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Get Your School a Grant

When it comes to bringing in money for your PTO/PTA, it doesn't get much better than a big ole' grant.

Grants are funds given for specific causes or projects that do not need to be paid back. These monetary awards are given out based on merit, need, or simply meeting the qualifications. 

But, as great as they are, grants take work to get! Which is why we've put together this go-to guide to help you learn about grants and get tips for applying in 2015.

Very few of us would say no to a big gift of money, but there's a lot of us who can get intimidated by lengthy application forms or hung up when faced with the challenge of putting into words the answer to the question: "why should we give you this lovely sum o' cash?"

But before we get into how to apply for grants, let's make sure we understand the difference between grants and fundraisers. 

Go for the Grant? Or, Raise the $$ Yourself?

Grants and fundraisers are not the same thing and your PTO should go over a few questions to decide which option is best for your budgetary needs:

  • Is this money going toward a specific project/purpose? If so, grants are a great way to go, if not, then you should stick to fundraising so you can use the money in whatever capacity is needed.
  • Do you need the money sooner rather than later? Grants can take anywhere from a few months up to a year to process, review and make a final decision (local grants may be the exception here, so keep your eye out for those opportunities!). Fundraising, on the other hand, can begin whenever you decide and can be completed in the course of a few months.
  • Have you ever applied for a grant before? If the answer is no, that's ok (& you're reading the right blog!), but having someone with experience in grant writing or filling out applications for grants will really help throughout the process. Fundraisers are more DIY-friendly since you set the goals and standards from the very start and don't have to adhere to external guidelines. 

Tips for Applying

All grants are different. Different awards, different deadlines, different purposes and different requirements for applying. Some will require filling out an application, others will require a written proposal, and some ask for a portfolio of past projects to prove that you deserve this monetary gift! Here are some tips to get you movin' in the right direction!

  1. Don't just meet the deadline, beat it: Getting started early will allow you and your team to really brainstorm on the important aspects of the application: how to define your group, why you need the money (beyond the surface level reasons – get to the core of the issue), and what aspects to highlight in your application... which brings us to #2!
  2. Find shared interests: A huge part of getting grants is to find organizations that align with your interests/focus and to communicate those shared interests in your application. If you need to get money for classroom supplies and you've found an organization that gives out grants for educational purposes, then your application needs to communicate the deeper importance of equipping our educators with the tools they need to be effective. The same goes for health/wellness programs, the arts, and other areas that need funding.
  3. Get your team together: Ideally, your team for getting grants (whether that's your regular PTO group or a group made from teachers, faculty & PTO members) should consist of people who are knowledgeable about the project that needs funding, a leader to coordinate the team and make sure the deadline(s) is met, and a strong writer to put your ideas onto paper!
  4. Answer the core questions: Your team should have concrete answers to the following questions – 1) What is the purpose of your project? 2) How, specifically, will you use the money (where will it be allocated)? 3) If you are not funded, what are other creative ways you will pursue your project (to show you are committed to the task at hand and won't abandon ship if the funding doesn't come through)? 4) Who will benefit from this grant (students, community members, teachers, etc.)? 5) How will you report how you've spent the money (pictures, video, testimonies, etc.)?
  5. Read the fine print: An important step when you have finished the application or proposal is that you are careful to adhere to the details. This means more than reviewing for grammar and spelling errors. Most grants have specific ways in which they want applications turned in, so make sure you know whether they want it mailed in an 8 1/2 x 11 envelope, emailed in a zipped file, arranged in a certain order (cover letter first, contact page second, etc.), and that each portion of the application is filled out and proofread. 
  6. Research additional grants: Basically, don't put all your eggs in one basket. The application process might be tenous but it's important to continually be researching for grants that align with your interests and can provide you with the funding needed to meet your goals!

Grant Opportunities in 2015

Below are listed just some of the available grants for 2015 (and beyond!). We picked out the grants that align with the interests of The Get Movin' Crew: healthy kids and successful schools! 

These are just a few options to check out, but we encourage you to connect with your chamber of commerce to identify local companies and organizations that give out grants.

Action for Healthy Kids: Physical Activity & Breakfast Grants

Action for Healthy Kids provides two different grants. The first is all about physical activity, which provides funding for facilities and equipment to make sure kids can have access to recess, playgrounds/play-spaces, classroom energizers, physical education, intramural and/or before/after-school programs. The second is a grant that will help your schools provide breakfast programs!

Applications are being accepted beginning in Feb./March 2015, get more information!

Lowe's Toolbox for Education Grant

Have a project that needs funding? Well the Lowe's Toolbox for Education grant is now open for applications! Lowe's will be donating up to $5 million to public schools and PTO groups around the country, and you could win up to $5,000 for your project in just minutes by applying. 

Spring Applications are now being accepted, get more information!

Crayola Creative Leadership Grants

Crayola will be giving up to 20 grants to help inspire educators to increase art-infused education. The winner will receive $2,500 and $1,000 worth of Crayola products to help make education fun and creative! 

2015 applications are now being accepted, get more information!

AAE Foundation Classroom Grants

The Assocation of American Educators awards classroom grants for a variety of projects and materials, including books, software, calculators, math manipulatives, art supplies, audio-visual equipment, and lab materials. These grants are available for up to $500 and could provide your teachers with a chance to bring needed materials into the classroom!

The Spring 2015 deadline is March 1st, get more information!

General Mills: Champions for Healthy Kids

Through the Champions for Healthy Kids program, the General Mills Foundation will award 50 grants of $20,000 each to nonprofit organizations working to improve nutrition and physical fitness behaviors for kids. If your group has a program in place that promotes physical activity for students, this might be a great option for getting funding!

2015 applications will be accepted beginning in February, get more information!

RGK Foundation Grants

The RGK Foundation awards grants for educational programs that focus on formal K-12 education (particularly mathematics, science and reading), teacher development, literacy, and higher education. However, this is not an open grant and the first step to applying will be to send in a letter of inquiry to see if you fit the desired criteria.

There is no deadline for submitting the application. To learn more about sending a letter of inquiry, get more information!

The Stepping Stone Grants

The Stepping Stone grants provide support for teacher-initiated projects that foster the arts and address all learners through creativity. These grants go up to $450 and can equip your teacher(s) with the money to bring creative learning into your school.

Applications are now open for 2015, get more information!

Kinder Morgan's Foundation Grant

The Kinder Morgan Foundation provides grants for programs that benefit youth in grades K-12. Grant awards range from $1,000 to $5,000 and are geared toward helping today's science, math and music students become the engineers, educators and musicians who will support our diverse communities for many years to come!

The deadline is January 10th 2015, get more information!

Healthy Playground Makeover

Ok, ok so this one is more of a contest than a grant, but it's still worth putting your school in the drawing since a whole new playground is on the line! The grand prize winner gets a new playground plus $30,000 in prizes for a wellness program. Three Runner-up winners get $5,000 in prizes for a wellness program. 

Enter each day until March 19th, get more information!