FACT Course Spotlight: Writing Grants for Philadelphia Public Schools

Posted on January 10, 2018
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Categories: Family News & Resources

green hand giving moneyIn the past several years, many teachers, families, principals, and community members have utilized extraordinary and creative tactics to bring needed resources and money into their school communities.
They’ve done this through their own personal time and effort, such as organizing drives and fundraisers, through groups like Home and School Associations, Friends Of groups, and School Advisory Councils. Laura Lau, a grant writer in the School District of Philadelphia’s Office of Grant Development (OGD), is energized by this momentum. She’ll be hosting a three-part grant writing workshop as a part of the Office of Family and Community Engagement’s new initiative, Family Academy Courses & Training (that’s FACT for short!).

Laura Lau has worked for the District for about the last seven years. She initially started as a federal grant writer, helping to write applications for climate and professional development grants. Now, she primarily works with all members of school communities—from principals to parents—to help them achieve smaller grants for their schools.

Ms. Lau’s every day work routine is not so much writing grant applications for hours on end, but researching grant opportunities, editing grant applications, and, lucky for us, developing workshops for school communities!

Understanding that the public oftentimes distrusts the District, Ms. Lau also spends a good bit of time doing something she believes is critically important: networking and relationship building. She sometimes spends hours at a time meeting with a teacher or principal to talk about their ideas and help edit grant applications. Ms. Lau most commonly assists with grants to fund large-ticket items like playgrounds, physical activities equipment, and agriculture rooms or gardens to schools.

What does Ms. Lau want you to know about the world of grants and grant writing? It’s not easy money. “People think there are grants for every little thing in this world,” she explains. “They just need to complete an application and they will get the money automatically.”
volunteers with vegetables

“But it’s a long process from your idea to submission, and you have to recognize you’re not the only one submitting an application,” she continues.
Although that might sound like a harsh reality, it doesn’t mean that she and her colleagues aren’t committed to doing the work to get projects funded. They want to make sure that school communities know that they are there to help their schools and provide them with as many resources as possible.

People are taking advantage of this and OGD is now in higher demand than ever, which keeps Ms. Lau extremely busy. The office publishes a monthly newsletter of smaller ($20,000 and under), well-researched grant opportunities that could fit many different needs and projects for a school.

The conversation started to change a few years ago, when the office began getting an influx of emails and phone calls about obtaining grants. “It started three or four years ago, we would get a call once in a while,” Ms. Lau says. “Then once a month. Last year, it was once a week, and now it’s every day!” This past spring, OGD published the Guide to Fundraising and Grantwriting in Schools, a 50 page handbook useful for anyone involved in resource mapping for schools.

OGD’s upcoming FACT workshop series, “Writing Grants for Philadelphia Public Schools,” is designed specifically with parents and families in mind, starting as the very basics for those who have no prior grant writing experience, and working upward from there. Families can expect to walk away from the workshop series understanding the rules by which the District operates when it accepts cash grants and/or in-kind goods and services, as well as the ways in which families can obtain additional resources for their schools through grant writing and fundraising.

Last year, 58 people at the school level, including some parents and family members, brought in over $300,000 to the district’s schools, which Ms. Lau even believes is underreported—the actual number could be much higher. She hopes that this will grow and that people will let the Office of Grant Development know, not only so that they can help them with next steps in completing a project, but so that they can let the District’s communications team know.

“These are really important celebratory events,” Ms. Lau emphasizes. “You’re making sure you have a better school, and you have a better community.”

Space is extremely limited for “Writing Grants for Philadelphia Public Schools”. Click here to reserve your seat.

Click here to visit the Office of Grant Development’s website, where you can learn more about the work that they do, read the Guide to Fundraising and Grant writing in Schools, and scroll through the monthly newsletter.