Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Build a Solid Foundation for Grants Success


Timing is Everything!

When writing a grant, timing is everything! Deadlines are firm. Approvals must be obtained. Mailing time must be considered. And, always, always it is important to be ready to mail or submit online about a week in advance of the firm deadline. This allows for the fact that Murphy’s Law (If anything can go wrong, it will.) may come into play, as well.

So, how can you gain critical minutes as the clock is ticking down? By building a solid foundation of pre-approvals, collaboration possibilities and up-to-date information! Here’s how:

1. Make sure that your principal and your department chair are on board with your project and the grant you are seeking to fund it. Creating a “one-pager” of bullet points for your principal and your department chair will not only enable you to gain their approval, it will also give you a starting outline of all the points you must make in the grant application. Most important, it avoids a delay when you are ready to submit your grant application.

2. Once you have those necessary approvals, e-mail the same one-pager to all of the faculty in your department or in your school, depending upon the scope and topic of the grant. This written communication lets them know what you are working on. It will prevent two teachers from the same school from going after the same grant at the same time. When you send the one-pager, also ask if the recipients have anything to add and/or if this project lends itself to a possible collaboration. Grantmakers love the leveraging effect that comes from collaboration! And you gain time by dividing the workload with one or two other people.

3. Create and maintain current, descriptive boilerplate about your organization. Boilerplate is a unit of writing that can be used over and over without change. A mission statement is an example of boilerplate. A 3-or-4 sentence statement describing your organization is boilerplate. You and your colleagues may find yourselves answering the same questions or saying the same things over and over. That is also boilerplate! If your school has a central hard drive with files that may be shared by all faculty and staff, put your boilerplate – and updates as they occur – on the shared drive. More minutes saved as you simply copy [CTRL-A]-and-paste [CTRL-V]!

4. Another area where you can save yourself critical time when minutes count is by maintaining a current

electronic file of information about your school. Information for this file includes:

· a scanned copy of your school’s IRS Letter of Determination for the 501 (c) (3) status

· a scanned copy of most recent audited financials

· current budget

· listing of past and current financial donors, including dollar amounts

· listing of past and current in-kind donors, including dollar value

· socio-economic statistics on your school (i.e., % of students by race and sex; % of students receiving

free-or-reduced lunch; etc)

5. Finally, remember to keep your lists of “Bragging Rights” updated and filed by year. Here are a few examples:

· list of student academic achievements (i.e., number or % of National Merit Scholars; standardized test scores; college acceptances, etc)

· list of faculty/staff achievements (i.e., school system teacher of the year, etc)

· list of institutional achievements (i. e., Georgia School of Excellence; National School of Excellence; etc)

Ask your principal to assign one person – possibly the school secretary or the media specialist -- the responsibility of keeping all of this information up-to-date and accessible electronically. Creating it initially may be time-consuming, so this may be a good volunteer project. Or, perhaps your PTA will be willing to pay a stipend to a faculty or staff member to work on this “after-hours”. But, it will

be worth its weight in gold (literally!).

You won’t need to use all of this information every time you complete a grant. But, when you do need it … when time is tight … when the stakes are high … you will be glad you have laid the foundation and have everything you need right at your fingertips!

Sandy Spruill is Grants Administrator for Georgia Public Broadcasting and Member, American Association of Grants Professionals. This article was first published in the blog for the GPB T.I.E. Network.

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