If you can write a lesson plan, you can write a grant proposal. Grants are a lot like lesson plans because they state goals and objectives, itemize materials, describe steps, incorporate assessment, and are based on the needs of students. This article will look at the heart of a grant, the part that is most like a lesson plan.
At this point in your proposal you have introduced your project idea and have defended the need. Now it's time to spell out what you are going to do. Most Requests for Proposal (RFP) guidelines ask for you to describe your plan in broad statements that we call goals. Goals are the targets we aspire to. Your goals are not necessarily measurable. When I write a grant for a technology-infused program I like to create at least three goals, a student goal, a teacher goal and an over-all program goal. Each goal will have its own set of objectives. Whereas a goal is a broad statement, the objective will describe the program in measurable terms. Objectives describe the program in terms of students and staff and tell the reader how the program will benefit the participants. The outcomes you select will become the basis for your program's evaluation. What will change because of your project? The answers to this question are your outcomes. Now, how will you measure the change? The answer to this question will become your evaluation plan.
I like to also include a timeline for meeting the objectives. These points on a timeline are my benchmarks. Each objective should relate to an obtainable and measurable outcome. The art of grant proposal development is to find a balance on what you promise to do to meet the expectations of your funders and at the same time, not over-promise what you can actually pull off. I have noticed that in recent RFPs the term "measurable outcomes" has taken the place of "goals and objectives." Although is not unusual for an RFP to ask for all three, goals, objectives, and measurable outcomes. Depending upon the RFP, goals, objectives, outcomes and timelines may lend themselves to charts within your narrative. The actual activities (for example, what students will do) are covered in the activities that follow your chart or goal/objective narrative.
Objectives are what you plan to do and your activities are the steps you take to complete your objectives. Your measurable outcomes are the changes that take place because of your activities. At different points in time, you should plan to collect indicators about how well you are doing in meeting your objectives and it is good practice to mark these benchmarks as milestones. You may wish to do this periodically; at the beginning and the end of the grant period; or at a pre-determined time, for example, quarterly. Your overall timeline will reflect your milestone events. This timeline also becomes your grant schedule, your to-do list, which will guide your program implementation. It will help keep you on track.
Knowing what will change and determining how you know the change will take place will lead to an outcome. Let me share with you a part of a grant that I wrote in the mid 1990s. These were the days of bilingual instruction in California schools and this particular school K-8 elementary school was in need of assistance in developing ways for limited English proficient students to access core social studies curriculum. My needs statements for this grant were divided into three parts, for students, for staff and for parents. I listed my needs and followed in parenthesis how I knew this was a need. For example my need for staff was as follows: staff need strategies and skills in social studies instruction with sheltered English and primary language instruction, as appropriate (limited number of language development certified teachers, bilingual program mandates).
I created a parallel staff objective to match the need. It read as follows: staff objective (and expected outcome, based on staff need): Staff is trained in sheltered English language techniques to increase students acquisition of the social studies curriculum. Staff commits to integrate technology into units of study to enhance student knowledge and provide anchors for limited English students. Each grade level selects social studies units of study and each teacher commits to enhance the unit with the creation of a technology-infused student project (a HyperStudio or PowerPoint presentation, a video production, or a social studies newspaper, for example). This objective was placed in a chart that went on to list the activities, the person responsible for each activity and a timeline for each activity over the course of the grant project. The evaluation section of the proposal paralleled the structure set-up previously in the need, objective, and activity sections of the proposal. The grant was easy-to-read and score. We were funded for over $20,000 and went on to create wonderful technology projects with our students.
By Gary Carnow