(The Five Habits of Highly Effective Competitive EETT Grant Writers)
If this column were a game show, it would be Jeopardy. I’d begin by saying, “I’ll take Great Mistakes in Grant Writing for $100, Alex.” The answer that is revealed reads, “Too many grant writers.” I quickly ring in with my response, “Who writes grants in isolation?”
This, we’re afraid, is too often the case. From our perspective as grant trainers and groomers, we encounter too many grant writers who ask for CTAP’s assistance only at the last minute. Don’t repeat their mistake by assuming you’re smarter than the grant readers. Successful grant applicants, and those who have effectively implemented Competitive EETT grants, share a variety of behaviors. As you begin to prepare your application, CTAP recommends you adopt these five habits.
1. Read the RFA
While seemingly simplistic, the Competitive EETT RFA is both complex and specific about grant requirements. The 13 page scoring rubric is a critical road map that should be compared to existing drafts throughout the writing process. Keep your highlighter in hand as you read the RFA multiple times.
2. Work Closely with CTAP
The biggest mistake made by unsuccessful writers is to work in isolation. CTAP personnel are professional grant trainers and groomers whose primary goal is to help you craft an intelligent, well-written plan that exceeds the criteria. Shortly after the RFA is released, CTAP regions host grant training workshops to assist you in preparing your plan, they’ll share a writing template that includes the proper formatting and all required forms, and they’ll offer assistance in collecting teacher and student data for your initial benchmarks. More importantly, CTAP will encourage you to continually submit application drafts. Their critical, non-partisan eye, is an essential grant writing step which will result in detailed advice for improving both your application and your chances for being funded. Especially important is CTAP guidance for your initial drafts to help correct any missteps or misalignment with the criteria. It is not unusual for CTAP staff to read five or more drafts of a successful application.
3. Assemble an inclusive grant writing team
Given the grant’s complex requirements and a brief submission timeline, a team approach facilitates stakeholder buy-in. An inclusive team is necessary as you divide up the many tasks required to assemble the application and it’s 25 page narrative. Your team, comprised of teachers and administrators from your intended target schools, as well as district technical and curricular representation, will provide a solid base of creative ideas. It will also help to ensure that all partners buy-in to the grant’s objectives and activities. From this larger group you’ll assemble a small writing team that will meet and write throughout the brief timeframe. The team’s grant concept and educational solutions must be shared with potential target teachers and administrators who will be charged with implementing the grant’s activities. Without their initial support and guidance, successful applications often result in an unsuccessful implementation. Create a team and share the load.
4. Determine your overall curricular objectives
All grants are about creating an elegant solution for a given problem. Having read the RFA, attended the CTAP grant inservice and assembled an inclusive team, the next step is to brainstorm solutions. How and in which subjects can technology be utilized to improve student academic achievement? Working with your intended target group, which curricular units will be infused with technologies, what data will be collected to mark your progress, and what professional development is necessary in order to implement the grant’s benchmarks?
5. Think data, all the time
Project evaluation is not only the section with the most points; it’s also woven into all the plan’s components. Once you’ve determined your target student and teacher group and established teacher support, appoint a team member to collect student achievement data, student technology use data, and teacher technology proficiency data. CTAP can assist you in setting up both a target teacher group as well as student groups in EdTechProfile. After teachers and students have completed the assessment, CTAP can help select specific data points for use in your application. Then, during grant implementation, you’ll continue to collect the same data points on a regular basis in order to measure progress towards your benchmarks.
Overall, grant writing can be rewarding experience that unites a district’s vision for utilizing technology to improve student achievement. CTAP offers our assistance to work with you throughout the process.