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October 1, 1995
Vol. 53
No. 2

How to Fund Technology Projects

Often the best way to garner funding for technology is to enter the competitive grants market.

As a teacher, principal, or central office person, you are committed to moving your students along the information superhighway and into the 21st century via technology. You have visited high-tech schools, read about what technology can do to improve academic achievement, and developed a technology plan tailored to the needs of your school or district. While all of this was time-consuming and labor-intensive, a greater challenge lies ahead. How do you get the funding necessary to purchase and implement the technology?
The answer to getting money for technology projects may lie in developing grant proposals to submit to federal, state, and/or private organizations. While some of these grant monies may be available on a formula basis, often the best way to garner such funding is to enter the competitive grants market. In doing so, you are competing with a variety of individuals and organizations for a limited amount of resources. Developing and writing a cohesive, well-researched grant proposal may give you the winning edge over other competitors. Having been on the writing team of numerous grant proposals for technology over the past several years, I recognize that winning proposals must show a knowledge of the vast uses of technology in the classroom and describe how that technology will support effective instruction and improve academic achievement. No longer is it enough merely to desire hardware and software; instead the applicant must show how that hardware and software will become a part of the total academic program.

The Grants Development Team

The first step in the grants process is to identify a need stemming from goals and objectives established in the school or district technology plan. The second step is to identify a group of individuals who have an interest in finding resources to solve the problem. These individuals form the grants development team.
Not only is it important to have persons with an interest in the project on this team, but you also need persons with a variety of skills. Some team members must possess skills in research, problem-solving, program development, technical writing, and budget development. In addition, at least one team member should have ties to the community and to local businesses and agencies. This person will be invaluable in soliciting the support of these groups for the grant project. In my experience, the library media specialist, interested teachers who are knowledgeable about current technology, central office personnel responsible for instructional and administrative technology, and one or two parents or businesspersons are the ideal mix for a grants development team.

Developing the Proposal

The majority of work in obtaining a grant takes place prior to actually writing the proposal. Grants development team members must identify the need or problem, then match that need or problem with funding sources that have similar priorities. This often takes a great deal of research and discussion, but it is a necessary step. Painful experience has shown that the best proposal submitted to a funder who does not have priorities in line with the project's aim is doomed! Figure 1 gives a short list of funders who have technology as a priority.

Figure 1. Potential Funders for Technology Projects

Alcoa Foundation, 2202 Alcoa Building, 425 Sixth Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15219-1850

Amoco Foundation, 200 E. Randolph Rd., M.C. 3704, Chicago, IL 60601

Annenberg/CPB Math and Science Project, 901 E. St., NW, Washington, DC 20004-2037

GTE Foundation, One Stamford Forum, Stamford, CT 06904

IBM, Corporate Support Programs International Business Machine Corporation, Old Orchard Rd., Armonk, NY 10504

Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, 1150 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 1020, Washington, DC 20036

National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22230

Toshiba America Foundation, 1251 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology, 600 Independence Ave., SW, Room 6236, Washington, DC 20202

United Technologies Corporation, United Technologies Building, Hartford, CT 06101

As soon as a funder has been identified, the actual writing of the proposal can begin. Persons newly involved in soliciting grants often want to begin with writing the proposal. This isn't wise. Each funding source has a different set of application guidelines that must be followed to the letter. Proposal writers should never make the mistake of writing a generic proposal and sending it to a number of funders. Each proposal must demonstrate that the writer has done the necessary background work in researching the funding source. And in my experience, one writer presents a clearer and more consistent picture of the project than does a team of writers with numerous writing styles.
As proposals for technology are developed, keep in mind several key points. First, the proposal should have as its main goal not the acquisition of technology, but the use of the technology to support increased student achievement. The written proposal must reflect how hardware and software will support the instructional program and change teaching methodology to reflect the way students learn. A staff development component must also be included. Staff development in concert with the acquisition of new technologies is a must. If you do not request money for staff development, you should still tell the funder how staff and students will be trained to use the technology.
Two of our middle schools recently submitted a proposal for obtaining graphing calculators for algebra classes. While the proposal only asked for funds to purchase classroom sets of calculators, much of the dialogue with the funder centered around training teachers to effectively use the calculators with their students. Even though our school district would fund the training, our funder wanted a detailed staff development plan before releasing funds to purchase the calculators.
Even more important in the proposal is a solid and well-researched rationale for the purchase and use of the technology. No longer is it enough merely to say that the technology is needed because it is the wave of the future. What is needed is an explanation of how the technology will be used to make students more marketable and productive citizens. Funders want to see a well-designed plan for how the technology fits into the overall instructional program and curriculum. For example, one of our elementary schools requested two computers and a laser printer to establish a publishing center. The main intent of the center was to have the students run it as a business, thus gaining lifelong skills. The proposal made clear that the hardware would be used only to make this intent a reality.
A final caution concerns the budget request. The budget must reflect the items mentioned in the narrative and include a detailed breakdown of the hardware and software needed to implement the project. This necessitates researching the most recent and accurate prices of the hardware (including computers, monitors, modems, CD-ROMs, scanners, and printers) and giving, if possible, brand names and model numbers. This information shows the potential funder that you have a knowledge of the appropriate hardware needed. The same is true of software requests. Funders want to know that solid educational software supports the goals and objectives of the project. Your budget should also include requests for funds for staff development and training, on-line services, and other materials and supplies.

How Great Is the Challenge?

As local education budgets become tighter, the challenge of obtaining money through the competitive grants process becomes greater. Nevertheless, the time-consuming process of developing and writing grant proposals for technology projects is worth the effort. While a proposal may not be funded the first time it is submitted, it can become a basis for developing proposals to other funders. Once you've written the first proposal, you can easily rework it to meet other funders' guidelines. If developed properly, competitive grant proposals can net those additional dollars that are needed to provide technology and help move students more effectively toward the next century.

Denise K. Schnitzer has been a contributor to Educational Leadership.

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