This PLTW Blog entry is an excerpt from the PLTW Fundraising Toolkit. You can download the full toolkit here.
Drawing on our research and experience, we’ve compiled 10 grant-writing tips to help you and your team write a strong application in support of your PLTW program.
Check out our tips below:
1. Carefully review the guidelines for the funding you are seeking.
Because there is usually a large demand for their limited resources, grantmakers may first check to make sure applicants have followed guidelines before taking the time to fully review a request. If the group applying has not followed the directions, the application could go straight to the trash.
Many grantmakers today have information on their websites on what they support, whom they support, when they accept new requests, and how to request support. They will typically also explain the process for applying and even provide a preview of the application questions.
2. Make sure the grant opportunity aligns with your priorities and goals.
After reviewing the grantmaker’s guidelines and getting a better understanding of their goals and priorities, you need to ensure your organization is eligible for funding and that your request aligns well with the opportunity. Ask yourself, for instance, if your PLTW program has support from leadership and key staff who will help meet the grantmaker’s program and reporting requirements. Following these steps will lead to greater chances of being awarded and achieving your program’s goals.
3. Create a checklist of all information you need and then prioritize that list.
After looking at the grant guidelines, obtain a list of application questions and any required attachments ahead of time.
Next, you’ll want to inventory all the information you need to collect, list out who has the information you need, and make a prioritized checklist. Doing this will save some time and avoid headaches, especially as the due date nears.
Note as you’re prioritizing tasks that some questions or required attachments will require more time and attention than others. For example, you may be required to attach a W-9 to the application; since it may take longer to get this paperwork, you’ll want to focus on this early in the process. The same idea applies if, for example, the application requires that you submit a letter of support from a partner organization. In this case, you’ll want to work on obtaining the letter as soon as possible to give the partner organization plenty of time to prepare.
4. Gather a team.
Grant writing should not be an individual endeavor. It is a collaborative process involving leadership, content experts, and at least one person who can lead the writing. Content experts for a PLTW program might include STEM coordinators, teachers, IT staff, and counselors. The best grant proposals and applications come from a group of people who have brainstormed together and helped determine the key elements of the content, so that the person leading the writing will need only to edit and polish wording.
5. Begin work long before it is due.
A thoughtful, well-planned request for support can take several weeks for you and your colleagues to compile. If an annual funding opportunity has not yet been announced for this year, check the website or with the grantmaker’s staff for last year’s Request for Proposals (RFP) or grant request details. Using the information from last year can help you start preparing for this year, even if the application varies slightly from year to year.
6. Contact the grantmaker when you have questions or need something clarified.
If contact information is available, feel free to reach out if you have questions or are seeking clarification. Whether your initial conversation is via phone or email, it is wise to first provide a brief explanation about your school and about PLTW’s programs, and state your interest in submitting an application for whichever specific grant you are interested in applying – then pose your questions.
7. Include background information and avoid acronyms.
Don’t take the chance that a grantmaker, even a local one, has any prior knowledge of your school or of the community. Avoid using acronyms or abbreviations on first reference. You don’t know for certain who will review your request or if they have ever heard of your school before reviewing your request.
8. Try to convey your team’s enthusiasm and commitment for the program as best you can.
Venture capitalists and investors often talk about investing in people. Grantmakers often think this way too. The group of people behind any idea or initiative is important. In your request, describe how your school’s leadership and teachers are committed and enthusiastic about your PLTW programs.
9. Read each question carefully, and answer in a complete, yet concise, manner.
Take care to answer each question thoroughly yet directly. Failing to do so could negatively impact your overall application and jeopardize your chances of being awarded.
10. Review your application materials for typos and other errors.
It is essential that your request for support includes all requested attachments and uses complete sentences, proper English grammar, and appropriate punctuation. We recommend teaming up with a colleague who can review your materials before you submit the final application.