It is no secret that music (and the arts) are the first to suffer from the nasty budget cuts each year. As music teachers, we must rise above this small challenge and take action to make sure our programs continue to offer every child the best music education we can provide.
Over the past several years, I have become an active grant writer in order to seek funding for many different resources including musical instruments, music teaching textbooks and song resource manuals, CDs, scarves and ribbons, listening centers, speakers, games, iPods, DVDs, library books, field trips, concert tickets, teaching artist partnerships, music organization partnerships, and more. The trick to getting grants funded successfully is finding the right grant for what you are asking for. Most grants are aimed at funding specific types of items. Don’t waste your time applying for a grant that doesn’t fit the project or materials you are asking for.
Here are a few tips that I have collected from various people/places/workshops/websites during my grant writing adventures. Some are more obvious than others, but I found them helpful when I first started out and didn’t know anything about what I was getting myself into.
1. Match the grant to your project carefully. *I like to research the past grant recipients to see what the company chose to fund. This gives me a really good idea of whether or not my project matches the purpose of the grant.
2. Make sure to follow every single application detail carefully and completely. Lots of applications are rejected due to one missing piece of information or an incomplete form. Companies will not contact you for the missing info. They will just throw out your hard work without a second thought. Don’t leave anything blank- contact them if you have a question about something. Better safe than sorry.
3. Grant databases are very helpful when searching for grant money. There are several free ones out there that allow you to search for several criteria at once, but most cost a lot of money. I like to use www.grants4teachers.com at Teacher Planet. This particular database is updated regularly and you can even search by state. You can also search google, but keep in mind you’ll have to sift through all the expired links and garbage that comes up. Databases are the way to go.
4. Keep track of your deadlines and always make sure things are mailed/submitted online at least a week prior to the due date. Let’s face it. Last minute things come up and you won’t have time to get it done. All that work down the drain. Also, if you need letters from other people on your staff (fellow teachers, administration, PTA, etc.), tell them you need their letter at least a week prior to your deadline.
5. Keep a document folder of all the information about your students: socioeconomic data, enrollment details, financial info, racial/ethnic breakdown, special ed status, free lunch enrollment, title 1 status, etc. A lot of the bigger grant companies will ask for this info, so it is good to have a copy on hand so you don’t have to go tracking it down each time. *I always keep a word document on my computer with a one-two paragraph description of my school’s population. I update it each fall. Almost every grant that I have written has asked for this info in some form or another, so having one ready to go that I just have to manipulate a little here or there is super helpful!
6. If your grant doesn’t get funded, email the contact person and ask politely for some feedback. I did this once and it turned out that one of my recommendation letters never made it to them. They suggested I apply again the following year, which I did (except this time I had my 3 letters sent directly to me and I included them in my application packet), and my application was funded!!! Sometimes it is worth it to find out what you can improve on so you can have more success in the future.
Here are some of the easier grants to get funded. Just click on the banners to visit the application sites.
Donors Choose offers project based grants for public school teachers. Super easy to navigate the application and easy follow-through. Only drawback is that the projects cost more than the actual materials due to operation fees they tack on to each request. If you would like to see some examples of my past projects, just click on my donors choose link in the right hand yellow column.
Target offers a few different kinds of grants for schools. I have received both their field trip grant and an arts grant for a music partnership. They are super easy to apply for and there is very little feedback required. Worth the little effort it takes to apply.
Adopt a Classroom is an easy no-brainer site where you just register and advertise. 100% of the money goes to your classroom.