Education Grants: Your Guide To Securing Funding
Education grants are an invaluable resource for all schools — kindergarten through high school, public and private alike — as they provide important financial support to address budget shortfalls, fund critical projects, and promote educational excellence.
Grants are a crucial support system, whether you’re a teacher looking for more classroom supplies for your elementary students, a high school principal hoping to install new learning technology, or a district that wants to do more to reach underserved communities. One of the best reasons for pursuing a grant is that, unlike loans, they don’t need to be paid back if the funds are spent in accordance with the terms of the award.
Even if you’re not actively pursuing a grant, it’s important to understand your options, including federal funding, state funding, nonprofits, and private funding. At SmartLab, we’ve worked with many educators and districts as they searched, applied for, and utilized education grants. Here’s what you need to know about how to find grants, land those opportunities, and explore your funding options.
What Educators Need to Know about Grant Money for Schools
While most government and private grants for education are targeted toward public schools and districts (also referred to as Local Education Agencies or LEAs), grants do exist for both nonprofit and for-profit private schools. The most important step in securing a grant for your school or district is to determine if you’re eligible.
- First, determine if you’re applying as an individual educator or if you’ll be representing a larger organization, such as a club, department, or even your entire school or district. Once you know this, you’ll need to check your eligibility to apply.
- All grants have a section in the official grant announcement explaining eligibility. To determine your eligibility, you’ll need to review the requirements of who the grant was established for and what the money will be used for:
- Most grants are established to help public schools cover costs and support the educational experience — especially those schools with at-risk or low-income student populations.
- Nonprofit schools, especially those with 501(c)(3) status, also are generally eligible for a higher number of grants.
- Private and for-profit schools will have the fewest grant options to apply for, but opportunities do exist. These schools just may have to work a little harder to establish their eligibility.
- If you are a school that is a part of an LEA or district, check with your principal to determine which grants are acceptable to apply for. This is especially true if the grant affects elements like staffing, professional development, investments in technology, or other resources for the district since applying for the grant could complicate other funding efforts. Your LEA may have funding restrictions or limitations, so be sure to check and secure approval before making any applications.
- Note that some grants also require the LEA to be the lead fiscal agent, which is the organization that agrees to accept and maintain responsibility for grant funds on your behalf. In this case, school principals are often able to liaise with school district officials to secure approval to apply for the funding. For more details on fiscal agents, see this overview from the NEA Foundation.
- In addition to the grant guidelines and eligibility criteria, you also want to research the deadlines. Grants submissions may require additional documents, attachments, or other forms. You don’t want to wait until the last minute to submit in case there are any oversights or technical issues.
Tips for Applying to Education Grants
Have you found a grant that you’d like to apply to? Here’s some helpful tips and advice.
- Carefully consider your eligibility for the grant and take the time to consult with the school principal. If you are not eligible for a specific funding opportunity, or if there is some conflict with the LEA, then you will waste a lot of time and money completing the application process.
- Start your grant application with an understanding of what you’re trying to achieve. You want to clearly articulate your goals, objectives, and expected outcomes. Tailor your proposal to address the grantor’s priorities and demonstrate how your project aligns with their objectives.
- Understand that grants follow a linear life cycle that goes beyond the application process, some of which will have additional requirements and responsibilities. Generally speaking, there are three phases:
- Pre-Award Phase — This is the period of time after the deadline has passed and the organization starts to make its award decisions. Some may even request interviews or site visits as part of the evaluation process. Be prepared to talk more about your proposal and provide additional material as needed.
- Award Phase — This is when the organization sends out the official award decisions and notifications. If your application is not successful, consider requesting feedback from the grantor to improve your future applications. If you are awarded the grants — congratulations! When you accept, you are obligated to carry out its full terms and conditions.
- Post-Award Phase — Depending on the grant, there can be a significant amount of work after the award. Be aware that some grants require a rigorous amount of data and reporting that have to be recorded and reported. The terms and conditions of the grant may also require audit(s) and the submission of a final report detailing how the funds were spent.
- To expand on that last point, you’ll want to be aware of the full responsibilities of reporting after an award has been granted. Depending on the post-award requirements, you and other school representatives may have to make a significant investment of time and effort, sometimes for years down the line. Make sure you know what you’re signing up for.
You can find more detailed information about education grants at Grants.gov, including definitions of terms, overviews of processes, and details on grant programs. As to where to find the grants themselves, we’ve broken them down into five major categories of funding:
Federal Grants and Funding
As the largest supplier of government grant money for schools, the U.S. federal government has several departments, agencies, and foundations that offer financial assistance. There are federal grants for state and local educational agencies, K-12 schools, community and faith-based organizations, and other entities involved in education.
Explore the following federal grant opportunities:
- National Science Foundation (NSF): This independent federal agency is one of the primary funding agencies for scientific research and education in the United States. The primary goals of the NSF are to advance scientific knowledge, foster innovation, and promote STEM education in the United States. NSF grant resources include:
- U.S. Department of Education (DoE): This department oversees and implements federal education policies, programs, and initiatives across the United States. The DoE administers a significant portion of federal funding for education and awards grants to states, school districts, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations to support a wide range of educational initiatives, including teacher training, literacy programs, and school improvement efforts.
- Office of Elementary & Secondary Education: This office of the United States Department of Education (OESE) is responsible for overseeing federal programs and policies related to elementary and secondary education. One of the main roles of the OESE is distributing federal funding to support K-12 education, including the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. The ESSER funds were established to assist schools with COVID-19 prevention and post-COVID response activities in support of students’ social-emotional well-being and academic achievement. ESSER funds are available until September 2024.
It’s important to note that though federal grants are widely available — or perhaps because they’re open to such a broad range of schools — they are often not the first choice for government grant money. Some federal grants may have requirements that aren’t applicable to your state, such as meeting Common Core standards, or lack the specific assistance needed to reach a state’s unique student population. That’s why it’s recommended to look into regional and local options, such as what’s offered by your state government.
State Grants and Funding
Each U.S. state has its own state-funded grants and programs offered by different entities, which can include the state department of education, offices of public instruction, offices of health and human services, or state arts agencies.
Start your search on the website of your state’s department of education for details about available grants and other sources of funding. Generally they do a good job of consolidating all grants that are available through the state’s DoE or are available for LEAs within that state.
For example, in SmartLab’s home state of Colorado, many schools apply for the BEST Grant Program to help renovate, update, and build schools and classrooms.
See The Grantsmanship Center for an overview of specific grant resources on a state-by-state basis. After you’ve explored what’s available on the state level, your next step should be to see what’s available in terms of nonprofit and private grants.
Nonprofit Grants and Funding
There are many philanthropic and nonprofit organizations that offer grants and funding for education. Be aware that many of these grants tend to be on a smaller scale when compared to government education grants, with a limited amount of funds that range anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. One single nonprofit grant may not be enough to fund your initiative, so be sure to understand the scale of what you’re trying to achieve and the total amount of funding your project requires.
These grants tend to have very specific requirements as well, so you’ll want to have a clear idea of your initiative to narrow your search and point you in the right direction. There’s no set timeline for these grants; some may be awarded annually, while others may be one-time opportunities, so you’ll want to conduct regular searches to see what’s available.
Here are some of the major grants offered by well-established nonprofit organizations:
- American Association of Educators Classroom Grant
- American Association of School Librarians Innovative Reading Grant
- NEA Learning & Leadership Grants
- McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation Teacher Development Grants
- Gravely and Paige Grants for STEM Teachers
- Fund for Teachers
For further exploration, visit grant funding aggregate sites like GrantWatch.
Private Grants and Funding
Corporations and private enterprises also have charitable programs where they give back to their communities, many of which can apply to education. One side benefit of utilizing private funding is that it can be a great source of publicity or marketing for your school. It can be an efficient way to connect with local businesses and organizations and members of the community.
Like nonprofit education grants, there’s no set timeline or consistency to private grants. Conduct regular searches or consult with the school’s principal or a member from the LEA for leads. The following are examples of grants for schools offered by major national corporations:
Some organizations that SmartLab has worked with include:
- Gill Foundation — A leader in funding for equity in schools with a mission to secure equality for LGBTQ students.
- Success Foundation — A private donor committed to advancing PK-12 education in the 6th congressional district of Colorado.
- Campos EPC — Headquartered in Denver, Campos EPS is dedicated to supporting future engineering and construction professionals.
- MidAmerica Industrial — This Tulsa, Oklahoma industrial park is invested in providing local students with skills needed for the workforce.
For more information on these private donors and other funding partners we’ve worked with, see the SmartLab page on education grants and other funding opportunities.
Other Sources of Funding
Thanks to the rise of digital technology, crowdfunding has gained in popularity and viability as a legitimate and successful fundraising process. Online campaigns are an increasingly valuable tool for raising money and building a network of support. However, money from crowdfunding tends to be more limited than established grants, as there’s no guarantee of what the funding amount will be, which makes it a good source of funding for smaller scale projects, but not ideal for larger goals.
Popular crowdfunding sites include:
Education Grant FAQs
What types of grants are available for public schools?
Education grants for public schools can come from federal, state, and local government sources, as well as private foundations and organizations. The availability of specific grants may vary depending on factors such as the school’s location, student demographics, and educational goals.
Is my private school eligible for funding and grants?
While most education grants are intended for public education or nonprofit organizations, private and for-profit schools do have options for funding and grants. Check with your local education foundations for upcoming funding opportunities.
Can I apply for multiple types of grants?
Yes, you don’t have to rely on just one source for your grant money. Rather than trying to secure all your funding from one grant, it’s pretty common to apply to multiple grants from different sources. You can take what’s called a “blend and braid” approach by combining two or more funding streams.
- Braided funding combines multiple funding streams toward one purpose while separately tracking and reporting on each source of funding.
- Blended funding combines multiple funding streams for one purpose and does not differentiate or track individual sources.
What federal grants is my school eligible for?
Your school’s eligibility for federal grants will vary based on factors such as the school’s location, student population, and specific needs. To see which grants you may qualify for, start by visiting the websites of federal grant programs that are commonly available to public schools, such as the U.S. Department of Education’s Grant Programs webpage and Grants.gov.
What private grants is my school eligible for?
There are a lot of private grant opportunities for schools, and they change every year. Start by researching private foundations, corporations, nonprofit organizations, and community groups that offer grants in the field of education. Consider visiting the Foundation Center’s Foundation Directory to start your search.
Talk to SmartLabs about Creating Opportunities for STEM Grants
One of the biggest needs in education today is technology that can teach modern skills to students — and that’s where grants come in. Over the past few years there has been a shift in beliefs about the purpose of STEM education. The need is not longer to prepare students for STEM-specific jobs but to help them develop STEM literacy. It’s no longer about the jobs in STEM, but the STEM within every job.
One of the best ways to help your students master the skills of tomorrow is with a SmartLab, which provides STEM learning environments and curricula founded on project-based learning principles. A grant can help you secure the funding you need to make this opportunity a reality and help alleviate the cost of installation.
Ready to get started? Contact us today for more information and to take the first steps on your next educational partnership.