numbers; qualitative data
is also valuable feedback. Time-bound
means that you have a project end
date in mind. You should be able to
realistically complete the project and
reach the goal in the time you’ve
allotted. Add “wiggle room” to the
schedule to allow for unexpected
5. Design a creative, yet grounded,
plan. Funders look for creative thinking
that fosters students’ achievement and
is based in good instruction. Saying
students will write research reports is
“ho-hum.” Asking students to tackle
an authentic problem raises the stakes
for the students and instructors. For
instance, citizen science projects engage
students in authentic scientific study
on a global scale (see April 2014 issue of
6. Align your plan of action closely
with the identified need and goals.
It’s not enough to buy new materials.
What will students do with the new
materials, and how is that a step beyond
what they have done in the past?
Highlight the parts of the project that
demonstrate more student-centered
control over learning, as well as good
ideas that other schools can adopt. If the
project represents collaborative work
among staff members, demonstrate
how this collaboration benefits
students. Keep students at the heart of
the proposal.
7. Make a viable and detailed
budget. Know exactly what materials
you will buy and their true costs,
including shipping, cataloging (if
needed), and placing the materials
into circulation. The RFP will make clear
whether you can include personnel
costs. It’s easy to underestimate costs.
Grant writers often forget to include
incidentals, such as labels, tape, and
printing costs. If the project doesn’t
cost as much as budgeted, you’ll have
money for additional materials, but if
you forget incidentals, you may not be
able to afford the essentials.
8. Include stakeholders as planners
and contributors, when possible.
Funders recognize that the likelihood
of success increases when multiple
stakeholders contribute to a project.
Typically, stakeholder contributions are
in-kind gifts, such as goods, services, or
expertise. How will the community be
involved? Can other funds supplement
the proposed budget? Can you recruit
outside evaluators or tap into parent
expertise? Will current personnel
dedicate time to the project? Highlight
stakeholder investments as value-added
9. Write a realistic evaluation plan.
If your stated goals are SMART, writing
an evaluation plan should be easy. It’s
tempting to make an evaluation plan
that takes longer than the project.
Think instead about how to turn
students’ projects, digital pictures of
the processes, and reflections on the
project overall into a viable evaluation
plan. Evaluations can be done by
community members with expertise to
audit the budget and/or evaluate the
accomplishments (in-kind contributions).
10. Plan for sustainability. Funders
prefer projects that are so well
conceived and reasonable that the
recipients of the grant can continue to
do the work after the grant runs out.
What parts of the project can continue
without additional funds? What might
be replicable by other schools that
don’t have grants? How can and will
you disseminate information about the
project and credit the funder?
Web Resource · Technology · May/June 2015 • LibrarySparks