Sunday, March 11, 2012

Researching Potential External Funders

You've been charged the task of raising money for your school.  Perhaps you are already a fundraiser, as I am, with a variety of experience.  Either way, whether you are experienced or not at all in fundraising, you will need to seek out the best fit in external funders for your organization or school. 

Your "constituents" seem pretty obvious, right?  School families, church families if it is a church-based school, local businesses perhaps, but what after that?  Where do you go next? 

A good old Google search will provide some information.

For example, "education grants in Illinois," "art education grants," and other similarly specific searches will give you direction. 

Target, offers grant funds to elementary schools for the purpose of education.

In the St. Louis area, Innovative Technology Education Fund, offers funding to schools specifically for the purpose of upgrading technology.

You can also locate a listing of Foundations by state for Missouri listings and for Illinois listings.
Sit down at your computer with a cup of coffee and peruse the listings.  You will be able to cross most off the list by definition; however one good lead is all you need.

Once you have that one good lead, research past grant recipients, find out all that you can about their grants, processes, what they like to fund, etc.

Another very important aspect of grant-writing is begin succint and making a very specific ask.  To write a grant and simply ask for $15,000 because you need $15,000 in your general operating fund will not fly.  Find a needed project and then write a grant requesting funding to meet that need.  Some things are easier to write for than others; however, the overall objective is to match your need to the funder's desire to donate. 

Let's take the Target art grant for example.  They do not typically fund "art supplies."  Ask your art teacher what they would really like.  A successfully written grant applcation will request, for example, the "John Smith" art series which highlights famous artists with books and videos which can be integrated into the current curriculum.  Another request might be funding for a specific guest artist to interact with the students.

As you are being specific with the ask, you must also be specific and reasonable with your anticipated costs.  Let's go back to the artists curriculum additional material.  The cost of the curriculum is $XXX, shipping is $XXX.

If you think about the guest artist, you might list their cost for the event, travel expenses if required, food, etc.  Think in terms of everything you would need to completely implement the event/project.

Next time we'll look at the typical parts of a grant application and how to complete them.

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