By Dr. Amy Burkman
Director of M.Ed. in Administration and Supervision, American Public University
Grant writing is an essential skill for the 21st century administrator. With the serious budget crisis facing America’s schools, grants are a key to supplementing major budget deficits. Grant writing has not traditionally been taught as an administrator skill, but at American Public University (APU) we’re pioneering the movement to ensure that future administrators are prepared for a new era in leadership.
Learning grant writing online provides our students with an authentic grant writing experience. The entire grant process now takes place technologically from application, to feedback, to funding. There is very little human contact in the application process. By learning grant writing skills in a virtual format, students can become comfortable with the process while gaining applicable knowledge.
Step One: Application Packets
Students are first exposed to a variety of grant application packets. These packets include the original call for applications, a completed application and the feedback provided to applicants. An equal number of funded and unfunded applications are evaluated by the student. For example, when the student is given the grant packet the student does four things:
- Read the call for proposals. This is an official notice posted that explains the criteria for the grant, timeline for accepting proposals, and the directions for completing and submitting an application.
- Create a rubric for assessing the grant. The student uses the call for proposals to create a rubric for how he would evaluate the grant proposals based on the criteria and the directions.
- Read and assesses the completed application. A student will read through a completed proposal and then use the rubric developed in step two to evaluate the application.
- Read the official feedback from the grant evaluators. In this final step, the student will read the official feedback from the grant evaluators and compare his or her understanding to that of the official granting body.
This provides the student with an understanding of the feedback process and allows the student to evaluate the skills needed to be successful in grant writing.
Step Two: ID Granting Sources
The second step in the process is to identify granting sources. There are a variety of public and private granting sources, many of which are largely unknown. Students create a resource that identifies various sources of grants that meet a variety of needs.
Step Three: Deciding on a Grant
Students have the opportunity to complete a grant application of their choice. There are some websites, such as http://www.grantsalert.com and http://www.schoolgrants.org that provide lists of grants. Students can also perform a simple online search for grants in specific areas. The grant writing process is supported by videos and podcasts of successful grant writers giving tips as well as opportunities for peer review. There are even several sites dedicated to giving tips for writing grants through: The School Funding Center, National Institutes of Health, and the United Nations.
Final Step: Writing and Reviewing a Grant
As a final step, students review the grants of the other students in the class using the original call for proposals to develop rubrics specific to each individual grant.
Preparing administrators is becoming tougher and the need for creative funding isn’t going to go away. This is one of the best ways to offer a useful tool for the administrator’s tool kit!