Grants & Funding

Posted: March 4, 2010

At Spectrum Industries, we understand the strain education budgets are under. We also recognize how much help grants can provide. For your assistance, Spectrum Industries keeps an updated list of available funds on our grants page. If you would like, Spectrum can help you with the grant process. If you have the do-it-yourself spirit below is a story recently released by a grant expert in eschool news that may help. Eight essential skills for school grant seekers By Deborah Ward I recently had dinner with two grants professionals in Florida. One of them was quite upset, because someone she knew had remarked that the role of a grant writer was simply to “collate paper and submit an application.” If only it were that easy! The conversation brought to light the common misconceptions that exist about just what grant writers do, and I’m going to try to clear up these misconceptions. Before I begin, I should state that not all grant professionals have the same responsibilities, and these depend largely on the organization they work for. That said, here are the key skills I think an effective grants professional must have, in no particular order: 1. Research skills These involve two types of research: Looking for available funders, and being able to identify pertinent research to support a needs statement in a proposal. Grant writers need to be able to search the internet and find web sites that provide current information about grant opportunities. In many cases, this will include the web sites of both public and private funders. Grant writers also need to be able to locate research studies that support the existence of a need or a problem, and the possible solutions to solving this problem. Today, grant writers also need to be able to identify “best practices” in the education field in order to support why a specific solution is going to be effective in meeting a need or solving a problem. 2. Writing skills This seems pretty obvious; however, I think it’s important to note that grant writers need to be able to write in a clear and concise manner. Individuals who tend to use a lot of words without a lot of substance probably won’t do well fitting within the required page limits for most proposals. 3. Coordination skills Often there is more than one person who is working on a proposal. So, a grant writer needs to coordinate all of the people who are involved and manage which information each of them is asked to contribute in order to create a proposal narrative that flows logically. A grant writer also must be able to give people specific deadlines so they know when their required tasks need to be done, and he or she must ensure these deadlines are met. 4. Organizational skills These go along with the coordination skills. Grant writers have to keep all of the information requested in a proposal organized so they can ensure all of the information is included. Grant writers are often juggling multiple proposal deadlines at any given time, so it’s important to be able to keep each grant application separate from the others. And grant writers who function as grant managers have to be able to create a paperwork trail for every grant received in the event that a monitoring visit or an audit is scheduled. 5. Facilitation skills These are especiallyneeded when multiple partners are playing a role in a grant project. Grant writers often are called upon to facilitate meetings to make sure that all pertinent information is discussed and to lead discussions of issues related to budgets and project methodology. In some cases, grant writer must facilitate initial meetings to “flesh out” a project concept in more detail. 6. Mathematical skills Proposals must include project budgets and budget narratives, and in some cases, the grant writer is responsible for collecting budget information from all applicable partners. I recommend that you get your finance department involved in the proposal process before you submit a proposal. Finance staff can check for accuracy of budget numbers and to make sure expenses are calculated properly. If salaries and benefits are involved in the budget for a grant proposal, your finance staff might have access to human-resources information you’re not privy to. 7. Reading comprehension skills Let’s be honest: Some requests for proposals (RFPs) are extremely hard to understand. Grant writers have to be able to dissect an RFP, understand what information the funder is looking for in the proposal, and interpret the RFP for others who are involved in the proposal process and who don’t have expertise in putting proposals together. 8. Editing skills Grant writers always should edit what they have written at least once before submitting a proposal. In addition, they should have at least one unrelated individual review the proposal for clarity. This person might catch any errors that the grant writer missed, and he or she might point out weak sentences and/or paragraphs that need to be revised. Deborah Ward, CFRE, is an independent grant writing consultant. She welcomes questions at Debor21727@aol.co Grant Deadlines March Microsoft opens its computing cloud to researchers Researchers have until March 15 to submit proposals to the National Science Foundation (NSF) that would give them access to Microsoft Corp.’s massive cloudcomputing power for three years. Researchers and academic teams chosen by NSF officials will use Microsoft Azure, a program that offers enormous data storage and computing capabilities using Microsoft’s data centers. Microsoft’s cloud-computing program will allow researchers to compare and analyze numerous data sets, said Jeannette M. Wing, assistant director for the NSF Computer and Information Science directorate. “We’ve entered a new era of science—one based on data-driven exploration—and each new generation of computing technology, such as cloud computing, creates unprecedented opportunities for discovery,” Wing said. Deadline: March 15 http://www.nsf.gov/cise/news/2010_microsoft.jsp $80,000 for assistive technology research The National Center for Technology Innovation’s “Tech in the Works” competition seeks proposals for collaborative research projects that explore innovative and emerging assistive technologies that can provide greater access for students with disabilities. The program will award up to four grants of $20,000 each in 2010. Collaborative teams must secure matching funds. NCTI says it’s committed to fostering new talent in the field of educational and assistive technology, and it strongly encourages graduate student teams to apply. Deadline: March 23 (for letters of intent) http://www.nationaltechcenter.org/index.php/ tech-in-the-works April $60,000 to inspire breakthroughs in educational media The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop is accepting applications for its inaugural Cooney Center Prizes for Innovation in Children’s Learning, a national competition intended to inspire and identify breakthrough educational ideas in children’s digital media. The program challenges innovators to develop new tools and content in two categories. The “Breakthroughs in Mobile Learning” category invites applicants to submit mobile learning projects for children between the ages of 3-11 that push the boundaries of learning using handheld technologies. The “Breakthroughs in Literacy Learning: Innovate with The Electric Company” category invites concepts that promote literacy skills using Sesame Workshop’s The Electric Company, a multimedia literacy campaign designed to reach out to today’s six- to nineyear- olds through television, after-school programs, and online. The winner of the Mobile Learning competition will receive $50,000 toward prototype development, and the winner of the Literacy Learning competition will receive $10,000 and the chance to work with Sesame Workshop to turn his or her literacy idea into a product. Deadline: April 1 http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/initiatives/ prizes-excellence-children-media.html May More than $150,000 in technology equipment from CDW-G and Discovery Through their “Win a Wireless Lab Sweepstakes,” CDW-G and Discovery Education will give K-12 schools across the United States the chance to win one of three 21st-century classroom labs worth an estimated $45,000, complete with tablet or notebook computers and a wireless cart, interactive whiteboard, student response system, projector, printer, and document camera. The two companies also will provide on-site training to all three grand-prize winners. In addition to the hardware, Discovery Education will award a $5,000 digital media grant to the winning schools to help them more fully use the technology and engage students in learning. Schools can enter the sweepstakes every day until the deadline—and entrants who post about the program on their Twitter accounts can receive an additional two entries per day. Deadline: May 3 http://www.discoveryeducation.com/cdwg Ongoing Grants to help schools implement Netop Vision software Netop has launched the Netop Get A Grant for Education (NGAGE) program to help educators struggling with shrinking budgets. Available until funds run out, the program provides financial support for schools to purchase an individual or site license for the Netop Vision6 Class Kit, classroom-management software that has been proven to improve student achievement. Netop has $500,000 in funding for its NGAGE grants, which are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Grants of $200 to $450 are available for classroom labs, and grants of $1,500 to $1,600 are available for a site or district license. The Vision6 Class Kit is priced at $999, but with an NGAGE grant of $450, an educator would pay only $549 per classroom or lab.
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