Sun Associates collaborates with school districts and state education agencies to write educational technology funding proposals, and to implement funded activities, including professional development and evaluation. We have found that successful funding proposals have several things in common. We invite you to share these 10 tips with your colleagues, and use them as a starting point for your next grant-planning meeting.
1. Read the Request for Proposals (RFP)
The number one rule for writing a successful grant is to read the RFP...and
then to follow the RFP's rules and guidelines when writing your proposal. Not
surprisingly, most unsuccessful proposals violate this basic rule. The RFP is
written for the specific purpose of providing prospective grantees with all
of the information that they need to write a successful proposal. Most grant-makers
spend a huge amount of time writing their RFP. They expect you to read it and
follow it carefully.
2. Write Appropriate Proposals
This follows from reading (and understanding) the RFP. Do not waste your time,
or the reviewers' time by submitting proposals that do not meet the guidelines
of the RFP. If an RFP says that it will not fund proposals for specific items,
expenditure categories, or for specific populations, then do not write
a proposal asking for these things. For example, it is quite common for grant-makers
to state that they will not provide funds for hardware and software. If this
is the case with your RFP, then do not write a proposal asking for funds
for hardware and software. Grant-makers follow their own rules to the letter,
and "exceptions" are not made. Rather, inappropriate proposals are
almost always simply rejected.
3. Follow the Structure Provided by the RFP
Another thing that virtually all RFPs provide is a "suggested" proposal
structure or table of contents. If your RFP provides such a structure, follow
it! Most of the time, this suggested structure forms the basis of the checklist
that reviewers will use when reading your proposal. Reviewers use a checklist
to determine if each proposal has all of the required elements, sections, etc.
Make their job easier, and thereby improve the chances that they will like your
proposal; organize your proposal by their structure.
4. Clearly State Your Proposal's Goals
All reviewers want to see your proposed project's goals. If you do not clearly
state these goals, then the assumption will be that you do not have goals. Goal-less
proposals are generally not funded. Furthermore, it is important that your goals
be aligned with the purposes of the grant program (as stated in the RFP) and
that they are reasonable given the scope of your proposed project and resources.
Good goals are at the core of all good proposals.
5. Align Your Proposal with Your Technology
Good goals are also at the core of good educational technology plans. Therefore,
when writing technology proposals, you should reference your planning goals.
Show how your proposal supports your broader goals and how it completes some
element (albeit a possibly small element) of your technology plan. Alignment
with planning goals gives your proposal a "big picture" that demonstrates
that the funds you are requesting will accomplish much more good than the specific,
anticipated, outcomes from the proposed project.
This is also a good place to mention that increasingly, technology proposals
that come from districts which do not have technology plans are not funded.
Funders expect grantwriters to have their proposals grounded in the long-term
vision and strategies expressed in a technology plan. While it is not often
necessary to include your technology plan with your proposal, it is always a
good idea (or in fact, often a requirement) to reference it in your proposal
and/or include it as an appendix.
6. Specifically State Your Project's Impact
on Teaching and Learning
What impact will your proposal have on teaching and learning? This is the bottom
line of any successful technology proposal. If you cannot show impact,
it is unlikely that your proposal will receive funding. Do not make the reviewers
search for your anticipated impact. Do not assume that they will understand
your impact unless you specify it. Specifically state how your project will
positively impact students and their educational environment.
7. Include Evaluation and Dissemination Components
In many cases, an RFP will dictate that you include one or both of these components.
Funders see the projects they fund as learning experiences for a larger educational
constituency and as guides for future funding inititiatives they might make.
Therefore, funders are interested in projects that can measure their success,
document their challenges, identify potential problems, and ask questions for
future research. This is the value of an evaluation component to your project.
Further, virtually all funders seek ways to share the outcomes and learnings
of their projects. This is the point of a dissemination component.
It is a common mistake for proposal writers to consider evaluation and dissemination
as "wastes" of often-tight project funds. Do not fall into this trap.
Evaluation and dissemination components are critical to successful projects.
Conscientious proposal writers, who have a "big picture" for their
project, devote sufficient project time and resources to evaluation and dissemination.
Even when the RFP does not specifically ask for one of these components, their
inclusion very much strengthens a proposal.
8. Realize that Not All Technology-Related
RFPs Fund "Computers"
In fact, most grant programs do not fund basic hardware, software, network
access, and other "infrastructure" needs. Rather, the majority of
technology-related grant programs now fund staff development and curriculum
development. Writing a proposal for one of these programs requires a through
understanding of not only what you will use, but how and why you will use it.
Another way of putting this is that few funders simply want to "give you
stuff." Instead, they are mostly interested in how you are putting "stuff"
to good use and creating positive impacts on teaching and learning.
Successful proposals are collaboratively written. Collaboration not only helps
in terms of editing and reviewing drafts, but more importantly it expands the
ideas in your proposal. Proposals that are obviously "one person's idea"
are not favorably reviewed. Further, proposals that involve several collaborating
partners are always more successful than those which are limited to a single
organization/school/individual. Collaboration shows that others believe in your
proposal's idea and will work to make it a reality.
10. Write, Modify, Resubmit
Few proposals are successful the first time around. If your proposed project is rejected by a funder, try again. Try with a different funder and if possible, resubmit the proposal to the original grant maker. Before you resubmit an idea, it is wise to incorporate any feedback you received on your rejected proposal. Remember, when resubmitting a proposal it is necessary to redraft the proposal document to the new RFP (in terms of organization, components, budget requirements, etc.). Do not simply photocopy your old proposal for the new submission and do not submit proposals that do not fully fulfill the current RFP.
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