Grant Writing 101 - A Beginner's Guide - Page 1 of 2
Grant funding - funding that an individual or organization receives for a program or project - is not a loan, but is money, resources, and/or services that do not need to be paid back. It is funding that is made available by government agencies at all levels of government (local, county, state, and federal), by public or private companies, and by public or private foundations. The amount of funding available can range from a few hundred dollars to millions.
Due to the economic challenges in recent years, the amount of funding available has declined resulting in a highly competitive grant environment. In other words, only the best-written proposals will receive funding. This article gives an overview of the top strategies to use to obtain funding for your project or program.
Types of Grants
There are numerous types available for funding for just about anything, from presentations to cures for diseases and everything in between. Overall, grants can be divided into three categories: project-based, program-based, and opportunities that fund experiments.
Project grants underwrite the cost of projects. There is funding for almost any type of project you want to do. For example, constructing a playground, renovating a classroom, creating and installing artwork, etc. An actual tangible product, item, or structure is typically the outcome of this type of funding.
In comparison, program grants support new technological, instructional, or other type of "intervention" that is intended to make a positive change. This may include trying out a new technology or a new way to teach a subject in a classroom, bringing in a series of speakers to talk about a topic, and/or learning in a different way online instead of in-person.
Research grants fund actual experiments usually to solve a difficult societal issue, such as searching for a cure to a disease, reducing carbon emissions, even developing and testing implantable medical devices into the body. Research will include either animals and/or humans in their experiments, and, because of this, strict guidelines must be followed before, during, and after the funding has been awarded.
Identifying Your Need for Funding
Obtaining funding for a project, program, or research begins with knowing exactly what you need funding for and why you need it. Chasing the money (applying for grants) before you have a project or program all planned out is typically not successful. So, the first step is for you or your organization to answer the following questions: Why should the project or program be funded? What evidence do you have to support your claim? What will the funding pay for? What, if any, funding or other services or resources will your organization contribute to the project or program? What do you expect the outcomes of the project will be once it is completed? How will you assess the success of the project or program? What is the timeline of activities? What is your budget?
For example, let's say that you are seeking $25,000 to hire teachers to tutor chemistry in an after school program in a high school located in an urban area. After researching best practices, you have discovered that the program you want to implement has been successful in improving high school student advanced placement chemistry test scores by about 5 points on average and increases a student's overall chemistry course grade by one-half (e.g., from a B+ to an A-). Your project involves hiring 3 teachers certified to teach high school advanced placement chemistry to work with students after school for 2 hours, 3 times a week for a full academic year.
Who will benefit from the funding you receive? The reviewers will want to know who will benefit from the funding. Think about the mission of your organization and about the demography of the individuals that participate in your organization's programs and activities. For example, an afterschool program might be specifically for students enrolled in a high school located in an urban area where 80% of the students are eligible to receive free lunch. Or, an improving literacy program may target adults in rural counties where 45% of those 18 years old and older are considered functionally illiterate.
Grant proposals should include books, articles, or other authoritative information that supports what you are attempting to accomplish. Including references to this information bolsters your argument for funding. In the example above where statistics are mentioned regarding percentage of students eligible to receive free lunch, you might cite a federal government report and/or state department of education document that includes this information. Accurate, timely, and relevant information shows the grant reviewers that you base your knowledge of the topic on previously published information.
Please continue to the next page where we will discuss how to find funding opportunities, proposal writing and submission.