1. Read the grant’s guidelines carefully, and follow them. Failure to follow the relatively simple guidelines set forth in the grant forms is the primary reason why most grant proposals are automatically disqualified.

  2. Focus your grant request on “academic values.” Improvement in educational quality is overriding when your proposal is reviewed. A new television set for the classroom, for instance, might be a useful tool, but by itself probably would not be seen as contributing to academic values.

  3. Explain your idea fully. It might be a great idea, but if the evaluators have to “read between the lines” for a clear explanation, your proposal is dead. This is particularly true for unusual requests, which can easily be discarded as too risky.

  4. Follow the rules. Some companies, for instance, demand anonymity in their proposals, and mentioning the school’s or teacher’s name will bring swift disqualification. This is not true for all grants, but every organization usually has its list of conditions for submission, and these rules should be taken very seriously.

  5. Make sure budget requirements are specific. Most grantors want to know exactly how the money is going to be spent. Attaching a copy of a vendor’s advertisement or product literature is useful in helping grantors understand why you are seeking funding from them.

  6. Avoid anything that might “irritate” the evaluators. Among irritants are misspellings, bad grammar, murkey writing, and “educator-ese” without explanation. If you use an educational term, it should be clearly and simply explained, since most of the evaluators reviewing proposals are typically not educators.

  7. Have someone check your grant proposal before submission. Often, you are so close to the subject and proposal that “blind spots,” which may jeopardize approval, develop. An outside reviewer may be able to recognize such blind spots and suggest ways to correct them.

  8. Explain how the grant’s effect will be evaluated. Grantors often don’t mind if your evaluation is going to be subjective because some efforts can only be judged in that manner, but be sure you tell the grantor this fact in advance.

Jan Bauer is the executive director of the Lafayette Educational Foundation. This article is reprinted with permission from “Finding the Funds: The ABCs of Educational Fund-Raising and Grant-Writing” (Advantage Learning Systems Inc., 1999).