Traveling the Yellow Brick Road of Grant Writing

Year after year as surveys and market research are issued, the top pain point expressed by school and district decision-makers is the lack of funds for education.  In the quest for uncovering the needed financial resources for their students and staff, many turn to grants. In fact, a recent Gallup and NewSchools Venture Fund report noted applying for grants is a key choice of principals (61%) and administrators (75%) to purchase digital learning tools.

Yet when it comes to writing a proposal, the funding challenges are often intensified. Grant writing for schools and school districts can be daunting, complex, time consuming, and resource draining.  But as a company selling to school, you can ease the pain of the grant writing process for your customers. Often an initial reaction might be to hire a grant writer for the school district. Please be aware some states have regulations regarding the commercialization of activities in public schools. The General Accounting Office notes many variances among the states when it comes to commercialization, which includes grants and fundraising.  For instance, one state noted below, issues a clear warning to the districts about “free” grant writing services.

Beware of Free Grant Writing

There are companies that operate online offering “free” grant writing services that are not free. Some require you sign a contract before receiving an award that ask you to purchase from a third party in exchange for their services if awarded.

However, you cannot use grant funds before you receive the award and any purchases must be allowable. Agreements entered into before you receive a grant award are not payable with funds. We recommend that you contact your attorney before entering into any agreements.

From Evaluation Guidelines in RFA: No more than 4% of each program’s total budget can be used for local evaluation efforts. You may NOT use grant funds to pay for grant writing or make purchases, enter into any contract or incur expenses before you have a signed grant agreement. -pg. 22 of Iowa RFA

Example: If you receive an award of $100,000- You may spend up to $4,000 on local evaluation.

Grant Writing expenses are paid with your funds and are not reimbursable with grant funds.

So what are the ways to support the grant writing need? uses proven practices based on nearly five decades of funding knowledge and experience in grant writing. Here are some key strategies when working with schools and school districts in grant writing.

  1. Know the target. With a good tool like RFPMatchOnDemand, you will be able to review a host of possible grants. Target those that fit your solution and the schools need. Scope out a wish list of future grants that you can share with the school or district. Consider the deadlines and allow sufficient time for the school district to adequately plan for a response.
  2. Offer In-Kind Support. This might involve a webinar by a grant expert who conducts training on how to write the grant. It could be supplying “grant” language on how your product fits their need and solution. Another support may be compiling research such as white papers and other sources you can share. You may even offer to serve as a “reader,” providing them a different viewpoint during the writing process.
  3. Build Internal Capacity. Instead of hiring grant writers, consider grant coaches who can guide, direct, and give constructive feedback during the process. This empowers the schools to “own” the program and enables them to develop skills and talents to tackle more opportunities in the future. The skills learned in grant writing are transferrable to high quality program planning and development.
  4. Grant a Grant.Should you want a more philanthropic approach, you may want to provide grant-writing services to schools. Again, be mindful of state laws and regulations governing commercial activities in public schools.
  5. Be a Trusted Partner. The best grants are team efforts, as no one should go alone!

As we mentioned on our sister website,, grants are often like the Wizard of Oz.  A lot of noise, confusion and fear that dissipates once the curtain is peeled back.  Yet, also remember there were three others (and Toto) supporting Dorothy to get to the end of the Yellow Brick Road.

Good luck and may you not encounter any flying monkeys, they are the worst.