Nobody knows your students and their challenges better than you. As hard as you push them in the classroom to succeed, you also fight passionately for them, doing whatever you can to secure the tools you know they need. One such need that has gotten a lot of attention post-COVID is equal access to remote learning technology.
Using technology, such as that developed and implemented by Trilogy NextGen, schools are able to ensure every student, regardless of location or economic status, has the same online access to homework, study aids, lessons, resources and more. But these technologies cost money and schools have a hard time just paying teachers, let alone funding remote learning programs.
The good news is that, between the federal and state governments, community organizations and private foundations, there is plenty of grant money for programs like this. But you have to know how to ask for it and from whom. Every day at Trilogy NextGen, we work with schools and school districts, helping them design and implement EdTech solutions that make a real difference in student outcomes. We’ve also worked with some of the most successful grant writers in the field. The following are just some of the best practices gleaned from the best in the business.
What’s Your Big Idea?
A grant is nothing more than a vehicle for achieving your school’s need. At the heart of every successful grant proposal is a concrete and well-articulated vision of the specific change you will affect in student outcomes. Therefore, you must understand what you want the outcome to be and how you plan to get there? With a clear road map for what is to be done, the development of the proposal is easier than you might think.
Starting with the end in mind enables a holistic approach in which your organization’s goal and your grant writing efforts are aligned. Understanding the desired outcomes also helps drive the implementation milestones and timelines—critical details that often are the difference between a proposal being rejected or accepted.
Without a clear vision of how each grant proposal integrates into the overall vision of the organization and how the receiving of the grant will allow your organization to better service your end users, a funded grant might be the worse thing that could happen! This is because a funded grant could set new organizational policies that would take your organization away from its true goals.
When you work with other community stakeholders to determine how their vision integrates with your organization’s vision for your common end users, you can build a vision that lends itself to thinking in terms of what is possible. Further, this type of thinking is the first step in building consortiums where many people come together to solve a single program. This coordination of resources and linkage among community groups is the new mantra of most funders.
And even if the grant isn’t funded, the process of collaborative visioning is invaluable. When your objectives are clearly defined, you know what additional resources that you need to achieve your mission/vision. When you know what you’re asking for and why it is a benefit to your end users you can tell a story that will inspire funders to write you a check.
Who Really Cares?
Once you’ve fleshed out your vision and what is needed to realize it, it’s time to start looking for a partner who’s willing and able to help fund it. Here are the main types of educational grants available:
Federal Grants are typically large grants that are awarded directly from a federal agency as a program grant or allocated to school districts through their state education agencies (formula grant).
State Grants are funded from the state’s budget and include block grants and special funding for targeted programs such remote learning.
Foundation Grants are available from non-profit organizations for a specific purpose. Some school districts have created nonprofit educational associations that can apply for specific grants.
Community Grants are similar to Foundation grants in that the donor is typically a local non-profit; a key criterion for winning a community grant is showing how the program will benefit the community.
There are different types of corporate grants. One comes from a corporate foundation, which is the nonprofit arm of a for-profit corporation and allows the corporation to fund efforts of particular interest. For example, a tech company might offer STEM grants to high school and college students in order to spur interest in technology careers. Another type of corporate grant is more product related and offers grant funds to purchase the corporation’s products to achieve a goal.
That being said, the type of grant is not as important as understanding the mission of the organization funding it. The most compelling and best-written application is worthless if it is outside the scope of organization reviewing it. Writing a successful grant proposal requires a clear understanding of the vision and objectives of potential funding source.
Take a look at their website and read their mission statement in order to visualize what they’re all about. Then compare their vision to what you’re trying to accomplish. If the two are aligned, you may have a good opportunity. The more grants you research and write, the better you’ll get at identifying high-success opportunities.
Writing and Submitting the Proposal
The finer points of preparing and submitting your proposal is a voluminous topic, way too in-depth for a blog. Instead, here are some of the key concepts—dos and don’ts—to keep in mind.
Rule one? Read the guidelines—at least three times—to completely understand what information is needed, the order in which it must appear and how it is to be presented. You would be very surprised how many well-educated people forget that very simple rule! There are normally more requests for cash than cash available.i So, most grant reviewers look for ways to “op-out” proposals. The easiest way to cull the stack is to eliminate the proposals that don’t adhere to the guidelines.
Adhere to the guidelines regarding page limits, font sizes, and page set-up requirements. You’re writing one grant, but the reviewer has to read dozens; don’t force them to read more than is necessary.ii
Think and speak the language of partnership; you provide the project’s vision, execution and follow-up and the funder provides the financial resources. A successful proposal demonstrates how your idea will further the funder’s mission. If their mission is to fund efforts to bridge the digital divide, use research data to quantify how many underserved students can be expected to gain high-speed connectivity as a result.
Once the grant proposal is written, go back and read the grant guidelines again. This time, stop after each requirement and check your proposal to make sure you have fully completed each requirement. Do this for every section.
Finally, remember that the easiest way for a granter to disqualify your proposal is if it doesn’t get there on time. So, get to know the folks at your local FedEx, DHL, or UPS location along with their shipping options and operating hours. Confirm with the granting organization if the proposal needs to arrive on a specific date or be postmarked by a certain date. And always ensure you have a way to track every proposal sent to a granting organization. iii
A Few Final Thoughts
In many ways your success in applying for technology grants depend in large part on how you view the process. Some will inevitably see it as a tedious, detailed and labor-intensive project that is necessary to fund non-budget line items.
Others see the process as an exciting opportunity to better understand and articulate their school’s vision, build a more successful environment for students, teachers and the community, and to develop lasting partnerships with funding organizations that share similar visions and goals. In other words, grant writing and teaching have much in common. In both cases, success breeds fulfillment. Wishing you all the success in the world.
About Trilogy NextGen
With approximately 50 million students in America’s public schools and more than 70% of homework being assigned online, schools and other institutions need a reliable and secure connectivity solution to provide their students with a good education.
Trilogy NextGen designs, builds and manages high-speed networks that provide superior broadband speed, security, reliability and simplicity for private enterprises, educational institutions, smart cities, industrial plants and government agencies.
Since 2018, Trilogy NextGen has combined its experience in wireless network development with a commitment to provide every student with the connectivity they need to thrive. With expertise in broadband, broadcast and cloud, Trilogy NextGen delivers scalable connectivity solutions customized for any wireless network using private LTE/5G, Wi-Fi and ATSC 3.0 technologies. As a result, we have been a key technology partner for both educators and the organizations that fund them. With our funding expertise, we not only help schools design, implement and manage the network solutions they need, we also help them navigate and leverage the multitude of funding opportunities that exist.