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[Adult Education Funding] 4 Tips to Apply for Grants

Friday, May 19, 2017 -- Sarah Cornelius

Adult educators face lots of unique challenges in their classrooms—adult learners come from a huge variety of academic backgrounds, schedules are both varied and demanding, and programs are often lacking in resources. Getting creative with the resources you do have, especially in terms of budget, is a necessity. But, dollars only go so far for even the trickiest penny-pinching adult educators. Sometimes, the simple reality is that you need more money for your classroom or program.

When that’s the case, grants can be a great option to turn to for additional funding. But, with lesson planning, grading, test prep, and the never-ending admin work already on adult instructors’ plates, tackling grant applications can feel like a daunting task. As with so many other tasks, the hardest part is getting started. Give these common-sense tips a try to help take the stress out of the grant writing process, and get the funding you need to provide your adult learners with the resources that will help them achieve success in the classroom and beyond.

Put a unique spin on your idea

Grants are competitive, and when you apply for one, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s a good chance someone else has a need or idea not unlike yours. The key is to articulate an actionable plan that is both unique and effective. A general request for tablets, online curriculum, or high school equivalency test prep materials is more likely to get lost in the shuffle. Instead, go into detail about what you’re trying to fund, why you (and your learners) need it, how you will use it, and what evidence you have that it will be effective. And, don’t be afraid to apply for funding for some of your more out-there ideas—a unique proposal can make you stand out to reviewers.

Follow the trends

While it’s important to stand out from the crowd, you also have to appeal to your audience. Before you start applying for grants, examine what’s currently trending in adult education. Workforce skills training? Literacy? English as a second language? Issues regarding equity? Hot-button topics that are getting the lion’s share of public attention also tend to get the greatest share of funding. Consider how you can slant your application toward those subjects to boost your chances of winning funding.

Don’t be afraid to think big

Most adult educators are used to working with small budgets, so when they apply for grants, they often think that they will stand a better chance if they don’t ask for the moon. However, it’s important to put things in perspective—in the world of grant funding, $10,000 is considered a small sum. Do your research before submitting an application to see how large previous awards have been, and align your request accordingly. And, don’t think of grants as being non-negotiable. Just like most financial transactions, there is usually some wiggle room. Your funder might like your idea but want you to cut down things a little. If you go ahead and ask for the moon to begin with, paring down your request later will be a lot easier.

Research your options

There’s no shortage of grant money for adult education available—it’s just a matter of putting in the effort to find it. Before you ever sit down to begin an application, take time to do some research. Search for grants that are specific to your state, program type, or learner population to maximize your chances of being selected. To help you get started, here’s a list of some of our favorite sites to check for funding opportunities:

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is changing the adult education funding landscape. Check out this blog post for four things every adult educator should know about WIOA implementation.