As we all begin to feel the effect of the downturn in the economy, schools will inevitably need to explore other ways of generating additional income. This area has traditionally been secondary to the actual business of running your school. However, in order to survive the present financial challenges, SBMs need to be prepared to consider other avenues of income generation. One method that can prove very effective and therefore lucrative — for schools — is bidding for independent grant funding.
So how do you start?
Funding can be sourced from a large variety of sources. Even in times of economic uncertainty there are still grants available to qualifying schools. These can be obtained for a wide range of projects and will typically cover a selection of the following.
- Sporting grants: may include the purchase of equipment, support for education in healthier lifestyles, and a variety of sporting activities.
- Environment grants: supporting a wide range of conservation and green initiatives, such as water and energy conservation, gardening and sustainable development projects.
- Building development grants: may fund larger building projects in schools, such as the redevelopment of the existing buildings, as well as smaller new build projects.
- Life skills grants: supporting initiatives that enrich the curriculum, such as the development of a cookery or sculpture club.
- Equipment grants: for the purchase and replenishment of extraordinary resources for schools.
- ICT grants: to support ICT development in the curriculum.
- Drama and music grants: to enhance the curriculum through exploration of the arts.
- Language grants: often used to bring another dimension to learning languages, particularly at primary level.
How to find grants
A sound starting point is to research education grant sites online. You will find detailed information about the grants currently available and an indication of what is required to be successful. Some time and patience are required at this stage as there is such a wealth of information about the different grants that you may feel daunted by the sheer volume of data to be processed!
There are many grant information sites. Some are free to access, but most offer a free trial and then a nominal fee per annum. For this you will get regular email alerts that will inform you which grants are currently available and give an outline of the criteria that need to be met in order to access the funding. Some example sites are:
- Grants4Schools at www.grants4schools.info
- GRANTfinder at www.grantfinder.co.uk
- GRANTnet at www.grantnet.com
- Grants Online at www.grantsonline.org.uk
In addition to these resources are grant-funding providers that are well known and well established. Lottery funds, for example, make funding available to community groups for a variety of projects.
- Lottery funding overview: brings together all the various offshoots of the National Lottery fund, with a website at http://www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/
- People’s millions: supports the improvement of community environments and facilities, with a website at http://bit.ly/pmillions
- Heritage lottery fund: supports projects that are concerned with the exploration and protection of our national heritage, with a website at http://bit.ly/hlfinfo
- Access to nature programme: supports organisations that encourage a better understanding of the outdoor environment, with a website at http://bit.ly/access2nature
It is also worth finding out about local charities, grants and trusts. Sometimes they may have exactly the right niche for your project.
Which grant is the right one for your school?
Once you have a comprehensive list of what is available to you, you can start to investigate the terms and conditions of each of the grants available, plus the criteria for application. You need to be aware that these criteria are very stringent; you should only embark on the application process if you are confident that you absolutely meet the criteria and have evidence to support your application.
Neela Jane Somasundram, Chair of the Institute of Fundraising’s Trusts and Statutory Special Interest Group, and Major Gifts Manager at Marie Curie Cancer Care states, “Good research is essential to making your application stand out. Learn as much as you can about the funder before applying; this gives you the best chance of tailoring your bid to their interests and avoiding that dreaded waste paper bin.”
Steps to success
Once selected, there are several steps that you can take to ensure that your bid stands out above all the others. Only a small percentage of applications will get through this stage and you want to make sure that yours is one of them. This part of the process can be likened to writing a winning job application. As such, it should be approached with the same tenacity and enthusiasm. Make sure that your application stands out above the rest.
Developments for the future
Your first application for grant funding may seem overly lengthy and involved, taking up an inordinate amount of your precious time. It is worth remembering that, in general, most subsequent applications that you make will often ask for the same basic information, such as: how many on roll; how many staff; how much ICT equipment; previous funding streams that you have successfully accessed, etc. Such information is easily transferred to future applications. The more organised you are about collating and storing this information, the more grants you can bid for to increase your chance of winning. So the investment of your time and effort should pay off. Good luck!