Grant Funding with Social MediaOctober 31, 2012 | Dr. Brian J. Dixon
Locating Grant Sources
The first step in receiving grant funding is to locate potential opportunities.
- Start with a Google search of applicable foundations. View their grant requirements and sign up for email notifications of new funding cycles.
- Create a Google Alert. Google Alerts let you set up specific keywords to notify you through email when a particular keyword pops up on a website or in the news. This allows you to track new notices of funding sources. You can, for example, visit the website of a foundation that traditionally posts information about its upcoming grant schedule and set up an alert to receive information about that site as soon as it has been updated. You can also use Google Alerts to track press releases and news releases so that you are made aware of funding opportunities as soon as they are available. This places your school in a more competitive position, because you are receiving information in a timely way and are able to respond to grant opportunities with enough notice and time to formulate a compelling grant application.
- Use Twitter. Twitter is primarily a news and link sharing service. Search Twitter for funding opportunities. There are several tools that now allow you to set up an alert for Twitter to notify you when certain keywords are "tweeted." These tools included tweetbeep, twilert and tweetalarm. Many foundations and grantors are posting links to new grants and funding availability through their Twitter account. Setting up a Twitter notification allows you to discover grant sources that you might not have found otherwise.
Managing the Grant Writing Process
Writing grants can now become a more social experience. Your school can benefit from the collaborative tools now available for free to school leaders and classroom teachers. Use social media tools to support classroom teachers in the grant writing process. Email a link to an online survey form to request specific information from your teachers for DonorsChoose.org, the Target foundation, the Best Buy Children's Foundation and other organizations. Many of these foundations have small classroom implementation grants of a few thousand dollars. By creating a form with a specific deadline and notification settings, you can encourage your classroom teachers to fill them out and apply for these grants. Further, you can use Google Docs to allow a committee to edit the application instead of relying solely on one person to write and submit it. By subdividing the work across a number of faculty members and establishing tracking protocols and responsibilities, you can benefit from more efficiently managing the grant-writing process and repurposing grant content for future applications. The more you use collaborative tools in the writing process, the more likely you are to receive funding, as more teachers will be encouraged to apply for grants because of the lessened workload afforded by such tools.
Updating Your School Website
One of the key elements to receiving grant funding is positioning your school through your school website and social media presence in a way that helps make your school fundable. Even the smallest schools and nonprofits can afford to create a professional website. After you have spoken with potential grantors, your website is the first place they check to establish the credibility of your school.
Many grantors will never even visit your school, so your website is their primary way of gathering information about it. If your website is outdated or unattractive, you may be missing out on opportunities for funding. Remember, there are always more people requesting funding than the amount of funding available. Therefore, grant committees are constantly looking for a reason to turn down an applicant school. Your website should not be the reason you are being rejected for grant funding.
Use grant questions to help write the content for your school website. Many grant questions are common across foundation applications. Questions about the mission and vision of your school, about your school's goals, and about the students that your school serves are fairly standard, so be sure to include them on your website. The grantor will use your website to verify the information in your grant application. By including key information that grantors look for on the "about" page of your website, your school will be better positioned as a candidate to receive grant funding.
Tracking Grant Application Deadlines
Employing collaborative tools to track grant applications can be an effective use of social media. The challenge for school leaders is that they're too easily caught up in the day-to-day operations of the school, neglecting the big picture -- including the need to fund programs for their school's future success. Establishing a clear tracking system through Google Calendar will help ensure that more grants are applied for. Create a grant application calendar, setting three dates:
- The date of the initial grant committee meeting
- The deadline for the final application review by an administrator
- The deadline for submitting the grant
Establishing these dates on a calendar will help ensure that they are not neglected. Often, successfully receiving grant funding is simply a numbers game. Applying for three grants puts you in a different position than applying for a hundred grants. If you receive even ten percent of the grants you apply for, applying for a hundred puts you in a much better position than simply applying for three grants. In your shared grant application calendar, you might also include dates for following up a few days, two weeks, and a month after submitting the application. Being notified of when to follow up will help place your school in a better position to receive funding.
Announcing Grant Awards
Once your school receives grant funding, use social media to celebrate and share your success. The leverage provided by receiving grant funding will help your school stand out from the competition, allowing you to capitalize on other grant opportunities and community goodwill. Often, when a school receives grant funding, it has no strategic way to share that information with the community. Now you can share this news on your school website, on your Facebook page, on Twitter and in your e-newsletter. You can even make a YouTube video to show how your school will be using the funding to help students. It is up to you, as the school leader, to share your story of grant funding.
Thanking this foundation through your social media pages will help establish further goodwill and set your school up for a good relationship for future foundation giving. Mentioning foundations through your social media pages before applying for these gifts can also help set your school apart in the application process. When a grant committee knows that they will be receiving an application from your school, they begin to look forward to that application and psychologically set your school apart from the rest of the crowd of schools seeking funding.
Implementing Grant Programs
Consider how you might use social media tools to track the implementation of the grant funding. Many foundations offer annual funding and appreciate your tracking how the funds have been used throughout the year. Doing this efficiently is an appropriate practice that helps put your school in a better position for receiving funds in the future. Use Google Calendar to create a shared calendar, or use online project management software, such as Do.com (which is integrated with Google Apps), to help your school better track the implementation of grant funds. When you have an efficient structure for reporting to the giving foundation, you continue to build trust, and the grantor will see you as a reliable and accountable partner in the venture about which it is passionate. Providing these data in an efficient and effective way can help better position your school to receive funding in subsequent years.
If you have other techniques for using social media for grant funding, please share them here.