Despite the economic turmoil and budget cuts that have plagued school districts and education technology organizations from coast to coast, many organizations and foundations have been able to continue giving educational grants—with some adjustments.
Some grant-giving entities have made changes to their programs and now offer fewer awards or have decreased the amount of each individual award—an adjustment that Chris Taylor, author of Granted! A Teacher’s Guide to Writing and Winning Classroom Grants, said is common.
“Some grant-giving entities are continuing to offer grants, but the amount available to be awarded has been reduced. I believe this situation is making a greater demand on grant seekers to step up their grant-writing skills while at the same time be willing to reduce their expectations concerning the amount of funding they might be able to receive,” Taylor said.
“With limited grant funds, grant givers don’t have the luxury of funding as many proposals as they did in past years. Thus, they will be focusing on applications that are well written and well supported.”
Nancy Busch, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Science and chief research officer at Fordham University, said she has mainly seen cuts to long-standing grants that are funded by state and city budgets. Busch noted that cuts to these programs are usually determined by state or local budgets and whether those budgets are in trouble, as is the case in New York, where Fordham University is located.
“Many are seeing an outright cut in the number of those awards. So someone’s been getting [a grant] for the past 15 years, and all of a sudden instead of [the organization giving] 10 awards, they’re doing five awards,” she said. “Or what’s often happening is that the size of the grant is being cut considerably … and sometimes with the expectation that you’re going to deliver the same level of services, which is a real problem.”
Busch said portions of the federal stimulus money are hard to apply for, because the funding usually comes with a requirement that it be used by the end of the fiscal year.
“Most of the stimulus funds to date have had to have been spent very quickly,” she said, with many proposals being due within a few weeks as opposed to the three to five months educators normally have to prepare a grant proposal.
Cutbacks in grant-giving affect both educators and students. Busch noted that many foundation endowments have shrunk along with the stock market.
Generally, foundations calculate how much they can spend based on either a three- or five-year growing average, she said. With the stock market down in 2008, the amount of available grant money decreased. But what some people don’t realize, Busch said, is that the 2009 awards were cushioned to an extent because of the way the averages are calculated.
For example, if a foundation uses a three-year growing average in 2009, it only had one bad year—2008—but averaged it with two previous good years.
“For , the payouts are going to be even worse, because they’ve had two bad years and one good year before,” she said. “And  will be even worse, because it will have three bad years—[though] depending on what the stock market does, there may be improvement.”
Deborah Ward, an independent grant-writing consultant and eSchool News columnist, said she agrees the competition for grant seekers will be more intense in the near term.
“I think many foundations are still cutting back on their grant dollar amounts and, in some cases, aren’t even offering new competitions for the time being and only supporting ongoing grantees,” said Ward, whose monthly column in eSchool News helps educators navigate the grant-seeking landscape successfully. “I expect this will probably continue through 2010.”
Although the influx of stimulus money has boosted the amount of federal funding available for school technology and other education projects, Ward said she has heard from some federal funders that “the competition is extremely fierce, and they are receiving much larger numbers of applications than they anticipated.
For teachers hoping to continue applying for grant funding, Granted! author Taylor said they should spend time learning how to make their proposals stand out.
“To improve their proposals, those seeking grants should spend some time learning about grant writing before they begin any application process. In addition, they should be willing to seek a smaller award. If they are successful, that smaller award may offer leverage to win additional, smaller awards from other grant-giving entities,” she said.