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Grant Writing
in outdoor education, adventure education, & other experiential intervention programs

James Neill
Last updated:
13 Feb 2004

What is grant-writing?

What kinds of grants are there?

What about outdoor education?

Powerpoint slideshow

What is grant writing?

Grantwriting is writing conducted for a particular purpose, that purpose usually being to request that an individual, an organization, or a government body to supply money on the understanding that it will be spend on a worthwhile project.

The general idea, then, for a grant writer to convince the reader(s) (the potential funder) that a project is a worthwhile investment.  A common phrase is that grantwriting is "persuasive writing".

This presents an interesting dilemma from a scholarly point of view.  Whilst it is true that argument and persuasion are an integral part of scholarship, it is also true that in academic scholarship one is meant to strive for truth, not intentional deception.  Thus, the act of grantwriting in a scholarly sense represents a moral challenge.

A more ethically justifiable position then for grantwriting might be that we do grantwriting to inform a potential funder about a potential investment opportunity for them.  Ideally, we hope, the funder will give their money to the most genuinely worthwhile project.  If we assume that the best judge of the worthwhileness of a project is the funder, since they can independent review each proposal, then we can relax the drive towards "persuasive writing" and simply present the potential project for it genuinely offers, not presuming that it is any more or less worthwhile than any other possible projects. 

Therefore it is the responsibility of the ethical grantwriter to write truthfully and honestly about a proposed project thus helping to maximize the likelihood that a funder will make a worthwhile investment.

Basically thit means:

- don't fake it

- design a good project

- find a suitable funder

- honestly explain your project

It should also be noted that a grant need not necessarily involve money.  What else could you ask for?  Equipment.  Labor.  Time (e.g., extensions to grants are not uncommon).  Approval (e.g., trying to get official endorsement). 

What kinds of grants are there?

You can ask anyone for money.  For that matter, you can anyone for anything.  In its my simplest form you hold out your hand and ask.  That is sometimes called begging.  Self-serving grantwriting has some elements of begging dressed up in fancy language.  Don't go there - it won't work.

Remember, people usually don't throw their money in the street.  They invariably spend their money in ways that are consistent with their value system.  Therefore you need to understand the value system underlying your project and then seek out sources which in turn are likely to value that project.

Some individuals or families set up philanthropic foundations which will give money for certain types of things.  Some philanthropic foundations are huge, e.g., The Rockefeller Foundation.  Make sure you read into the background behind the grant and what they fund.  Believe what you are reading.  The most common reason grants are not funded is that they simply don't match the value system or the criteria established by a funder.  Remember, some foundations are tiny, administering a couple of hundred dollars or less.  Usually the more dollars involved, the more a funder will wait to know the details about how it is going to be spent.  There is voluminous amounts of information about Foundations on the web, and lots of lists and categories to help you find what you are looking for, e.g., the Council on Foundations.

Federal, state, and local governments give out grants of all sizes, from huge to tiny.  The official USA government webpage for federal grants is at http://www.cfda.gov/.  Take a look at this page listing hundreds of federal grants - http://www.cfda.gov/public/browse_typast.asp?catcode=B.  This site provides clear guidelines for how to prepare a grant - http://www.cfda.gov/public/cat-writing.htm.  Finally, try the search page - http://www.cfda.gov/public/faprs.htm.

A lot of federal grant money is allocated to states to distribute, plus states create their own funding.  Also remember that grants are distributed internally and externally.  So, as a staff member or a student in a institution you also qualify to apply for institutions internal grants.  Often, this is the best place to start with getting grants.  You can also apply to more than one funding sources, which is handy, because you use "leverage" or "matching" of one grant to help get another.

Grants in outdoor education

For outdoor education, grants can be written for virtually any aspect of programming -- e.g., equipment, operational costs, research and development, attending conferences, and so on.  There are no outdoor education specific funding bodies for outdoor education per se, so for outdoor education projects some creative searching needs to be done and the intended project needs to carefully framed and pitched.  Some likely funding sources to investigate include:

- State-funded education projects

- Parks and environment projects

- Private or corporate-funded projects, particularly for disadvantaged populations

 Go to Powerpoint Slideshow on Grant-writing from www.ahead.org/conference/2001/papers/grntwrte.ppt