When one considers the research, paperwork, writing, and valuable time involved
with learning about and applying for grants, it's no surprise that many are dissuaded
from even trying. However, garnering funds for a school music program is an
investment in the future. Securing large grants can be challenging for any program—
it usually only comes with a great deal of patience. Research suggests that it is in
the music educator's best interest to build a network of foundation and corporate
sponsors, for gifts both small and large. To get an idea of what organizations look for
when allocating grants, SBO did some research and called upon experts, both from
the educator's perspective and that of the grant giver, who offer a few insider tips.
If you've decided that you want to apply for a grant, the first step is finding a
granting agency that best matches your program and needs. The easiest and
most inexpensive (free) way to find the right grant opportunities is searching the
Internet. The best places to search are the federal government, state governments,
foundations, or private businesses, as these are the top granting entities. Grant
writing seminars may be helpful, but the cost may be prohibitive. These seminars
cost, on average, anywhere from $400 to $700 for a two to three-day workshop.
Grant writing seminars are held all over the country and are hosted by various
enterprises, including the federal government. If you have found the grant that
you are looking for, now is the time to take the opportunity to learn from others'
oversights and gaffes in the grant writing process.
According to Moriah Harris-Rodger, executive director of the Fender Music
Foundation, one of the most common mistakes is when the applicant makes
assumptions about what the Fender Foundation wants to hear. For example, because
they are connected to Fender, applicants may think that they should say how much
they love Fender, or what a great advertising opportunity this is for Fender. "That's
not what we're about," Moriah explains. "We are not a corporation—we are a nonprofit. We are about more people making music. We care how these programs are
being structured. How are they getting their funding? Do those funding sources look
sustainable? If an applicant is going to make any assumptions about the organization
they are applying to, at least base it on the organization's mission statement." The
time-honored advice that has been given to writers, "Know you topic and your
audience," certainly also applies to grant writing.
As silly as it may sound, you not only have to know your topic, but you have to be in
love with it. "From the perspective of the grant maker," Moriah explains, "we want
to be inspired. If you don't care what you're writing about, don't use language that
conveys how important this is to you, or we can't see your passion, it is less likely
that we will hand over a grant. That's why applications are stronger when they're
filled out by the person running the program—the music director or the teacher. The
ones that are filled out by people who write grants professionally are often not as
strong. There's a degree of separation." For those of you who are not professional
grant writers, this is great news!
Music director John Currey received a grant for his music program at Champaign
Central High School in Champaign, Ill. His school was awarded $3,000 for
desperately needed percussion instruments from the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation.
For Currey, reaching out for support, particularly from parents, was an important step
in the process.
"I would say to any young director that you need to take full advantage of every
opportunity and all resources available, especially parents," Currey says. "There is
no way that I could run the program that we have without the help of many, many
parents. Identify each willing parent's strength, and have them use their gift to help
the program, organize travel events or fundraisers, get materials donated, or with
grant writing. These are all many of the resources that will make the director's job of
dealing with the music issues much easier."
The grant writing process can go much more smoothly with the help and support
from peers. Networking and reaching out to other educators who have been awarded
grants is another great way to get advice and support. Social networking sites
can be an effective avenue for reaching out to other educators. As Moriah says,
"It's important to learn from each other and not look at other music educators as
competitors. In the end, we all want more people making music, and we all have to
work together to get there."
Grant Resources & Guidelines
Music Matters Grant Program
The Muzak Heart & Soul Foundation's Music Matters Grants are open to schools and
music programs throughout the United States. Grant amounts range from $1,000
to $12,000 and are made on an annual one-time basis. Music education - vocal or
instrumental—must be the key component of any music program requesting funds.
Public school programs (qualifying for Title I federal funding and serving a minimum
of 70 percent low-income students) or non-profit programs directly funding music
education (serving students regardless of their ability to pay) should apply. Schools
and programs must already employ a music educator and have an existing music
program in place. Grant requests must articulate specific music program needs—for
existing and / or planned programs. www.heart.muzak.com
National Endowment for the Arts'
Learning in the Arts for Children and Youth
The NEA's Learning in the Arts for Children and Youth grant does not make awards
directly to individual elementary or secondary schools—charter, private, or public.
However, schools may participate as partners in projects for which another eligible
organization applies. Local education agencies (school districts) and state and
regional education agencies are eligible. If a single school also is the local education
agency, as is the case with some charter schools, the school may apply with
documentation that supports its status as the local education agency. The NEA offers
the following guidelines, divided into two areas:
School-Based - School-based projects are for children and youth between
kindergarten and grade 12, are directly connected to the school curriculum and
instructional program, and ensure the application of national or state arts education
standards. Such activities may take place in or outside of the school building at any
time of the day. This includes after-school and summer enrichment programs that
are formally connected to school curricula. Projects also may address professional
development for teachers, teaching artists, and school administrators.
Community-Based - Community-based projects are for children and youth generally
between ages five and 18. This area supports important activities and training in the
arts that occur outside of the school system. Activities must occur outside of the
regular school day, and may take place in a variety of settings. These activities may
be offered by arts organizations or by other community-based, non-arts organizations
or agencies in partnership with artists and arts groups. While not formally linked to
schools or their instructional programs, projects must be based on a curriculum that
ensures the application of national or state arts education standards. Projects may
include professional development for teachers, artists, and program providers.
The Fender Music Foundation|
Generally, Fender Music Foundation grant awards are traditional instruments and the
equipment necessary to play them, ranging in value from $500 to $5,000. Qualifying
applicants are established, ongoing, and sustainable music programs in the United
States, which provide music instruction for people of any age who would not
otherwise have the opportunity to make music. www.fendermusicfoundation.org
The Mockingbird Foundation provides funding for music education for children by
awarding grants to schools, community centers, workshops, camps, and scholarship
Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation
Mr. Holland's Opus donates musical instruments to under-funded school music
VH1 Save the Music Foundation
VH1 Save the Music supports music education in American public schools by
providing new musical instruments. www.vh1savethemusic.com
Coming Up Taller
The federal government's Coming Up Taller Awards recognize and support
outstanding community arts and humanities programs that celebrate the creativity
of young people, provide them learning opportunities, and chances to contribute to
their communities. These awards focus national attention on exemplary programs
currently fostering the creative and intellectual development of America's children
and youth through education and practical experience in the arts and the humanities.
Accompanied by a cash award, the Coming Up Taller Awards also contributes
support to a project's continued work.
Award recipients receive $10,000 each, an individualized plaque, and an invitation to
attend the annual Coming Up Taller Leadership Enhancement Conference.
Coming Up Taller is an initiative with the Institute of Museum and Library Services,
National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The Coming Up Taller Award operates as a program for children and youth in preschool,
after-school, weekend and / or summer programs, however, may have a
school-based component or use school space. www.pcah.gov
Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts Music Scholarships
The purpose of the fund is to provide grants to accredited colleges and universities
that offer degrees in the performing and creative arts. These grants are to be used
exclusively for scholarship assistance to students. Grant applications are available
by invitation only. www.liberace.org