How to make the most of COVID-19 relief grants for education
As the new school year approaches, educators and school administrators are left with a number of questions about what to expect. Will classes be able to resume as normal? Or will distance learning still play a central or supporting role in education?
What we do know is governments around the world are making funding available. For example, market data from Futuresource Consulting shows the UK is targeting a $515,000 project to provide devices to disadvantaged families, Peru issued a project for 600,000 android tablets, and Germany started a program that is expected to deliver approximately 1 million devices to support students from low income backgrounds during this time. Additionally, the US has made several grants available, including an emergency education relief fund as part of the CARES Act.
This support will come as a relief to many educators. In fact, research from Project Tomorrow and Spectrum Enterprise shows district administrators nationwide have identified funding concerns as their #1 “wake up in the middle of the night issue” for the past 12 years. To help, we’ve rounded up a few tips and resources to support educators applying for grants this year and beyond.
Grants to consider for schools in the US
- Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funding (ESSER) – Distributed as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, over $13 billion in emergency relief funds are now available through ESSER and will be distributed to state education agencies to support distance learning. From there, states may require local education agencies to submit a grant application to secure funds for their local schools. Check with your state education agency for more details.
- Distance Learning Grant – This program helps rural communities use the unique capabilities of telecommunications to connect to each other and to the world, overcoming the effects of remoteness and low population density. For example, this program can link teachers in one area to students in another.
- Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) – ITEST supports schools who are creating or using innovative strategies to engage students in STEM or information and communications technology (ICT) experiences, specifically as a way to encourage future workforce participation in these disciplines.
- Educators of America MicroGrant Program – This grant is for teachers who are in need of effective technological tools that will assist in bettering student achievement, such as web-connected devices, electronic whiteboards, tablets, VR systems and STEM Labs. The grant will not only support the purchase of such equipment but will also provide training to ensure teachers receive the greatest benefit from the devices.
- Foundation for Rural Service Community Grants Program – This program supports education advancement by helping schools receive access to technology (computers, smart boards, etc.) in the classroom, building resources for curriculum development, strengthening extracurricular activities and programs, and promoting distance learning programs.
Tips for writing your grant request
- Remember the three ‘P’s. Fundraiser Help advises schools to abide by a few rules to avoid stepping on toes when writing grant proposals. They recommend following the three ‘P’s:
- Principal – Get buy-in from your principal or superintendent, who may need to sign off on grant proposals over a certain dollar amount.
- Permission – Get permission from your school district if you’re applying for a state or federal grant, as districts are often limited in the number of government grants for which they can submit.
- Project – First decide on a project you’d like to undertake, then seek out grants that fit that project, rather than vice versa.
- Get to know your project. Flesh out your project in detail before you start filling out your application:
- Think about the story behind why this project is important.
- Consider what the project’s outcomes could be and how you’ll measure them.
- Plan a realistic timeline.
- List the materials and personnel the project will require as well as the total cost.
- Request to see a successful grant application. Once you know which grants you’ll apply for, request to receive a copy of a grant application that was funded. This will give you a strong template for your own application.
- Write to the criteria. Become familiar with the criteria that will be used to choose a grant recipient and ensure your grant application is structured to address each category. For example, if the grant rules specify the award will go to a school that is fostering future STEM professionals, be sure to share specifics on how you will not only foster a love of STEM but point students toward those careers (e.g. through class visits from STEM professionals, etc.).
- Include stats and data. Include facts and research in your grant application. This may mean including relevant demographic or test score data to demonstrate your areas of need. Using the same STEM example as above, you may choose to highlight how a smaller percentage of your student body currently goes into STEM professions than the national average and how your proposed project would change that.
- Put students at the center. Even though you’re likely asking for money to buy certain software solutions, products, or devices, don’t forget that student impact is the reason for your application. Be sure to tell the human story of your grant application — why you’re applying and what the grant will mean for your students’ lives.
- Seek help from experts. If you have the time and access, it’s also a great idea to take a grant writing workshop. Not only can it improve your results, but it can also improve your confidence in writing a successful grant. Udemy offers a number of low-cost online courses that you can sort based on user reviews. You may also be able to find grant writing experts within your school community. With your administration’s permission, it’s a great idea to ask your PTA for help identifying any parents with grant-writing experience. If feasible, you may even consider hiring a professional to assist. Grant writers’ rates range from $25-150 an hour depending on their market, experience, and success rate. Since they charge by the hour, the more data you can gather and project management work you can do up front, the less expensive professional help will be.
- Document your successes. Congratulations, you’ve won a grant. Now it’s time to put your plan into action and closely document your project’s rollout and the results you’re seeing. Remember the success measurements you identified in step 2 and be sure to track your progress as objectively as possible. Here’s to a successful project with meaningful student outcomes.
Bonus tip: Bundle hardware and software requests to make the most of your grant money. Many technology providers who offer both hardware and software, like Lenovo and LanSchool, provide discounts for purchasing both types of solutions at once. Learn more about our bundle offer and how it can help you maximize your investment.
Grant writing is a mentally strenuous job, but you’ll find once you’ve completed one application, the rest will be much easier. You know your school’s needs and what it will take to meet them. If you can share that story in a compassionate and compelling way, you’ll have an application that moves hearts and gets funded.
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