Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Tech it for Granted: Writing Your Grant

In this week's installment of Tech it for Granted, we're going to talk about writing your grant! This is possibly the most important part of the whole process. This is where you have the opportunity to explain why they should give you their money or equipment.

1. Identify the need
As mentioned in the last installment, Tech it for Granted: Getting Started, I suggested that you begin looking at a few factors, one of which is the need. What is the need you hope to satisfy? Higher student achievement? More exposure to and fluency with technology? Higher math scores? English language growth for ELLs? Closing the achievement gap for minority students? Identify the specific need that you hope to fill. The more specific you can be, the better. It's better if it is curriculum based, which brings us to...

2. Look at the data
If you're hoping for higher student achievement- be specific about your goal, and use data to back it up in your essay or application. For example, in the last grant I received (NEA Student Achievement Grant), I identified writing as a particularly weak point for our ELLs, and one that was keeping them from exiting. I looked at the data and presented it in several different ways- amount of growth, average score in the domain, etc. It's not necessary to be too technical, but having some relevant data lends credibility to your request.

3. Know your audience
Some grants will have an official review board of foundation members or stakeholders to review the grant. Others, like DonorsChoose, are crowdsourced and funded by average Joes who want to help the kids get a better education. It's important to know your audience and write accordingly. Another important thing to remember is to limit the use of educational jargon. In many cases- even for those grants reviewed by a board of a foundation (like those from corporations)- the people reviewing the grants aren't necessarily educators themselves. Too much jargon (while it would sound impressive to educators) could be confusing to non-educators in the review process and may hurt your chances.

4. Explain, don't complain
Focus primarily on what you hope to accomplish rather than the factors that are limiting your students, school or district. While these are important to mention, your essay or application should not be a laundry list of obstacles, challenges and limiting factors- too much of this will sound like a complaint or an excuse. Instead, focus on the positive and devote the majority of your word count to what you hope to accomplish.

5. Maximize your words
Most grants have a word count limit. Be sure to stay within this. Grants foundations and even those looking to contribute to crowd-sourced grants are looking at many applications and many options. That's why there's a word limit. Respect their time, or your application may find its way to the trash can. Choose the best words to make your case- remember what we teach our kiddos about "spicy" words and interesting language. Ensure that your essay or application is interesting and engaging so you can hold their attention to the end.

6. Don't leave anything out
Make sure your application includes ALL the information that is requested and required. In many cases, incomplete applications will not even be considered. Go back to the spreadsheet I discussed creating in Tech it for Granted: Getting Started, as well as the grant website, and make sure you've included everything.

7. Edit, Revise, Edit
Get several pairs of eyes on your application and essay. Have colleagues look it over for organization, completeness, attention to detail, and mechanics. Have a few non-educator friends look it over to make sure it is understandable and engaging to non-educators too. Remember, not everyone looking at your essay or application will be an educator.

At this point, you're well on your way to getting your tech grant! Don't miss the next installment- Tech it for Granted: Creating a Budget.

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