Session with Sheryl Abishire
Foundations aren’t going to fund what you should already be doing (textbooks, computers). How can you frame your proposal to doing something different. Look at innovation in place and take it up a level.
Keys to great Grant Writing
- Integrated program elements
- Aligned components
- High quality and continous improvement, professional development, evaluation
- Tied to high standards
- Program ties to local needs
- Buy in
You’re going to evaluate it when it is done. If there is technology in your grant that is hooked in the network — what is the skin in the game you’re providing – e-mail, filtering, space, tech support. staff, internet service, copying — what things you are doing to show what you’ve got in the grant — even though you’re not paying that — the school will contribute that. Bring out resources to show that you have that skin in the game.
Tie your program to local needs. Talk about what the need is to the local community and how you will contribute to that.
While funders don’t see you — all they will know you by is the words that you write. To me, it continues to astound me that I can get a million dollars and never meet someone but through my written voice but through the case that she makes, she can be awarded that funding based on how well she takes care of funding their RFP.
How do reviewers look at grants.
1) Team Support within the school – It is tough to get a lot of money if it is one person doing one thing. But if you want to have upwards to 100,000 – you’re going to need a team, impact more than one classroom — who can help you do this. Need a team to bounce ideas off of.
If you’re going to use technology, you need to talk not about the technology — it is not about the tools and the “stuff” anymore — the conversation has turned, we’re talking about improving student learning – frame your conversation about how these tools are going to help you improve student learning.
“Don’t even get started if you’re not willing to draw the line between what you want to do and improving student learning, you can’t even start. You have to make that connection to a funder.”
You can’t get any money if you talk about “by the end of second grade students will be prepared for third grade” won’t work.
2) Your intervention — not in terms of needs — your innovation, your sizzle, what is going to be different than with funding other projects.
3) Talk specifically about the outcomes and the objectives. Measurable, tied back to the strategies, talk specifically about what is going to change — the curriculum development.
4) Funders want to believe that there is the opportunity for this to be replicated and done in other classrooms around the country/world. Be prepared to to talk about how you can reach out to a larger community. Partnering with other agencies in town that helped with job skills (they had that in place in her example.) Other places to sustain it. (they have funding for summer student and adult camps.)
5) Type exactly as they ask — exact font, exact inch margins — follow the specifications. There is a weeding out process which is about all of these crazy picky things. If you have a great grant in the world with too many pages — they won’t even read it. They won’t even put it in the pile unless you can follow their directions exactly.
6) Be very clear about who is going to benefit. At the end of the day, it is always about the students.
7) Do not be a stranger to the Internet, learn all about them. Read about the members of their board.If they have certain funding priorities and they can see it reflected in your grant.
8) Use passionate comments from your teachers (and even students) — quote them to appeal for your cause.
Think about the things that you want to do for your school and district. Your challenge it to separate yourself from all of the other grants that flow through the doors and classrooms and make it so your grant lands in the hands of the funder. Make sure I catch your “bubble” — your idea, your innovative concept — that is the one I’ll pull in and say that they are going to fund.
Characteristics of a Grant Writer
Be a gambler
As a grant writer, you have to be a gambler, to throw your dice and try. If you don’t try, you’ll never know if you could. She has almost written more than haven’t been funded than have — because you have to be gambler and take it and love the pain. You have to write a grant, submit it, not get funded, forget it and start again.
She had some grants she’s written three times — she called and asked for comments — she got funded the third time.
Be a diplomat.
Make sure everyone’s voice is heard and that you rethink and rework to the point of nausea! You have to sometimes play the diplomat — we’ve looked at the rubric they are going to score it by and we need more.
Be a squirrel.
The first time you start writing grants, the treasure chest is empty. Every professional journal that she reads, if there is a grant idea — rip it out. (Like clipping coupons — clip grant opportunities.) She has funding ideas all over her computer. Constantly be on the alert for things, because you never know when you’re going to need it. Save those things in folders or a folder in her favorites. She goes back to those resources.
Be an inventor.
New ways to keep doing what you’ve been doing. Research to support what you want to do.
To do this and get a lot of money, you’ll get a lot of rejections. It is about people — one day they score it this way — the next they score it another.
Be a magician
Don’t leave anything out. Color code things — use highlighers — part of the RFP color codes pink then pink everything in the presentation that meets that criteria — another section blue — do the same thing — when done, make sure that you have enough of all of the colors to meet the criteria of the RFP
Make it concise.
Now it is 500 words for 500,000 — be very concise and choose words carefully for maximum impact.
Do a lot with the money they give you, do it well, stretch it.
Don’t put that we’ll have “10 computers for 2000 each” — get a quote, do it precisely. Show that you’ve done your homework.
Invest your time
For most people it doesn’t happen during the day. You CANNOT MISS A DEADLINE. Put the grants on your calendar due two weeks before and forget about the final deadline. You won’t be done on time, and then you have a bit of time. Tell everyone else it is due 2 weeks early Aug 15 when due Aug 30 — give yourself a two week pad.
You cannot miss a deadline.
During anthrax scare — there was a major grant due that day and all DC post offices were shut down — the gov’t didn’t care that it was in transit — if you have to mail it in mail it early. You cannot miss a deadline.
Celebrate when you get the grant
Persistence will pay off. If you write a grant and don’t get it and then don’t stop — “Shame on You!” Keep submitting it, change the dates, rewrite it, change it. Do not stop when someone tells you “no.”
http://www.cpsb.org/Scripts/abshire/grants.asp – She maintains a grant website.
http://www.schoolgrants.org — A bring home the bacon listserv — subscribe to it for $30 a year — she highly recommends it. A community of collegial people who share things willingly — some great people who share — you can lurk and find out more than you ever dreamed of! You can post questions and ideas and within a few hours have many responses to the list serv. She has another regular e-mail address — puts in another one and then she looks in that one every few days. This is what is going on in the country in grants. There is also an index to sample proposals — people have sent in full blown huge grants that they have written here as well. You don’t download and change the name — you cannot get money that way — but look at these for courage. It makes more sense when you look at these.
Use the electronic resources that are out there.
www.quinlan.com – $140 a year – Many school librarians subscribe to.
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