Wondering why you just can’t attract those grant dollars for your tech initiatives? Try thinking ‘mini’ before ‘maxi.’
I’VE BEEN WRITING grant applications for
years, and though some weren’t worth a plug
nickel, more than 90 percent of my applications
have indeed been successful. Here’s
why: Over the years, I have discovered that
learning how to write mini-grants helped me
transition to writing successful major grants.
(Note: If you don’t get funded the first or second
time you apply for a grant, do not get discouraged!
There are usually many more applicants
than there are funds for grants, so just
keep at it—with some smart grant-writing
skills, the monies will start to flow in.)
Going for the Mini
I think of a mini-grant as any grant under
$5,000, but you can use your own definition.
The important thing to understand is that
many, many corporations and foundations
have mini-grant programs. Accessing the
websites of corporations and foundations in
your city, county, and state, before researching
grants opportunities elsewhere, will alert
you to the funding opportunities that are out there for the
asking. Now all you have to do is write the grant flawlessly.
The budget that you present to the funding agency
delineates the costs involved in carrying out your
project; prepare it carefully, because it has an impact
upon your credibility with the funding agency.
Regardless of the size of the grant opportunity, there
are six basic components to any grant application—
including the mini grant. Hit them all effectively, and you’ll
be on your way to racking up those minis, and becoming
a grant-writing pro.
The 6 Components of a Successful Mini-Grant Application
There may be differing opinions about what you should
include (and what you can skip) in a mini-grant application,
but as far as I’m concerned, no application should be
without the following well-fleshed-out components:
The needs assessment analyzes the extent of the
problem and the conditions you wish to change. The
statement of the problem or need is a representation of
the reason for your proposal.
Your goals should be general in nature, broad-based,
and overarching. They summarize what you want to accomplish
in your grant application. I recommended that you
state just one or two goals in your application; too many
and you diffuse attention from your primary goals and possibly
send up red flags about an overly ambitious project.
Objectives. When writing the objectives for your project,
I suggest you divide them into “program objectives”
and “process objectives.” Program objectives specify the
“outcomes” of your project; the end product. Program objectives should be measurable and time-specific, and
become the criteria by which your program will be evaluated.
Process objectives are also measurable and are written
to ensure that the program objectives are carried out.
- Example of program objective: At the conclusion of
the project period, at least 80 percent of the target students
will learn how to access the internet, research
globally, and write a term paper (including graphs and
charts) using Microsoft Word, as measured by a teacher
- Example of process objective: At the conclusion of the
project period, at least 80 percent of the target students
will have spent at least five hours per week learning how
to do research in the technology lab, as measured by
records kept by the technology lab assistant.
The activities (methods) section of your application will
explain in detail how you are going to achieve the desired
outcomes stated in your objectives. Activities explain what
will be done, who will do it, and when it will get done. Several
activities are presented for each objective. The activities
section should flow smoothly from the needs statement
and the program objectives.
Evaluation specifications. This part of your application
should help the funding agency determine the extent to
which the objectives of your project will be met and the
activities carried out. Be certain to describe your evaluation
plan as clearly and succinctly as you can. First, take a look
at the overall project. Study the goals, objectives, and activities.
If the objectives written are truly measurable, then it
should not be difficult to evaluate each objective. The
objectives should have built-in evaluation criteria. (See
The budget that you present to the funding agency delineates
the costs involved in carrying out your project, and
expresses what you are trying to accomplish. It is important
that you prepare this section carefully, because it has an
impact upon your credibility with the funding agency. You
might want to consult on this section with your immediate
supervisor or business manager as you break out your
costs. A number of funding agencies have a specific budget
page that they want you to complete; others ask you to prepare
your own budget page. For a mini-grant, the following
budget categories will suffice for most funding agencies:
- Fringe benefits
- Total costs
Need a little more structure before you work up that first
mini-grant proposal? No problem; there are many sample
mini-grant program applications available to work with, easily
searchable on the web. [Editor’s note: Stan Levenson’s
new book, Big-Time Fundraising for Today’s Schools, (Corwin
Press, 2007) provides a two-page application on
pages 55 and 56. You can use this application to practice
putting together a mini-grant or to actually submit to a funding
agency that has no standard application. It covers all
components that most funding agencies are looking for.]
LEARN MORE: Webinar On Demand
Stan Levenson offers step-by-step instructions for obtaining
funds to build and support a campus communications network
in the Campus Technology webinar, “Funding Your Campus
Communications Systems.” View the on-demand event here and
find the accompanying whitepaper here.
No Mini Satisfaction!
Take the time to produce a well-thought-out grant proposal;
you’ll be surprised how thrilling it is to see that proposal
for technology funding—no matter how “mini”—succeed.
Even a mini-grant will bring you much recognition and
acclaim among your colleagues, and once you learn how to
write the small ones, you should have little difficulty snagging
the big ones.