Having good organizational skills is critical for grant writers. If you’ve done any grant research before, you know there are thousands of sources of money out there–including federal, state, foundation, and corporate sources. You can search the internet for sources of money, you can look at funding directories, you can search in foundation and corporate directories, or you can read education-related newsletters and newspapers to learn the availability of funds.

This plethora of information is mind-boggling and can be overwhelming. So, how do you conduct an organized grant search that yields viable sources for you to pursue?

The first step is to have a specific idea or project in mind that needs to be funded. Start with a project, then try to match it with funders’ interests. Searching for “what’s out there” in terms of funding, rather than looking for funds for a specific project, will leave you with sources upon sources–and no clear idea of which ones to seriously pursue.

Trying to craft an idea or a project based on the interests of the funding sources, meanwhile, is a monumental task that will take more time than you have. Approaching grant seeking in this manner will most often result in proposals that cannot make a strong case for being funded because the need can’t be tied directly to your students and teachers.

The next step is to narrow down the type of funding you’re looking for–federal, state, foundation, or corporate support. Depending on which of these you want to pursue, you can focus on exactly where you need to look (for example, specific directories, your state Department of Education, the Federal Register, etc.) to find information about these sources.

Third, create a list of “keywords” that relate to your idea or project to use as you search. For example, say you’ve designed a project that will improve the literacy skills of third graders from several states. Looking for grants that fund “projects for elementary students” is too broad, so you need to add more information. Looking for “federal grants that fund projects for elementary students that focus on literacy skills” will result in a much more viable list of possible sources.

Fourth, do a methodical search. If you’re looking for several different types of funding, such as federal and foundation sources, it will be less confusing if you look for sources of federal funds first, then move on to the foundation sources, instead of jumping back and forth between the two. (You might also find other leads for funding as you search, so make a list of these potential sources and later search for those, too.)

After completing a methodical search, it’s time to prioritize the most viable sources. You’ll need to take the following into consideration as you prioritize:

  • The amount of funds available–do you need more than the source is distributing?

  • The deadline for the proposals–do you have time in your schedule to work on it?

  • The “fit” with the funding guidelines–is it strong or weak?

  • The amount of materials required in the proposal–do you have these items, or will they be difficult to assemble in time for the deadline?

  • The amount of staff available to put the proposal together–will you have to do this all by yourself?

Taking all of these factors into consideration, devise a list of the most viable sources and start making timelines to complete the proposals.

Following these five easy steps should help you to lead an organized grant search that will result in viable funding sources to apply to, and a starting point for working on proposals with a relatively stress-free approach.