At the Grants & Funding for School Technology West conference sponsored by eSchool News and held in San Diego April 29 and 30, educators and grantmakers agreed that volunteering to serve as a field reader of grant proposals for the U.S. Department of Education (ED) or other grantmaking institutions is a sure-fire way gain an insider’s perspective on the grantmaking process. Here’s why:

1. You’ll have a better understanding of the particular grant program you’re serving as a reader for.

Dr. Allen Schmieder, vice president of K-12World Programs at JDL Technologies, explained that serving as a field reader helps you understand the funding priorities for the particular program you’re reading for. As a reader, you’re given a clear set of criteria by which to evaluate each section of a grant proposal. By scoring other applicants’ proposals, you’ll learn what elements distinguish the successful proposals from the unsuccessful ones. You’ll also be exposed to several project ideas that might help you come up with a project of your own the following year.

2. You’ll have a better understanding of how a reader perceives your grant proposal.

Dr. Michael Gershowitz, a successful grantwriting consultant who has raised more than $80 million for school technology programs during the past 20 years, noted that serving as a field reader will help you appreciate the importance of capturing the reader’s interest when writing a proposal.

“As a reader, you might have 25 grant proposals to read in a weekend,” Gershowitz said. “The sad fact is, if you’re not turned on in the very first page of a proposal, it’s not going to be read, but skimmed.”

Many grantwriters think that if they have an innovative, well thought-out project, they’re almost guaranteed funding. Not necessarily so, Gershowitz said. “People often write so densely that you have to work to understand their proposal,” he said. “Unfortunately, the harder the reader has to work to understand a proposal, the less likely it is to be funded.”

When volunteering as a field reader, pay attention to the elements that make a proposal easy to read and understand, Gershowitz suggested. Then apply those elements of style to your own proposals.

Field readers sought for the Community Technology Centers Program

The Department of Education has announced a terrific opportunity for grantseekers to take advantage of the insider perspective afforded to field readers. ED’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) is soliciting applications for field readers to evaluate grant proposals for its Community Technology Centers Program.

The Community Technology Centers Program is intended to increase access to information technology and related services for adults and children in economically distressed, low-income urban and rural communities. The program awards grants to establish or expand community technology centers in these communities.

Field readers will review applications according to the applicable selection criteria. Each field reader who is selected will serve for a period of about five days and will receive compensation for certain travel expenses and an honorarium.

ED is seeking experienced and knowledgeable professionals who are familiar with issues regarding the provision of computers and technology to residents of low-income urban and rural communities. You should be familiar with issues dealing with the start-up and expansion of community technology centers; the use of technology in adult, elementary, or secondary education programs; technology and technology management; or community development and outreach to residents of low-income communities.

Prospective field readers may include technology providers, administrators, or experts; individuals with experience in the use of technology in elementary, secondary, or adult education; individuals from state agencies, elementary or secondary education, institutions of higher education, or community-based organizations and agencies; or individuals with experience in providing access to technology in low-income communities.

For further information, contact: Community Technology Centers Program, Division of Adult Education and Literacy, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC 20202- 7240. Inquiries may be sent by eMail to frances__littlejohn@ed.gov or by fax to (202) 205-8973.