The Top 13 Grants Every Teacher Wants — and How to Get Them

by Staff Writers

With states and local districts cutting back funding, many teachers must do more with less. Sometimes, a special project may need a little extra money to get started, and that's where grants can be a lifesaver. There are hundreds of programs out there that offer teachers the chance to win funds for their classrooms, tech development, or for pioneering educational programs. Despite the wealth of options for this kind of funding, many teachers don't know where to look for the best grants and how to successfully apply. Here are some tips that can help you potentially secure grants that will make your fellow teachers green with envy.

NEA Foundation Grants:

Whether you teach elementary school children or college students, you're eligible to apply for this grant focused on educators who are looking for ways to enhance teaching and learning. There are two types of NEA Foundation grants: student achievement grants and learning and leadership grants. The proposed work you want grant funding for should fit neatly into one of these areas. For student achievement grants, teachers need to focus their proposed projects on things that could help improve students' educational experience by helping to build critical thinking and problem solving skills and ensuring they learn to self-direct and engage in critical reflection. Learning and leadership grants are much more teacher-focused and fund professional development and personal research that could improve educational outcomes.

  • The Basics: The deadlines to apply for 2013 are February 1, June 1, and October 15. You must be a practicing K-12 public school teacher, education support professional, or higher education faculty or support staff member at a public college or university to apply. Grants are awarded in $2,000 and $5,000 amounts and will fund activities for 12 months after awarded.
  • Helpful Tips: For both types of grants, it's important to remember the NEA isn't interested in just helping students and educators for the grant period. It's also critical to explain fully how the project or training will help beyond that year, or, if applicable, how it can be applied in other school districts. It's also extremely important to develop an accurate budget that meets the $2,000 or $5,000 limits of the grants exactly.

Department of Education Grants:

In late 2012, the U.S. Department of Education announced it would be doling out $290 million in grants to schools and educators all over the nation starting early this year. There are a wide range of specialized areas these grants can be used for, from "Innovative Approaches to Literacy" to "Race to the Top Early Learning Challenges."

  • The Basics: It's hard to pass on too much information about the Department of Education's grant program because many of the grants are still being pulled together. Dates, award amounts, and other information are still to be determined. Check back with the DoE website regularly.
  • Helpful Tips: If you want to get yourself ready to take advantage of the millions in grant dollars that teachers like yourself can win for their students, then take the initiative and visit the Department of Education's website. It may lack information about deadlines, but it does have contact information for every grant program. You can use this information to get in touch with those who can tell you a bit more and help you work on your proposal well in advance so you have plenty of time to prep.

Toshiba America Foundation Grants:

As a technology company, it's no surprise that Toshiba's grants are focused on math and science. Grants are divided between K-5 and 6-12, so teachers will need to select the grade level within which they teach in order to apply. All proposals need to reflect an innovative new way to make science and mathematics education more engaging for students.

  • The Basics: All grant applications for K-5 are due by October 1st of each year. Grade 6-12 applications for $5,000 or more are due August 1st or February 1st; others are evaluated as they are received. Grants are given out in increments between $1,000 and $5,000.
  • Helpful Tips: Toshiba wants to help teachers make a difference within their own classrooms, so it's imperative that projects are created to cater to your individual needs. Additionally, teachers who want to apply for the award should have solid knowledge of the latest technology and how it can help to improve science and math education. While projects are expected to be on an individual basis, it can help to have expert community partners on board as well, especially when looking to inspire students to pursue careers in these fields.

ING Unsung Heroes:

This grant program was designed to help teachers launch promising educational programs that need some financial support. So far, the program has awarded more than $3.8 million in grants, and is an incredibly popular program among teachers in K-12 education. It's ranked among the best by Educators Week.

  • The Basics: Each year, ING hands out 100 awards of $2,000 each. Three educators with outstanding projects are chosen to receive additional funding with first, second, and third place receiving $27,000, $12,000, and $7,000 respectively. Applications are due by April 30, 2013.
  • Helpful Tips: In past years, programs winning top honors have been those that are highly creative and that have a measurable impact on students' performance, critical thinking, and skills development. It may be useful to look at past winners of the award so you do not propose something identical, as there are 100 winners each year. Projects are judged based on their innovation, creativity, and ability to positively influence students, so make sure your proposal addresses all three.

Intel Community Grants:

Intel gives out grants in the areas of environment, community, and education. The education grants are focused on programs in STEM fields, so this is an especially good match for teachers looking to expand education in this area or who specialize in these fields.

  • The Basics: Grant awards are between $5,000 and $10,000. Grant inquiries are reviewed four times a year and there are no application deadlines. Grant money is only granted to certain states, however. You must live or work in Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, or Washington to apply.
  • Helpful Tips: Intel does not require teachers to submit a full application for a grant up front. Instead, they will send Intel a grant inquiry. This inquiry needs to sell the foundation on your program so it must succinctly and clearly lay out the basics of what you plan to do with the grant money. Programs that involve or benefit the larger community or involve technology may fare better.

Target Education Grants:

If you shop at Target stores, you know the company is dedicated to giving back to education, donating hundreds of millions of dollars to charity over the past few years. Target also gives back through grants for educators and education-focused organizations. Grants are focused on field trips; early childhood reading; and art, culture, and design.

  • The Basics: Applications are accepted for early childhood reading and arts, culture, and design March 1 – April 30. Field trip applications are accepted August 1 – September 30. Grants range between $700 and $2,000.
  • Helpful Tips: It can be helpful when applying for grants from Target to look at some examples. Remember that reading programs applications need to be focused at grades K-3, but other applications can be for students anywhere in K-12. If you don't get a grant? Retool your project and try again next year.

American Honda Foundation Grants:

Since 1984, the American Honda Foundation has given out $27 million in grants, most of them focused on education. Grants are focused on projects that are creative, imaginative, youthful, scientific, humanistic, forward-thinking, and innovative. Honda wants projects that are specifically focused on STEM education but many grants are also given out in environmental education and job training and literacy.

  • The Basics: Grants can be anywhere from $20,000 to $75,000. All proposals must be submitted online and support materials sent in the mail. Deadlines are the first of February, May, August, and November.
  • Helpful Tips: Grant applications must be school wide, not just for individual educators, so it can be useful to get other teachers and administrators on board to help you through the application process and to develop a well thought-out program. A background in STEM education or leadership or input from someone with this background can be an asset.

Fund for Teachers Grants:

This national nonprofit is focused solely on providing grants for enriching the personal and professional growth of teachers through programs that have a big impact on the success of their students and their communities. While nearly all states have a Fund of Teachers program, only certain districts within those states will be allowed to apply.

  • The Basics: To apply, you'll need to have at least three years of teaching experience and work as a classroom teacher at least 50% of the time. Teachers can win a grant every three years. Awards can be up to $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for teams. Applications are accepted between October 1 and January 31.
  • Helpful Tips: Teachers are allowed to apply in teams for these awards. While it may reduce the overall amount for each classroom, it can be beneficial to have input and support from a larger group of teachers rather than to go it solo. To help you prepare, read excerpts from awarded proposals and take to heart the tips the organization offers for grant proposals.

Elmer's Kids in Need Foundation Grants:

Elmer's gives out Teacher Tool Kit grants each year for teachers who want to conduct classroom projects selected from a catalog of 700 projects featured in the Kids In Need Guide to Award Winning Projects. Grants are awarded on financial need, the applicability of the project to student needs and state standards, and the number of students who will benefit from the project.

  • The Basics: 300 grants are given out each year and the deadline to apply is April 30th. Grant awards range from $100 to $500.
  • Helpful Tips: Teachers in their first year are given special consideration for this grant, so it's a smart choice for teachers who are new to the profession. Teachers who have been on the job longer will need to do an even better job of showcasing how they're serving their students and why they need the supplies and educational opportunities provided by the Elmer's program.

LEGO Children's Fund Grants:

LEGO is all about helping kids learn through creative play, and their grant program reflects that goal. Grants are given to organizations that create innovative programs to support children's creativity and problem solving skills.

  • The Basics: Awards range between $500 and $5,000, though there are no set limits. Deadlines are every few months, falling on April, July, October, and January 15th each year.
  • Helpful Tips: Special consideration is given to organizations that support disadvantaged children, who are already supported by LEGO volunteers, explore or elevate opportunities for creativity, or are located in Connecticut or Massachusetts. Meeting one or more of these criteria can help your chances. Since the awards are given out on a school wide basis, it can also be helpful to put together a grant writing committee to apply. Additionally, it could not hurt to reach out to any LEGO employees in your community (if possible) to get them involved with your school prior to applying.

Prudential Foundation Grants:

The Prudential Foundation is focused on building strong communities and helping to improve social outcomes in cities where Prudential employees live and work. Part of that mission involves transforming public education and there are a number of grants available to teachers who want to become active educational and community leaders.

  • The Basics: The foundation reviews proposals throughout the year so there are no deadlines and applicants can expect to hear back within 60 days. Grant values vary widely depending on the project's scope.
  • Helpful Tips: Prudential is looking for programs that focus on making long-term changes in education that will help foster community improvement. Proposals that address things like at-risk youth, improving academic achievement, or helping students become college ready are most likely to win funding. Because many grant recipients have focused on "big picture" ideas, it can be useful to work with others to complete the grant.

Walmart Local Giving Program Grants:

Teachers can lead their school towards getting an award to improve educational programs for all students in attendance with some help from this Walmart-backed foundation. There are also state giving programs, but these require much larger-scale project proposals from applicants.

  • The Basics: Deadlines for application vary throughout the year; check with the organization's website for the most current one. Awards can range from $250 to $5,000 and are only given to communities with a Walmart or Sam's Club in them.
  • Helpful Tips: Education is no longer one of the program's key giving areas, but they still give grants in this area. Successful grant applications may overlap education with one of the organization's more favored causes, including healthy eating, sustainability, women's economic empowerment, and career opportunities. Walmart stores in the local area help determine whether or not to give funds to grant applicants, so it can help to have an existing relationship between the school and Walmart as a corporate sponsor.

Verizon Foundation Grants:

The Verizon Foundation focuses on giving back in the areas of healthcare, sustainability, and education. Schools can apply for funds from Verizon for educational programs and projects that will take place within the next calendar year. The grant is a highly competitive one, with more than 22,000 applications submitted last year alone.

  • The Basics: Grant applications are accepted any time between January 1st and October 14th of every year. The average grant is between $5,000 and $10,000.
  • Helpful Tips: If you have any questions about the process, it can be helpful to contact the Verizon community affairs manager in your state for more information. Additionally, the Verizon Foundation suggests that all applicants review both their eligibility guidelines and FAQs carefully before submitting their applications to improve their chances of being funded.