Funding a career tech program: What makes a successful grant application?

General principles to strengthen your submission to set you up for success.
By: | May 13, 2022
Jim Dee

Jim Dee

Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs provide students with relevant tools and skills that set them up for success in life and their careers, including those not typically part of traditional academic programs. Securing funding to implement, sustain, or grow CTE programs is crucial, and it’s usually easy to find the right application portals and instructions for first supporting your CTE program – but what makes a grant application succeed?

While each grant application is unique and often requires multiple steps, we can look at some general principles to strengthen your submission to set you up for success.

Understanding what you want

A grant proposal isn’t just about getting you money – it’s about explaining how your program can benefit your community. It may sound intuitive, but before you apply for any grant, ask yourself: What is the need, gap, or issue I’m trying to solve? Don’t rely on unspoken motivations. Assess your community’s specific and measurable needs and identify your target audience.

Get to know your granter and build a relationship

Has a telemarketer ever called you about a product that you would never use? You may have wondered, “Why on Earth did they think I would use this?” Imagine having that impression after reading several pages of text that requests thousands of dollars.

If you’re going to start the relationship out right, take time to understand the organization and human beings behind the grant to ensure it’s the right fit. You’re working with a philanthropic organization staffed by individuals, so don’t just rely on information posted on an organization’s website – be willing to call their office and show an interest beyond just getting their money.

Research the organization

A surprising number of grant applications are rejected because the applicant was not eligible for the funds— even when these requirements are clearly posted. This wastes everyone’s time and could leave the wrong impression. It’s crucial to understand your granter’s mission and what they’ve funded in the past before applying.

Communicate your purpose

You’ve thought long and hard about your purpose for this grant. Now, it’s time to synthesize all of that into a proposal. While a lengthy application can seem daunting, organization and time management will help you break down your application into sections with timelines for completing each one.

Track what you have to say

The grant’s requirements should list exactly what you need to include and help you organize specific sections of your application. Consider creating a checklist and approach the grant as a series of deliverables to ensure you include everything and see where you’ll need to reach out to other team members for help. Review existing materials carefully and refresh them to align with this application.

Tell your story

Above all, your application should tell a story. For example, simply saying that nearly four million K-12 students can’t access music education may or may not surprise a granter. Saying that you provided free private lessons to 500 students this year will probably impress them, but to move them, put a human face on the need. Describe a student who took advantage of these private lessons and how they are now succeeding because of an experience you gave them.

Leave yourself time

Large government grants may take up to two months to complete, while a smaller grant may warrant a different investment of time. You’ll know how much time you need by carefully assessing everything required, who needs to be part of the team, what you already know, and what you need to find out.

Once your grant application is accepted, if you have needs for upgrading equipment, turn to experts such as the consultants at Adorama Business Solutions.

 Jim Dee is currently Technical Services Manager at Adorama Business Solutions. Jim studied Photography at University of Dayton and at The School of Visual Arts. His professional experience includes being an event photographer for 30+ years, including experience with 35mm, medium and large format film cameras also Pro digital DSLR and Mirrorless cameras.  Jim is currently working towards NDI performance and media networking and infrastructure products certifications.

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