Building an Effective Grant Team

How to use your people and ideas to innovate.

Do you want to create innovative programs that help every child succeed?

This task is difficult without people, resources, and training. Grants can help you with all of these and much more. But receiving grants is more complex than filling out forms. It is bringing your district team together with a great idea and lots of planning.
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Strategic planning with the grant team is critical. Create a Logic Model to guide the plan.

Strategic planning for a grant needs to be closely aligned to the district's strategic plan. For instance, if STEM is a priority and the focus is on technology integration, then the strategic plan for the grant would need to be the same. Identify grants that fit the purpose you have outlined. Narrow your focus, decide on a three year plan for implementation, and gather grants that align. Create a logic model so everyone understands their role and responsibility.

A team often consists of Central Office personnel- representatives from Finance, Senior Staff, Accountability/Research and Superintendent; representatives from the schools involved- principal, teacher, and curriculum lead as well as a primary grant writer. This team usually meets about a year before the grant is due to align processes. Bring this group together to create a logic model. Seek out partnerships with other districts, IHEs, and community/business partners.

Implementation and sustainability plans must be thought about prior to writing the grant.

Grants are really just a tool to help you reach your overarching vision. Once you begin planning the grant you also need to decide how to implement and sustain. Implementation plans are written in great detail based on your grant narrative and outline everyone's responsibility once the grant rolls out.

The sustainability plan needs to be how you sustain the grant for at least five years after the grant is funded. Many times the sustainability plans discusses teacher leaders in your district being trained who can train teachers for years to come. The plan will also outline how purchased equipment can be most effectively used and which funds will sustain the critical elements of the plan after funding has run out. For example, if it is critical to sustain a person who implements the program then funds need to be prioritized prior to the grant showing this person will be sustained following the grant cycle. There are also sustainability funding that can be pursued to help with these costs.

Identifying Funding Sources

Creating a network of funding sources is important to helping you realize your dream. There are many available sources from private funders in your community to federal large scale grants. The more money oftentimes the more complex the requirements of documentation, implementation, evaluation, and sustainability.
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Federal Grants

If you are applying for a federal grant from the USDOE or National Science Foundation or others you will need to secure an outside evaluator and research team. There are reputable groups within North Carolina as well as outside North Carolina. Choosing an evaluator is critical to your success. The evaluation section will help you see if the program is successful and allow you to make mid-course adjustments based on the evaluation feedback. This process is critical to continuous improvement. There is a national toolkit based on how to effectively used evaluation to improve your programs.

Barriers and Successes

Barriers to implementation are lack of communication, lack of clear vision, dis-connectivity between districts and schools, funding sources not aligned to vision and busyness. Successes can lead to sustainability over multiple grants, long-term support for at-risk students, ability to realize a vision over time and the list goes on.