Taking It For Granted, Part 3: Finding Funders


By Dr. Merewyn “Libba” Lyons

We’ve discussed the purpose of grants and how to develop your concept paper as you begin the grant application process. Now, you’re ready to start searching for funders. Where should you begin?

Start Close to Home 

  • Grants Department – If your district has a grants department, they are the first people you should see. As professional grant developers, they can help you identify sources of funding and help you further refine your concept and transform it into a grant proposal.
  • Local Education Foundation – Is there an education foundation that regularly supports your district’s teachers and schools with grants and other resources? If so, search the foundation’s web site for information concerning grants that they typically award and how to apply for them. Make an appointment to meet with them. Even if it doesn’t appear that your project is fundable by the foundation, you should still contact them and ask for an opportunity to meet and describe your project in person. Your local education foundation exists to support your schools, and your concept paper will provide valuable insights to them about the schools and how they might best be served. Even if they cannot fund your project, they know the community and will probably be able to suggest to you other funders who may be interested. Ask them for recommendations and contact information.
  • District Philanthropic Development Department – If your district is fortunate to have a development director, you definitely need to make an appointment to talk to this person. Districts with development departments routinely compile portfolios of needed projects that are not covered by the district’s operating budget, and present these opportunities to local funders for their consideration. You may be able to submit your concept for inclusion in the portfolio.
  • Community Philanthropies – Your community may have several philanthropies that are interested in funding projects to help students and teachers in your district. Examples are family foundations, community foundations, and your regional United Way. Most philanthropies have their own web sites that describe their purpose, funding priorities, application process, and whether or not they accept unsolicited applications. They will also identify who is eligible to apply for grants.


Corporate Philanthropies in Your Area

Many companies donate a percentage of their profits to philanthropic causes. What businesses are in your area? Do an internet search with each company’s name and the word “foundation” or “grants.” There are many opportunities for grants to support education. Here are a few examples:

Target | Best Buy | Lowe’s | State Farm

If you can’t find information about a local business and whether or not it offers grants or donations for education, consider writing a letter of inquiry in which you briefly describe your project and your needs for funding.

Beyond Your Community

There are many resources you can use to get information about potential funders within and outside your local area.

  • The Foundation Center offers free access to the Foundation Directory Online Quick Start. This tool allows you to search more than 100,000 foundations in the United States by name and location, and provides information about their purposes and areas of funding interest. This will save you a lot of time compared to doing random web searches, and will help narrow your field of potential funders.
  • Grants listings – there are many web sites that advertise educational grant opportunities. If you use the search terms “grant sources for education” you will find many. A few examples are:


Federal and State Grants

Your state department of education and the United States Department of Education offer large grants to support educational programs and initiatives.

  • Formula grants are awarded to states and districts based on the size and demographics of your student population (such as Title I)
  • Competitive grants support innovative programs to improve the quality of teaching and learning (such as the Teacher Incentive Fund, or the Invest in Innovation Fund)


To search for state grants, consult the web site for your department of education. For federal grants, see Grants.gov.

Generally speaking, state and federal grants are awarded to Local Education Agencies (LEAs), such as your school district. Occasionally, they are awarded as flow-through grants to individual schools for specific purposes, such as professional development, initiatives to support teaching and learning in content areas, or after school programs (such as the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant).

Keep in mind that applying for state and federal grants is generally much more complicated than applying for foundation or corporate grants, and definitely requires a dedicated and organized team to write a competitive application.

In the next part of this series, we’ll provide more detail about writing and submitting government grants. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss it!



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