Teachers’ Guide to Proposal Writing

Teachers' Guide to Proposal WritingThe trouble with big, brilliant ideas for your classroom is that they tend to cost money. Maybe you’d love to have a school garden, or a set of class iPads to flip your classroom with. Maybe you want better microscopes for your science classes, or a trip to Salem, Massachusetts for your English class’s unit on The Crucible.

You just know the money would be so worthwhile to your students, if you could get it. Well, you may be in luck. If you’re a teacher, you’re in a great position to apply for a grant.

What’s a Grant?

A grant is money! Well, it’s not quite as simple as that. But essentially, a grant is a successful appeal to a government department or a public or private trust or foundation that gets you financial support for a worthy, educational cause.

These groups know that teachers are on the ground level of many important causes — kids literally are our future, after all. So NASA, for example, knows that giving kids great experiences in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) is key to keeping math and science programs alive years from now.

How Do I Get a Grant?

First, you’ll need to identify what project you might like a grant for. Then, identify a few groups that might be willing to grant you one (i.e., trusts or foundations that deal with an area that’s in line with what you’d like to teach — maybe the Environmental Protection Agency for funding an annual field trip to a recycling plant). Then, you’ll need to write a proposal.

What’s a Proposal?

A grant proposal is a formal request for funding by a government department, foundation, company, or trust. Ideally, it should begin with a description of why a grant is being requested, like a description of a problem your class is having (such as a lack of technology), an opportunity for learning or growth (the programs or activities you could do with iPads for each student), and then outline a plan for how the grant money would be used, aka a budget.

Of course, your proposal should also show a clear understanding of what the organizations’ own goals are, and why it would make sense for that particular institution to help with your cause. Appealing to the National Science Foundation for better gym class equipment, for example, wouldn’t make a lot of sense.

How to Write an Effective Proposal

For technical advice on the actual drafting process, visit the writing center at UNC, or the website of the grant you’re applying for. But if you’re just starting out, here are some to-dos to get your ideas together:

1. Define your goals.
Ask yourself: What do I hope to accomplish on a large scale with this project? How will I use the funds I’d receive to achieve my goals, specifically?

Try to have a larger end in mind, such as exposing students to real STEM workplaces to prepare them for choosing a career, or visiting X number of museums this semester to show examples of chiaroscuro, as well as the finer points of what the expenses are (e.g., admission to the museums and cost of a bus for transportation purposes).

Next, construct a plan for how you might conduct the project. For example, a series of twice monthly visits to different science labs over three months, or a single daylong visit to New York City’s Metropolitan.

2. Do your research.
Once you know what your project is, you’ll want to start finding organizations that would be excited to get behind your cause.

When you have a list of prospective parties, start drafting letters of inquiry unique to each institution describing your project and budget. Keep in mind the following questions as you write to be sure the focus stays aligned with your audience: How do your goals align? Why would this particular agency want to help you? What are your shared concerns or areas of interest? Also, try to imagine the questions an organization might have about your project, before granting you funds. Make sure you answer those questions in your letter.

3. Know your cause.
It’s worth keeping in mind that your audience — a foundation or company surrounding a given cause — is likely to be the expert in that cause. Therefore, you should show a little knowledge of the topic you’re asking for grant in. Citing research about why laptops in your classroom would facilitate learning or how you’d be able to use them (including statistics supporting your cause) goes a long way in underlining the importance of what you want to do, as well as showing your personal dedication to the cause.

4. Know the requirements.
Any organization that offers grants is likely to have application standards, so be sure to find these in advance to make sure your project fits the organization’s criteria. A perfect grant proposal submitted after deadline, or one in a format or for a project that’s not acceptable to an organization is a waste of time and effort!

Got an idea for a grant proposal? Here is a list of grants for teachers to get an application started!