Collaborate for school funding success

Districts take a new look at an old funding approach
By: | Issue: January, 2015
December 18, 2014

Are you ready for another year of doing more with less?

This year, let’s flip this funding challenge into an approach that enables your school district to get a share of the shrinking financial resources. A key approach to winning grants is collaboration.

Why collaborate?

Collaboration is not new. We talk about it, we provide workshops on it and we practice it in our schools and classrooms.

Collaboration can range from very simple to extremely complex. Nonprofit organizations know collaboration is vital to their existence.

Grant seekers know collaboration as “the art” to winning grants. Collaboration:

Helps your school district if you do not have visibility or an extensive track record in managing grants.
Shows potential funders that your school district can leverage resources for better investments.
Provides greater access to research-based ideas and models that have proven evidence of effectiveness.
Becomes an affordable avenue to find solutions.
Broadens the impact and creates more sustainability for your program.
Increases your success rate for winning grants.

You can find strength and success by joining with other school districts, state departments of education, nonprofit organizations, for-profits, universities and other service providers. Collaboration is within reach of every school district. The new ways rural districts are addressing financial constraints provide examples of successful collaboration.

“The Challenge of Teaching Science in Rural America,” an article in The Atlantic, discusses federal grants and reinforces why rural districts choose to collaborate with one another. These rural districts tend to be less wealthy than urban or suburban ones, so facilities and infrastructure are limited.

Transportation costs are higher because students live farther away. Fewer students are enrolled in each school, so when administrators apply for federal grants to pay for technology and special education classes, they don’t have enough clout to make a difference.

For nearly 40 years, I have teamed with school districts to increase their grant competitiveness through collaboration. Recently, we have seen an increase in funders that outright require collaboration in grant applications.

But the excitement of using collaboration as a funding strategy can quickly turn to anxiety when you are not “grant ready.” As the education leader, ask yourself:

What is true collaboration?
When should we pursue it?
Will it pay off in the end?
Whom should we invite to the table?
How do we pull it together?

Readiness for collaboration

Use this checklist for collaborative grant-writing success.

Set your end goal for the grant: Decide on your vision for the collaborative partnership. Write your concept and show how it aligns with your school district mission.

Prepare for the collaboration: Identify the resources and commitment that your school district brings to the table. Before seeking partners, develop an internal process.

Create a collaboration team: Invite the right partners to the table.

Obtain consensus on concept: Secure agreement on the concept and outcomes of the project with each partner.

Define roles and responsibilities: Outline the multiple skills and talents of the partnership. Establish leadership roles. Determine financial boundaries for the partners.

Develop a transparent process: Outline communication strategies including who, what and how partners will be involved and informed, and when it will happen. Write and share a contact list with all team members. Address strategies for overcoming any conflicts. Set up standards for sharing such documents.

Make a logistical work plan: Gather information about logistical challenges prior to writing the grant application. Define a work plan with specific tasks, individual or group responsibility, and realistic timelines for completion. DA

Has collaboration helped your district apply for a grant? Share your story with us. Write to [email protected]

Paula Love, the “Funding Doctor,” brings decades of experience to developing grant strategies for state and local educational agencies, schools and institutions.