At the eSchool News Grants & Funding for School Technology conference held in New Orleans Jan. 27 and 28, keynote speaker Jill Stephens, corporate outreach director for the AOL Foundation, revealed her list of the “Top 10” questions that corporate funders want to see addressed in a successful grant proposal:

1. Does the proposal tie into your schools’ overall goals and strategies? Funders are looking for proposals that are well-supported by the entire school or district community, so anything you can do to show that your proposal is truly a team effort will improve your chances of success.

2. How will technology be used—and why is technology important to the project’s goals? Funders don’t want to support costly technology that is not necessary to the project’s ultimate goal—better student achievement.

3. Will the proposal have a positive impact on student learning? This is really the bottom line for any proposal. If you can’t show how your funding request will improve teaching and learning, your proposal won’t stand a chance.

4. How will progress toward the project’s desired goals be measured? Describe the specific indicators you’ll use to measure outcomes. Funders want to be sure their investment is paying off, and they want to see a clear plan for assessment.

5. Does the project have the potential to be modelled or adapted by other communities? Funders want their investment to have as wide an impact as possible. Some corporate funders look for applicants to have an outreach plan for communicating their success to others.

6. Does the proposal reflect creativity in tapping existing resources before seeking outside sources? Funders want to make sure your project will become self-sustaining over time and will not need their ongoing support to keep it alive. Team up with other K-12 schools, colleges or universities, and local organizations to pool resources and share ideas.

7. Is the budget clearly defined? Your budget should make a clear case for why private funding is needed to get the project off the ground.

8. Who will benefit from the project? Students should be the ultimate beneficiaries, but consider—and show—how teachers, administrators, parents, and other stakeholders will benefit as well.

9. How well does the project reflect what the funder is looking for? Do your homework, and make sure you follow a funder’s directions in your proposal. But beware: Funders can see through proposals that have been reshaped to fit their goals, rather than the school’s.

10. How committed are you to the project’s success—and will you keep the lines of communication open? Funders like to see excitement come through in the application, and they like to be considered a partner in making the project a success. Include plans for communicating results to the funder on a regular basis. n