We are all still reeling from the events of September 11 and its aftermath, as well as the economic downturn of the past few months. The funding landscape is changing as a result of these factors, and this month’s column will address the steps you should take to respond to these changes.
Many funders (including the federal government and various private foundations and corporations) have stepped forward to offer large sums of money to the various funds that have been set up to assist the victims and family members affected by the Sept. 11 tragedy. It is not clear what kind of an impact this might have on grant programs at the federal level. The harsh reality of the threat of terrorist attacks might, in fact, push education lower on the federal funding priority list in the ensuing months.
School technology advocates already got a glimpse of this phenomenon when Congress appropriated $867 million for ed tech in 2002, more than $130 million less than what it earlier had authorized for the year. But it’s likely the true impact will be seen in 2003 and 2004, as legislators determine funding levels for current programs and make decisions about implementing any new grant programs in light of what is occurring in the nation at that time.
I think the best strategy is to keep informed by checking web sites, reading publications (such as eSchool News), and checking with your federal and state legislators. Of course, most savvy grant seekers are doing this already as part of their job.
The fall of stocks, especially technology stocks, also might impact your grant-seeking efforts in ways that could last for some months to come. Funders with large investments in stocks might find that their assets have fallen in value, and they don’t have as much money to distribute as they’ve had in recent years.
What could this mean in terms of grant making? In some cases, funders likely will award a smaller number of new grants, while in others, only commitments to current grantees will be fulfilled, and new grants will be suspended for a period of time.
It would be wise to keep up to date on corporate funders that you currently receive support from, as well as those you might be thinking of applying to in the next few months. As we’re all aware, some companies are going out of business, while others are being acquired by or merging with other companies. Stay current on these closures, mergers, and buyouts so you know who to apply to when seeking corporate support.
Examine your current plan to apply for school technology grants. You might need to revise this list and cut it back for the short term, depending on the sources you plan to approach for funding and their respective economic outlooks. If your district relies solely on grants to fund projects, this might be the time to explore other fund-raising venues and consider implementing new strategies.
Think about setting up an educational foundation, for example, or consider asking graduates to support various projects. Just as the key to successful investing is diversification, it helps to diversify your approach to raising funds, so you’re not caught with all your eggs in one basket.
This is definitely a time for assessment and planning for the future. The key is to stay informed, be flexible, diversify your approach, and be prepared to make changes as we continue to evaluate how our world and the grant-seeking landscape are going to change in the upcoming months.