How to Prepare for Grant Applications

Most grant applications are released 4-6 weeks before submissions are due. Here are some tips to help you prepare in advance for writing a grant.

  • Step 1
  • Step 2
  • Step 3
  • Step 4
  • Step 5
  • Step 6

Step 1

Determine if a grant is the best way to fund your project.

While the promise of a grant award is alluring, grants may not be the best way to fund your project. Writing a grant requires hard work, grant awards often take months before they are announced, and funding is not guaranteed. Before you decide to write a grant, consider if the following options might be better matches for your project:

  • Work with school and district administrators to determine if your project could be funded through existing local, state, or federal funds.
  • Consider fundraising for smaller classroom or school implementations. Ask for donations from local businesses, community organizations, service organizations, etc.
  • Post your small classroom or school project to a site such as Donors Choose or Adopt a Classroom.

Step 2

Form a planning committee.

Invite a variety of stake-holders to participate in planning the grant-funded project. Federal and state grants must usually be submitted by a district, so you will want administrative support for your project. In addition to district decision-makers, include parents of targeted students, community-based organizations, and local universities.

Step 3

Define your project.

While you can likely name several different changes you would like to implement in your school or district, you will have the best success with grants if you focus on a project with defined parameters and set goals. When identifying grants you would like to apply for, you will save time and effort by applying only to granting agencies that fund projects similar to yours. You should think through each of the following project aspects.

Project Goal
Answer these two key questions:

  1. What do I hope to accomplish with this project? 
  2. What students will be served by the project? 

For example, your goal might be to improve third-grade reading achievement, to teach technology literacy to eighth graders, or to improve math scores for English language learners.

If possible, align your project goal with existing goals outlined in school and district improvement plans, technology plans, etc.

Chosen Solutions
Once you know what your overall program goal is, you can begin to identify strategies and solutions to help your students and teachers achieve the goal. You might choose a new curriculum, a supplemental program for your existing curriculum, professional development for staff and teachers, tutors or interventionists, books and materials, etc. Be creative and choose the best solutions for your specific circumstances.

Having a general idea of what your project should cost will help you to identify which grants you should apply for. You don’t want to waste time submitting an application for $5,000 if you need $50,000 to implement your project. Remember to include costs for curriculum, supplies and materials, training, evaluation, staff salaries, benefits and stipends, etc.

Building partnerships with community organizations will strengthen your grant application and show the reviewer you have community support. Develop partnerships with agencies that can help you achieve your project goals. For example, a reading project might partner with a local library, or an afterschool program might partner with a local boys or girls club. Include partners on your project planning committee if you choose to use one. 

Step 4

Build your library of research.

Even before a grant application is released, there are several steps you can take to ensure you are ready to write the best application possible.

Gather data
Every grant application requires a needs statement, in which you make the case for why your school or district needs assistance. This section of the application is your first chance to grab the grant reviewer’s attention. Keep a file on hand with continually updated information such as

  • Demographic data, 
  • State assessment results, 
  • School report cards, 
  • Newspaper articles and reports, 
  • Parent, teacher, and student surveys, 
  • Focus group results, 
  • Attendance reports, 
  • Waiting lists for community programs that serve a similar purpose.

Provide supporting research
Well-written applications include research to strengthen their applications. Gather research citations from reputable sources that reinforce your need for the project and your choice of solutions.

Step 5

Review Best Practices.

If you are new to grant writing, you may wish to take some time to review best-practices of grant writing before you begin your own application.

  • Winning applications are available on for your reference. You may wish to read through some of these to see how successful grant writers describe their project strategies and goals.
  • The Foundation Center offers several free resources to help you understand the basics of grant writing, including live trainings at select locations, online tutorials, a webinar, and an audiobook.

Step 6

Identify grants.

Each grant will have specific requirements about how funds can be used. Once you have the basics of your project outlined, you can begin to search for grants that match your project. Use the following resources to identify possible grants:

  • The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance lists all federal grants. Use the search feature to identify grants that align with your focus area. 
  • also lists available federal grants. You can search for grants by keyword, category, and more. 
  • Your state department of education website will likely list available state and federal grants. 
  • The Foundation Center provides subscribers with comprehensive information on grant-making foundations. 

Once you have identified grants you would like to apply for, make note of any upcoming application due dates. Most requests for application are released four to six weeks before the application will be due. You may also wish to look at past due dates to get an idea for when the new application might be released.