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Eight ways to get ahead of the grant-seeking game for 2011-12

The summer months provide some time to organize this information, so you can save valuable time during the school year.

Summer is here, and for the most part this tends to be a quiet time in the grant-seeking world, as many government grantors are not holding competitions. As a result, this might be a good time to work on items that naturally fall by the wayside from September to May, when grant deadlines are occurring on a steady basis.

Although seasoned grant writers know that it’s unwise to copy and paste entire proposals, there is some “boilerplate” information that you can keep on file and use for many proposals that you submit to both public and private funders. The summer months provide some time to organize this information, so you can save valuable time during the school year—rather than spending hours looking for background information to support your need as a grant deadline looms.

Here are some suggested items that you can work on to prepare for upcoming submissions:

1. Update the demographics of your district, including student enrollment, attendance per grade level, number of teachers, and so on. If you do not have this information written in narrative form already, spend some time developing a short paragraph that contains this information. Use the most current numbers that you can access.

2. If you do not have a brief description of your community, develop a short paragraph or two that includes information about population, ethnicity, unemployment, number of employers, poverty levels, crime statistics, and drug abuse information. Depending on the geographic location of your district, you also might want to identify nearby landmarks, cities, etc., so that readers have a sense of “where you are” as they review your proposal.

3. Update information about your district’s student achievement scores on standardized tests, graduation rates, and dropout rates. Make note of specific curriculum areas where your students need assistance. These areas might provide a guide as you research potential funders for your projects.

4. If your district has created a strategic plan in the last 12 months and you have not studied it, now would be a great time to do so. Pay special attention to areas that your district has identified as requiring specific attention (such as technology, tutoring, mentoring, etc.). These areas might be the basis for grant-funded projects in the upcoming school year.

5. Obtain a current map of your district and where it is located in your state. This is not necessarily a common item that funders ask to see in a proposal, but it might help to have one ready just in case.

6. Obtain a current copy of your district’s financial audit for your files. If there were any findings in the audit, make sure you have a short narrative that explains your district’s response to these findings.

7. Occasionally, funders will ask about the capability of applicant organizations. This might be a good time to write a short paragraph or two about your district’s ability to manage a grant if you receive one. Discuss your district’s business office capabilities, your audit functions, and list the grants that you have received and managed within the last 12 to 24 months. Keep this in your files, and if a funder requires any additional information, include it in this description.

8. If you’re planning to conduct any surveys in the upcoming school year to collect data that you’ll need to substantiate a need for a grant-funded project, now might be a good time to develop the survey questions. If you already have such a survey tool, you could review it to see if it needs any updating.

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