I recently conducted a grants workshop for a group of educators in southern Illinois, in which the issue of local grant resources was raised. One of the participants assured me that he was from a very small, rural Illinois town that had no foundations, no corporations—in short, no resources to look to for grant possibilities. However, upon closer examination, he conceded that maybe there were resources he could check into! This article will look at some of the local resources that educators might have in their communities without even realizing they exist.

One of your first steps should be to check your state’s foundation directory, if you haven’t already done so. A few months ago I purchased a state directory of Utah foundations, and I was amazed at the number of private funders in the state. You might think you don’t have any local foundations to pursue, but don’t make this assumption without checking your state’s directory.

Go to the Foundation Center’s national web site and look for the Foundation Center libraries in your state. Visit one and check to see if your state directory is available. Or, use the Foundation Center’s database to search for foundations in your state that fund education. Many state directories are available for purchasing online; however, you might want to look at one first before deciding to make a purchase.

I find that a book called “Giving by Industry,” from Aspen Publishers, gives me a great starting point when looking at a community and trying to uncover all of the possible sources of funding that might be available there.

Check with the banks in your community to see if they have local funds to distribute or if they are part of a national “chain” that has a larger foundation. An example of this type of foundation is First Union, which recently merged with Wachovia. If you have a First Union bank in your community, check to see what the eligibility guidelines are to request funding from Wachovia. If you have a U.S. Bank in your community, check out U.S. Bancorp; if there’s a Wells Fargo, check out the Wells Fargo Foundation.

Also, check with your local utility companies: gas, electric, and telecommunications providers. Again, you might find that your local electric company or cooperative is part of a much larger one that has a foundation. Your gas company might serve a large region of your state and provide grants to each local community where it has a presence. Your local telecommunications provider might be affiliated with a much larger provider (e.g. BellSouth, MCI WorldCom, US West) that offers grants to the communities it serves.

Don’t assume that your local businesses, if they are small to mid-size, will not give funds to support education. Some of these companies might be divisions or subdivisions of larger corporations that are not headquartered in your community—they could be halfway across the United States. However, because you have a local subsidiary in your community, you do have a direct connection to the larger corporation and might be eligible for grants.

Small to mid-size businesses in your community also have a vested interest in having a local “pool” of potential employees to draw from. Keep this in mind as you identify the skills your students need to improve upon and as you design projects to address these skills.

Related links:
Foundation Center
http://www.fdncenter.org

Aspen Publishers Inc.
http://www.aspenpublishers.com