Inside Education, October 2001

The importance of obtaining grants to bring technology and tech-training to the classroom has never been greater. Many school districts hire grant-writing experts to help them find possible sources of funds and to write appealing and appropriate grant proposals.

It is important to decide whether a full-time grant writer should be hired, or whether the work can be performed effectively by a single contractor or team of contractors. Districts that are experimenting with expanding their grant-seeking efforts may want to work initially with a contractor or a computer vendor that might be able to provide grant-writing assistance. Companies that sell computer equipment under the eRate program, for example, often have a great deal of experience in helping schools apply for these funds. Whatever path you choose, one thing is certain: Finding an effective grant writer is not easy.

Here are the traits that an accomplished grant writer should demonstrate:

– Self-motivation. Aggressiveness is crucial in finding all possible grant sources.

– Attention to detail. Grant givers often have very explicit expectations. Grant seekers must address the exact issues that are covered and provide the exact information that is being requested.

– Organization. A grant application can be data-intensive. Writers must be able to find information, especially about your district’s or school’s current circumstances and exact needs.

– Managerial skills. Although grant writers may not be managing other staff members, they are managing projects, as each grant can be viewed as a separate project. These projects can be quite complex, involving multiple submissions and responses over many months.

– Financial and analytical acumen. This entails more than being savvy with numbers. Schools cannot apply for every grant, so a grant writer must assess which grants are most relevant to a school’s needs and offer the best prospects for success.

– Follow-up skills. Most grants require that recipients stay in contact with givers and demonstrate proper use of funds. The writer should be a major player in this effort. A good grant writer also should be able to provide data to administrators about the time and effort it took to win a grant, compared to the money the grant program offers, so the district can improve its grant-seeking process regularly.