When it comes to our students’ creativity, the sky’s the limit. Unfortunately, the same isn’t true of the school budget! There’s nothing more frustrating than having great ideas but lacking the funds to make them a reality. Thankfully there are a wide variety of elementary school grants available out there to choose from, though knowing where to find them can be a bit trickier.
That’s why we’re sharing some of our own research with you, in the hopes that it will make your search a little bit easier. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best places to look for funding opportunities—including our own many grant offerings and contests—as well as some quick tips for how to win those grants once you do find them. Good luck, and happy hunting!
Where to Find Funds
Thanks to the world wide web, it’s ridiculously easy these days to access huge amounts of information on anything from elementary school grants to how many licks it actually does take to get to the center of a lollipop (about 364, in case you were wondering). Sifting through that information, however, can be a bit of a chore. Rather than embark blindly on some epic Google quest, narrow your search options a bit with these five great starting points.
#1: Keep tabs on a few frequently updated, well-organized list sites.
Some websites have elected to do most of your work for you by compiling and cataloging long lists of grants and other school funding opportunities. Let them. While they won’t cover every single grant out there, they’re a fantastic place to begin your search, as you can tell at a glance which opportunities are most likely applicable to you, versus having to click through every single one to find out. Bookmark these sites and make a note on your calendar to check back periodically for new additions to the list. Some good places to start your search:
- At Studentreasures, we offer grant listings along with project examples, which are organized by grant type.
- Teacherscount.org and GrantsAlert.com all offer databases filled with a wide variety of educational grants, including literacy grants such as those offered by the American Library Association, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, the Pitney Bowes Foundation and more.
- Grants for Teachers lets you specifically search for elementary school grants in addition to filtering by subject and state.
#2: Try taking a look at a few teaching associations.
Another great resource for finding school grants comes in the form of teaching associations. Designed for teachers—often by teachers—these organizations’ number one priority is supporting educational endeavors. Some key associations to check out first:
- Fund for Teachers offers multiple grants and has created a handy interactive map to help you choose the appropriate grant to apply for.
- The National Education Association (NEA) offers student achievement grants.
- Smaller, more focused associations like the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, often lack grants of their own to offer, but may provide subject-specific grant listings for your consideration.
#3: Check big-name retail stores that offer kid-relevant products and services.
Many big-name retail companies recognize that kids have played a big role in getting them where they are today—and some are willing to give back and help support those kids by offering funding opportunities for schools all over the country:
- The W.K. Kellogg Foundation funds numerous classroom and school projects, including replenishing classroom supplies and library books, supporting child care and afterschool programs, renovations and more.
- Crayola runs an annual Creative Leadership Grant that awards select schools $2,500 along with $1,000 worth of Crayola school products.
- Target is involved in a variety of school funding projects as well as more community-based soccer grants and arts awards.
Though they offer some of the biggest prizes, retail stores shouldn’t be your only stop for elementary school grants, as these opportunities are extremely competitive. On the other hand, if you want to win the lotto, you have to buy a ticket first—or in this case, send in an application! Just be sure to pick only a few favorites and combine them with other opportunities, rather than focusing all of your grant application efforts on retail stores alone.
#4: Take a peek at a few publishing companies.
Retail stores aren’t the only ones looking to give back. Publishing companies, particularly those geared towards education and elementary-level reading, are another great potential funding resource:
- Studentreasures offers multiple grant opportunities to teachers who publish student work using their free publishing kits, including a social media contest, grant giveaways and their annual National Book Challenge.
- Pearson’s grant database offers support services like conducting custom searches and free grant application reviews, as well as a step-by-step guide to the grant application process.
- Likewise, Scholastic runs several contests a year for K-12 students, some of which include cash prizes as well as various classroom tools and resources.
#5: Consider crowdfunding.
We teachers know all about bake sales and books fairs, and asking kids to sell chocolate bars and catalogs to fundraise. All are classic moves, but flawed in one way: your audience is limited. Your students run to their neighbors, relatives, friends from other schools—the same people they asked last year, and the year before.
Online fundraising, on the other hand, opens up your offer to a much broader pool of potential supporters. Crowdfunding is a quick and convenient way to raise money for anything from buying enough craft supplies to funding a field trip to Washington D.C. While crowdfunding success is by no means guaranteed, you can make the most of your campaign by taking advantage of education-focused crowdfunding sites and ones that offer specific fundraising options for teachers, like:
- DonorsChoose, which is specifically designed for classroom fundraising and is completely free for teachers to use.
- AdoptAClassroom, which allows donors to give money to broader causes, including funding classrooms in disaster-affected areas, special education funding and more.
- PledgeCents, which allows you to create fundraising campaigns under specific categories, including education, youth sports and student organizations.
How to Get Funded
All right. You’ve scanned the lists, read the postings, and picked a few elementary school grants to apply for. Now you need to make sure you’re doing everything you can to give you and your kids your best shot at approval. But how exactly do you do that?
While every grant, award and contest will have its own unique rules and regulations to follow, there are a few key steps to keep in mind that will help guide you through the grant application process:
- Prioritize. More computers or a professional-grade projector might be nice, but if desks desperately need fixing or old, worn-out textbooks need replacing, it’s better to apply to grants that can help you take care of those things first.
- Do your homework. Before starting an application, make sure you know exactly what the organization you’re sending your application to is looking for. Don’t waste your valuable time filling out a ten-page form only to find out you’re ineligible.
- Divide and conquer. The bigger the grant, the greater your competition will be. Rather than throw everything you’ve got at the biggest wins, split your time and resources between just a few large grants and several more smaller, specific ones that you can combine to cover different costs.
- Get your students involved. Some of the world’s greatest ideas have evolved from the fearless creativity of kids. Take advantage of your own students’ imaginations and ask them to help you brainstorm project ideas, fundraising opportunities and more.
Put your kids’ creativity to good use and involve them in your brainstorming process.
- Tell a story. When filling out the inevitable “why” of any grant application, remember that the most convincing argument is a narrative one. Rather than just talking about what you need, explain how your students will use it, learn from it and grow because of it.
- Build connections. Don’t just take the money and run. Thank the review team for their time and consideration, regardless of the outcome of your application. If you do get a grant, show how much you appreciate it. Send personal thank-you notes. Send photos of all the great things that have come from winning that grant or award. Show that you deserved to win it—and that you deserve to win it again next time.
Fund Your Students’ Creativity Today
While your classroom budget may not be as limitless as your students’ imaginations, we’re lucky to live in a world where funding opportunities are more plentiful and easily accessible than ever before. By keeping an eye on prime resources like grant listing websites, teaching associations, retail stores and publishing companies—and perhaps starting a crowdfunding campaign as well—you can maximize your chances of winning a much-needed elementary school grant.
Don’t forget about your greatest resource of all—your students! Not only can they help generate unique ideas for projects and alternative funding solutions, their creativity and talent open doors to opportunities you simply would not have access to otherwise. Publishing a classbook together, for example, is a great way to show potential funders what your students are capable of while teaching your students about the art of writing, the publication process and exploring their own potential. In the end, the most valuable thing that comes from applying for grants isn’t the funding itself, but the learning opportunities found along the way.