I am fresh from an invited presentation at a regional technology professional development
conference organized for classroom teachers. Someone else was also on the program doing
a session on grant writing. The session was scheduled well before mine. How could I pass
up the opportunity to see what someone else was sharing with classroom teachers about grant
writing! I sat in the back and promised myself that I wouldn’t say anything. I wouldn’t squirm
in my seat. I wouldn’t raise my hand. He introduced himself and explained that he had written
several successful classroom project level grants. He had successfully applied to a state-based
foundation that had a long history of supporting classroom technology integration initiatives.
With these credentials, he had my attention.
Here we go…
Presenter: How many of you have ever heard of the Foundation Center?
Me: As I expected, not one hand went up. The Foundation Center is at http://foundationcenter.org
Stop reading this column and go to the site. If you see a dog sleeping on a globe in the upper right
hand corner of your screen, you are there. I have started many of my grant writing sessions with
the same question. In a room of 200 teachers, I might see 10 hands go up. The Foundation Center
may be the single best online resource to learn how to search for funding. Hardly any professional
educators know about it. He knows about the Foundation Center and has done a good job of
introducing it. He explained that this site has its own search engines and that local and regional
foundations can be targeted to zip codes. The closer the foundation to your school, the more
likely the funding.
Presenter: You need to name your grant.
Me: You bet! Any grant application should be named “Project (something).” This guy must
have attended one of my sessions or taken my online course! He is giving them great advice.
Naming a project lets you sell your vision many times in your application. You can start
sentences with “Project TEAM will…” The writing is easier.
Presenter: I want to show you some other places that you can look to find funding.
Grants.gov / schoolgrants.org / eschoolnews.com / techlearning.com
Me: Knowing about other places to search for funding is important. These sites are more or
less easy to navigate. But, at least he is showing them other online sources.
Presenter: Your grant application needs a “theme.”
Me: Wait a minute! Your grant application needs clear goals. If you are trying to get a piece
of technology for your classroom, consider four goals: 1) student subject area improvement,
technology acquisition, 3) technology implementation, and 4) teacher professional development.
These goals should be written in a structure that is consistent across all four of them. 1) verb,
2) object of the action, 3) content of action, and 4) range of improvement. He is starting to
lose me. He clearly has not attended any of my sessions and did not take my online class.
Presenter: You should write in your own words and tell your story.
Me: I almost came out of my seat! He could not have been giving them worse advice. This is
the primary reason why classroom teacher grant applications do not get funded. They ignore the
language of the funding agency mission. They ignore the vocabulary of the particular grant
initiative. Many foundations have more than one grant program. They ignore the vocabulary of
the Request for Funding Proposal. They ignore the vocabulary of the narrative guidelines. The
very last thing any classroom teacher should do is write a grant application “in their own words”
or “tell a story.” They will use personal pronouns and long sentences. The goals of the project
will be confusing and have no structure. It will take them too long to get to the point. The
writing will not be “technical.”
Lets Practice Making a Key Vocabulary Pre-Writing Document
Go to the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation website at http://www.mhjf.org Read about the
foundation. Read about the Grants-To-Educators. Below is an example of a Key Vocabulary
Document that I made from that site for that grant. These are the words you write with, NOT
Drive Proactive Engage Innovate/Innovative Ensure Activity Thematic Systems Advancing
student learning Effective
Advancing student learning
Support, Retain, Develop, Strengthen
Improving learning in mathematics, science, or technology
Improving learning in the arts
Supporting the recruitment, retention, and development of teachers.
Strengthening teachers' and administrators' leadership skills citizenship education, character education, special needs, and transition to college or work.
Foster the development of individual young people to the maximum possible extent.
Provide a means for greater accomplishment on the part of Ohio's
teachers, to encourage
creativity in teaching and to bring greater recognition to the teaching profession.
Dual focus on student capabilities and teaching.
Showing a significant achievement gap.
Engage schools and districts in partnerships.
Focus on measuring outcomes and disseminating successes.
Continued support contingent on tangible progress in advancing student learning.
Foster direct connections between the effective practices, programs and educators.
Proactively planning and developing programs.
Engaging partners in collaborative efforts.
Ensure activity across multiple thematic grant categories linked to the
and identify potential Jennings Initiatives programs.
Innovative but smaller-scale activities
Motivate, recognize and develop the classroom and leadership capabilities of high-quality educators
Apply new and improved capabilities.
Foster the development of young people to the maximum extent
These are the words and phrases you write with, not your own. Use your own IDEAS, but use their words.
Dr. Douglas Brooks
teaches graduate classes in grant writing in the Department of Teacher
Education within the School of Education, Health and Society at Miami University
in Oxford, Ohio