After our last update yesterday we got a LOT of feedback about our upcoming USDA grant. We had some really amazing questions from a lot of curious educators asking us how they could power their educational project through grant writing. Check out below as we outline 5 quick and easy tips that will help you get started today!
So you’ve decided as an individual, university, or public school system that you want to pursue the wonderful world of grants, or Other People’s Money (OPM). However, you likely have no idea where to start. You are definitely not alone: grant writing is foreign to most of the population. Grants, after all, are typically utilized by college researchers and non-profits!
Grant Writing is Not Free Money!
Just be warned, grant writing and grants aren’t for everyone. They aren’t going to reduce your debt; they won’t help you market your company, and they certainly won’t give you the money just because you want it. Trust me…I’ve asked.
However, with a little focus and a lot of perseverance, grants can be a great tool to help jump start your graduate school research or that innovative educational project you have been thinking about!
These 5 steps will not guarantee you ‘free’ money because grants are not free; they all contain obligations in order to access this money that does not need to be repaid. This comes in the form of updates, reports, presentations, or even dollar-for-dollar cash or in-kind matching funds.
I know what you are thinking. So basically, I just have to read your blog and then I can have the money?!?!
WRONG…and here I was thinking you were paying attention.
These 5 criteria will point you in the right direction and get you on your way to that first check to fund whatever endeavor your heart desires. But it is by no means a comprehensive guide or the end all be all of grant writing. Shoot us an email if “A Comprehensive Guide to Power your Educational Tools through Grant Writing” is something that interests you. We will make it happen.
However, if you only take one thing away from this blog let it be that grant writing will take time and effort. Lots of time, sometimes over 100s hours of work depending on the size and scope of the project. So strap in, get some bulletproof coffee and give yourself plenty of time to strive for perfection.
1) Where to Look to Find the Money
So, you’ve decided you want to fund your project through grants. This will not be an easy road. Grants are highly competitive, so we suggest starting to look early…and often. Grants are funded primarily through government agencies like the Department of Agriculture or the Department of Health and Human Services.
Federal grants like these can all be found on grants.gov or the Fedral Business Opportunities webiste. You can also check local governments and foundations for specific opportunities to help develop your new learning tool. Some of the larger foundation like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are great places to start for a non-profit looking to make a BIG splash.
I have found your State’s Department of Economics to be a HUGE resource to help find the right opportunity for your school.
2) Am I Eligible?
You started to search through all these grants and even picked out a few that look like they jive with your project. Where do you go from here? Well a big part of grant writing is knowing where you do and do not fit. Before diving further into these grants, recognize what type of operation you are running under. Most likely, if you are reading this article, you are a non-profit public school looking to fund a classroom innovation. But there are grants for everyone!
Now that you understand what type of system you work under it’s time to flip to the eligibility section of the grant request form, also know as an Request for Applications (RFA). There is ALWAYS an eligibility section. Read that over and ask yourself: Do I fit in any of the categories listed? No? Time to move on to the next grant.
Unsure? Look for contact information in the RFA and send them a quick email explaining your situation to see if they can confirm or deny your eligibility. Yes? Congratulations! You are now about to embark on a long and drawn out process.
3) Research your Potential Funder
This step is critical in receiving funds AND continuing to receive funds from that funder. Every grant has a backer that makes the final decision as to who gets the money. It is your job as the grant writer to understand what they typically look for in a grant and make sure you exhibit those skills. A funder can be an individual, a foundation, or a branch of the federal government like the USDA. Either way, they all have an ideal candidate and by doing your research, you can make them understand YOU are that candidate.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to the people who are involved in your potential grant. A simple phone call can find you a new champion for your project, an evangelist for you within the funding organization. Some of the employees at these organizations are hired to ensure that their funds go to innovative projects that have a high success of succeeding.
By taking the effort early on to talk with decision makers about your project, it not only showcases that you do your homework but you’ll get a lot of opportunities to substantiate how you are unique among a pool of applicants who aren’t take the time and energy to stand out. This can be the key to your success!
4) Creating a Budget that Works
When you begin to write this grant, a HUGE portion of the work will go into your budget. Many grants get rejected based on simple mathematical errors or failure to create reasonable expectations for the funding and the future of this project. I mean, if I was giving someone $100,000 I would definitely want to make sure they are using it properly…and not spending it on 100 miniature horses.
If numbers really aren’t your thing, there are online resources available everywhere to help you understand and craft the perfect budget. An alternative is seeking out the help of a seasoned professional. Check out your local universities for research based professors or even seminars on grant writing.
5) Patience and Persistence
Maybe you got rejected, maybe you were not eligible for that grant. The major take-away from this article if you learn nothing else is patience and persistence. There are hundreds to thousands of people applying to these grants; you will not get all of them. However, if you take the time and work diligently on each and every grant, eventually one will succeed and when it does, the payoff is unbelievable!
One last tip as my free bonus to you for reading this far down the page. Remember in school when all your teachers said DO NOT PROCRASTINATE. Well in this case, we mean it. In fact, I cannot stress this enough. Give yourself plenty of time to write. I mean a couple of months. There will be hoops to jump through for applying, make sure you satisfy those all as early as possible (for example, signing up to grants.gov takes a couple of weeks). As well, get 2-3 external reviewers to take a look at your grant and make sure even the layman can understand it. You will be amazed what the unattached eye will catch.
If you got to the end of this blog and just thought: “NOPE, this is too much work.” We understand your reluctance. As someone who has worked with teachers across America, I know the amount of blood sweat and tears educators put into teaching the youth around the world.
We are here to help! Trifecta Ecosystems offers grant writing services to help fund that educational project…like an aquaponics greenhouse for your agricultural department. We even offer value added services to complement your new thriving ecosystems! Contact us to talk further.
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