Show Me the Money!

So you’ve gotten through your first year or two of teaching and found that, although you still have a strong desire to implement exciting and innovative activities in your classroom, you may not have the funding for the technology and/or equipment to do it? Well, to quote Colonel Klink “Ve haf vays” to get the money! Read on . . .

Although many of the big-money grants want to give money to more seasoned teachers, there are several ways that you can get some funding. One way, if you are determined to go for those big grants, is to get a veteran teacher to co-write the grant for you (or at least allow his/her name to be on the paperwork). This makes the big-money companies feel more comfortable about doling out their dollars. We know that you are quite capable of administering a grant on your own, but the experience of a veteran teacher makes the donors think their money is more likely to be spent wisely.

There are several smaller grants out there year after year that you should definitely try for. How do you find them? In response to one of my tweets, Jen Wagner gave me a good place to start. Grant Wrangler is sort of a one-stop-shop for you to find grants to apply for. You can search the site for grants and you can also subscribe to their bi-weekly email. Grant Wrangler also has a Ning you can join which will immerse you in a community of educators that can answer your questions.

You can also join state, regional, or national Listservs for email updates on grants. Often, you can join one that is specific to your content area or age range of students. There are too many of them for me to start listing them. Google “grant listservs” and you’ll begin to find the ones you need. Visiting your state education agency will likely put you in contact with relevant Listservs as well.

When applying for a grant like the ones you’ll find on Grant Wrangler and other grant-finding websites and Listservs, be sure to read everything about the grant first. Then take a look at past awards. Getting an idea of the type of projects that grant funds will help you to write your grant in a manner that will appeal to the folks who decide your monetary fate. Being sure to fill in all the blanks, provide all the requested information, and wording your request in a professional, technical, and clear manner will ensure that your application doesn’t get cut before it is even looked at.

Attending grant-writing workshops is a good idea. Ask veteran teachers who you know have received grants for suggestions on the best ones to go to. Your district grant coordinator, if your district has one, can be a good source of information as well.

Two websites that allow you to put your requests out there for the world to see, instead of focusing on a particular grant, are worth mentioning. DonorsChoose is a great source for obtaining funds for equipment that doesn’t cost a lot of money. DonorsChoose is specifically for public schools. It gives philanthropic individuals an opportunity to look through requests from teachers and decide where they want their money to go. Several people may donate small amounts to add up to the total (see this project that has had several donors and is close to being funded), or one person may decide to fund the entire thing. This is why smaller dollar amounts are better on this site. Your chances of being funded is also greater if you work in a Title I school and you write your grant to spotlight the demographics of your school.

If you teach in a private school, or if you are needing funds for something that you think parents of your students would be interested in funding, you can use ChipIn. In just a few minutes, you can set up a website that allows people to donate money to your cause through PayPal. I set one up every year for my children’s mission trips. Visit the site and you can see that it has a blog sort of feel and you can add entries to update people on how much has been collected through the site and in person. One note about ChipIn – there are still a lot of people who are uncomfortable paying through the web. Be sure to give them an option for sending a check.

Spend some time this summer checking out these grant opportunities. When you return to school in the fall, you just might have the equipment you need!

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