By Devin Partida
Maybe you have an amazing idea for a STEM extracurricular project, but you simply lack the budget needed to make it a reality. Here are the words you probably don’t want to hear: You have to write a grant proposal. Though it may seem daunting, as an educator, you already have the necessary skills to draft a compelling grant submission and secure the funds you need. Let’s get started.
1. Find a Grant
Look online for grants related to STEM education. You can do this either by searching directly for grants or by looking up STEM companies and seeing if they offer any grants. Talk with the STEM coordinator or curriculum director in your district to see if they know of any leads.
You can also ask your school board members if they’ve heard of any opportunities. Think outside the box and search for grants on social media, as well.
2. Prepare to Write Your Application
Before you get started, organize all your project files in one place. Read through the funding guidelines for the grant – double-check the eligibility requirements, deadlines, necessary attachments, and the rules for submitting an application. Once everything is organized and you know the guidelines, you’re ready to get started.
3. Lay the Groundwork
Draft a simple outline for your grant proposal. You don’t even have to fill it in yet. The goal is just to make a template, and later you can add in the writing.
Come up with a schedule for your grant application. Rather than just putting the deadline on your calendar, break down your goals into smaller weekly and daily tasks. This ensures you won’t run out of time to apply.
Next, host a meeting where you gather everyone involved to help plan the grant. Provide an overview of your STEM project and outline who will be responsible for each part of it. Develop an itemized budget for your project that includes things like travel, equipment, and construction expenses. Be sure to ask questions, clarify your goals, and show appreciation for your team.
4. Get Letters of Support
This is not always required or even allowed, but if you can, get quality letters of support for your project from stakeholders and partners. These letters should urge the funder to consider your application, and they make your proposal more persuasive. Build connections with important businesses and organizations in your community to acquire these letters.
5. Write Your Narrative
Now that you’ve assembled your team, laid the foundation for your grant proposal, and potentially gotten letters of support, it’s time to start writing your first draft.
Be persuasive. Your narrative is a written description of your project and the goal is to be convincing and emotionally move your reader. Think about the story you’re telling – explain not only the type of STEM extracurriculars you’re planning but also why you’re planning them. Ask:
What problems will your project solve? What do you propose to do, and how will you do it? How will your students benefit from this STEM project?
Using data to back up your narrative makes it more credible and compelling. However, you don’t just want to lay down the cold, hard facts. You also want to tug at your readers’ heartstrings, appealing to their humanity. Explain why you need the funding now. Creating a sense of urgency prompts people to act.
Remember that this is just your first draft. If you’re intimidated by grant writing, start by simply making a bulleted list of all the points you want to make. Then, after you get all your ideas on the page, you can go back and connect them more fluidly.
6. Edit and Submit
Before turning in your grant application, have several people review it to catch any errors. This isn’t the time to completely rework the narrative, but simply to correct spelling and grammatical mistakes.
Run through your checklist of things you need to do one last time. Have you included all the required information and documents?
Finally, it’s time to submit your application. Try to turn it in a day or two early, if you can, to help things run as smoothly as possible. You did it! Breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy some much-needed downtime as you wait for an answer.
Securing Funding for STEM Projects
Don’t worry if you have to repeat the grant application process several times. That’s normal! Even the most impressive projects can get turned down due to competition. Eventually, however, your efforts will pay off – and your students will forever be grateful. Years from now, they’ll still remember you as the teacher who made learning fun.