Getting grants to fund the purchase of school playground equipment is a four-part process no matter how much money you actually need. It takes careful planning followed by strategic research to locate funders. Then you must prepare a request for a grant that meets each funder's specification and also resonates with the funder's giving priorities. After that, there is a protocol about what to do while waiting for the funder's decision and after becoming funded.
- Determine exactly what you need to buy for your school playground and how much it will cost. Itemize what you will buy with the grant funds, and be specific about all the associated costs. Include shipping and installation fees. Find out if your new playground will incur new liability insurance costs. If you plan to contract with a specific vendor, obtain a bid on the vendor's letterhead to include as an attachment and also reference in the body of the grant request.
- Consider who will use the playground. Assemble accurate demographic information about the students and the community, especially if it includes a high-risk population or a significant number of individuals with physical handicaps. Funders often target their grants to benefit certain groups, and they look for the grant request to be stated in terms of the needs of the people who will be using the playground. If you present the request on the basis of your financial need, you are unlikely to be competitive, and every grant request is competing for a finite amount of grant money. However, if you present your need in terms of the children who will use the playground and demonstrate how this playground will fulfill the foundation's giving priorities, the likelihood of receiving a grant increases a lot.
- Research prospective funders who are likely to be interested in funding your school playground equipment. There is a great list at School Grants online (see the link below). In addition to these, check the grantmaker's data base at the Foundation Center Online using keywords like "education," "elementary education," "children," "youth" and "health and fitness" in the field of interest area of the search request form. Put your city and state and also the word "national" in the geographic focus area of the search request form.
- Make the initial contact with the prospective grantmaker based on the information on the funder's website or database entry. Some ask for a phone call or an email. Others request that the first approach be a letter of inquiry. A few funders ask for the first contact to be the full proposal.
- Present a very short version of your project and ask if the grantmaker would receive a proposal to receive a grant from your school favorably. If the organization indicates that it would like to see a proposal, ask if it has a specific application form or you should generate the proposal in narrative form. Follow the grantmaker's suggestions to the letter.
- Write the proposal to receive a grant for your school's playground equipment according to the funder's specifications. Include a summary of the project, details about the population that your school serves, your time line for installing the playground equipment and a line-item budget. Many grantmakers also ask you to define why you think their foundations are a good match for your project. Most grantmakers expect you to include a paragraph about how you will measure the success of your project. Every grantmaker wants a copy of your school's IRS letter that proves that you are a federally tax exempt organization.
- Submit the grant request in time to meet the grantmaker's deadline. Do not badger the grantmaker with telephone calls or emails asking about the status of your request. If you must, just make one call about 2 weeks after submitting the request to find out that the proposal arrived and to offer to be available for any questions if they have some. Whether or not your request is funded, write a thank-you note to the foundation's program officer. If you are funded, follow all of the post-grant guidelines that are required by the foundation.
Tips & Warnings
While the Foundation Center Online database of grantmakers is a subscription-based service, you can access it for free at many local public and university libraries.