Thursday, March 4, 2010

Grants & Funding

At Spectrum Industries, we understand the strain education budgets are under. We also recognize how much help grants can provide.
For your assistance, Spectrum Industries keeps an updated list of available funds on our grants page.
If you would like, Spectrum can help you with the grant process. If you have the do-it-yourself spirit below is a story recently released by a grant expert in eschool news that may help.

Eight essential skills for school grant seekers
By Deborah Ward

I recently had dinner with two grants professionals in Florida. One of them was
quite upset, because someone she knew had remarked that the role of a grant writer was simply to “collate paper and submit an application.”
If only it were that easy!
The conversation brought to light the common misconceptions that exist about just what grant writers do, and I’m going to try to clear up these misconceptions.
Before I begin, I should state that not all grant professionals have the same responsibilities, and these depend largely on the organization they work for. That said, here are the key skills I think an effective grants professional must
have, in no particular order:

1. Research skills
These involve two types of research: Looking for available funders, and being able to identify pertinent research to support a needs statement in a proposal. Grant writers need to be able to search the internet and find web sites that provide current information about grant opportunities. In many cases, this will include the web sites of both public and private funders. Grant writers also need to be able to locate research studies that support the existence of a need or a problem, and the possible solutions to solving this problem. Today, grant writers also need to be able to identify “best practices” in the education field in order to support why a specific solution is going to be effective in meeting a need or solving a problem.

2. Writing skills
This seems pretty obvious; however, I think it’s important to note that grant writers need to be able to write in a clear and concise manner.
Individuals who tend to use a lot of words without a lot of substance probably won’t do well fitting within the required page limits for most proposals.

3. Coordination skills
Often there is more than one person who is working on a proposal. So, a grant writer needs to coordinate all of the people who are involved and manage which information each of them is asked to contribute in order to create a proposal narrative that flows logically. A grant writer also must be able to give people specific deadlines so they know when their required tasks need to be done, and he or she must ensure these deadlines are met.

4. Organizational skills
These go along with the coordination skills. Grant writers have to keep all of the information requested in a proposal organized so they
can ensure all of the information is included. Grant writers are often juggling multiple proposal deadlines at any given time, so it’s important to be able to keep each grant application separate from the others. And grant writers who function as grant managers have to be able to create a paperwork trail for every grant received in the event that a monitoring visit or an audit is scheduled.

5. Facilitation skills
These are especiallyneeded when multiple partners are playing a role in a grant project. Grant writers often are called upon to facilitate meetings to make sure that all pertinent information is discussed and to lead discussions of issues related to budgets and project methodology. In some cases, grant writer must facilitate initial meetings to “flesh out” a project concept in more detail.

6. Mathematical skills
Proposals must include project budgets and budget narratives, and in some cases, the grant writer is responsible for collecting budget information from all applicable partners. I recommend that you get your finance department involved in the proposal process before you submit a proposal. Finance staff can check for accuracy of budget numbers and to make sure expenses are calculated properly. If salaries and benefits are involved in the budget for a grant proposal, your finance staff might have access to human-resources information you’re not privy to.

7. Reading comprehension skills
Let’s be honest: Some requests for proposals (RFPs) are extremely hard to understand. Grant writers have to be able to dissect an RFP, understand what information the funder is looking for in the proposal, and interpret the RFP for others who are involved in the proposal process and who don’t have expertise in putting proposals together.

8. Editing skills
Grant writers always should edit what they have written at least once before submitting a proposal. In addition, they should have at least one unrelated individual review the proposal for clarity. This person might catch any errors that the grant writer missed, and he or she might point out weak sentences and/or paragraphs that need to be revised.

Deborah Ward, CFRE, is an independent grant writing consultant.
She welcomes questions at

Grant Deadlines
Microsoft opens its computing cloud to researchers
Researchers have until March 15 to submit proposals
to the National Science Foundation (NSF) that would
give them access to Microsoft Corp.’s massive cloudcomputing
power for three years. Researchers and academic
teams chosen by NSF officials will use Microsoft
Azure, a program that offers enormous data storage and
computing capabilities using Microsoft’s data centers.
Microsoft’s cloud-computing program will allow researchers
to compare and analyze numerous data sets,
said Jeannette M. Wing, assistant director for the NSF
Computer and Information Science directorate. “We’ve
entered a new era of science—one based on data-driven
exploration—and each new generation of computing
technology, such as cloud computing, creates unprecedented
opportunities for discovery,” Wing said.
Deadline: March 15

$80,000 for assistive technology research
The National Center for Technology Innovation’s
“Tech in the Works” competition seeks proposals for
collaborative research projects that explore innovative
and emerging assistive technologies that can provide
greater access for students with disabilities. The
program will award up to four grants of $20,000 each
in 2010. Collaborative teams must secure matching
funds. NCTI says it’s committed to fostering new
talent in the field of educational and assistive technology,
and it strongly encourages graduate student teams to apply.
Deadline: March 23 (for letters of intent)

$60,000 to inspire breakthroughs in educational media
The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop
is accepting applications for its inaugural Cooney Center
Prizes for Innovation in Children’s Learning, a national
competition intended to inspire and identify breakthrough
educational ideas in children’s digital media. The program
challenges innovators to develop new tools and content
in two categories. The “Breakthroughs in Mobile
Learning” category invites applicants to submit mobile
learning projects for children between the ages of 3-11
that push the boundaries of learning using handheld technologies.
The “Breakthroughs in Literacy Learning:
Innovate with The Electric Company” category invites
concepts that promote literacy skills using Sesame
Workshop’s The Electric Company, a multimedia literacy
campaign designed to reach out to today’s six- to nineyear-
olds through television, after-school programs, and
online. The winner of the Mobile Learning competition
will receive $50,000 toward prototype development, and
the winner of the Literacy Learning competition will receive
$10,000 and the chance to work with Sesame
Workshop to turn his or her literacy idea into a product.
Deadline: April 1

More than $150,000 in technology
equipment from CDW-G and Discovery
Through their “Win a Wireless Lab Sweepstakes,”
CDW-G and Discovery Education will give K-12
schools across the United States the chance to win one
of three 21st-century classroom labs worth an estimated
$45,000, complete with tablet or notebook computers
and a wireless cart, interactive whiteboard, student
response system, projector, printer, and document
camera. The two companies also will provide on-site
training to all three grand-prize winners. In addition
to the hardware, Discovery Education will award a
$5,000 digital media grant to the winning schools to
help them more fully use the technology and engage
students in learning. Schools can enter the sweepstakes
every day until the deadline—and entrants who
post about the program on their Twitter accounts can
receive an additional two entries per day.
Deadline: May 3

Ongoing Grants to help schools implement Netop Vision software
Netop has launched the Netop Get A Grant for
Education (NGAGE) program to help educators struggling
with shrinking budgets. Available until funds
run out, the program provides financial support for
schools to purchase an individual or site license for
the Netop Vision6 Class Kit, classroom-management
software that has been proven to improve student
achievement. Netop has $500,000 in funding for its
NGAGE grants, which are available on a first-come,
first-served basis. Grants of $200 to $450 are available
for classroom labs, and grants of $1,500 to $1,600
are available for a site or district license. The Vision6
Class Kit is priced at $999, but with an NGAGE grant
of $450, an educator would pay only $549 per classroom
or lab.
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