You do not need to be an experienced grant writer to craft a successful grant application. The first step is to select a project that addresses a specific need or will enhance the community's sustainability efforts. The second step is to clearly communicate the project and its potential impact on the community in the grant application. The typical components of a Sustainable Jersey for Schools grant application are listed below. Review and follow the guidance provided and you are sure to increase your odds of being awarded a grant.
Project Selection - Think Outside the Box!
Whether you are applying for a grant in a targeted cycle such as the one for energy projects or a cycle without any project topic restrictions, it is important to "think outside of the box" when choosing a project idea. The goal of the Grants Program is to fund impactful projects that might not normally be funded through the school budget and can serve as a model for other schools.
Think beyond gardens, outdoor classrooms, and water bottle filling stations. The selection committee will consider project diversity when reviewing the applications. Review the list of Sustainable Jersey for Schools actions and select a project that can earn points in the program and address an unfunded need or desire in your school. Consider projects that:
- Address student and staff well-being
- Support interaction in a hybrid learning environment
- Increase access to all four arts disciplines
- Explore the impact of racism and implicit bias on society and school culture
- Improve school/district communications with staff, student, and parents
- Partnering with others for enrichment or stewardship opportunities
- Providing professional development and training (Green Cleaning, iSTEAM, Social Emotional Learning, Indoor Air Quality)
- Supporting healthy food choices and physical activity initiatives
Consultant driven projects should feature a green team outreach component. The primary contact for the grant cannot be the consultant and must be an employee of the school district.
Describe the specific initiative you plan to complete with the grant funds and who will benefit from it.
Project Team Members
The purpose of this section is to verify that the project team has the necessary knowledge, skills and experience to successfully complete the project. Reach out to your municipality or local organizations to see what resources may be available to assist with the project. Along with members of your school community, be sure to include representatives from stakeholder groups that will be involved or impacted by the implementation of the project such as:
- Municipal staff
- Community-based organizations
- Professional organizations
- Local businesses
To engage and develop the team, make sure to:
- Recruit volunteers early on
- Identify and involve all relevant parties from the beginning
- Get students and youth involved
- Keep meetings short, timely, meaningful and efficient
Bergenfield High School
Action Plan & Timeline
The action plan and timeline should address the steps needed to successfully complete the project. When crafting the action plan and timeline:
- Anticipate potential administrative delays such as with the procurement process and plan time for paperwork
- Determine how you will have access to the funds
- Research the availability of the materials and services needed to complete the project
- Plan ahead for summer months/downtime
- Devote time and resources to train volunteers
- Develop a "Plan B"
- Decide how the success of the project will be shared with the community
This section describes how the project capitalizes on collaborations between stakeholders and how information about the project will be shared with the community. Ways to share the grant project with the community include:
- Ribbon cutting ceremonies
- Project signage
- Press releases
- Website content
- Social media postings
- Public events
Joseph M. Ferraina
Childhood Learning Center
Community Farmers Market Booth
Project Impact & Evaluation
Describe how the project will augment existing green team efforts and contribute toward making progress in the Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification program. It should be clear what the project hopes to accomplish and who will benefit from it. Include any relevant background information on the school community and its current sustainability initiatives to provide context for the project. Installation projects, such as water bottle filling stations, should have some kind of educational and outreach campaign in order to maximize impact.
A rigorous or formal evaluation process is not required. However, grant recipients are expected to report on specific results or outcomes and other non-quantifiable impacts on the school community. Applicable projects, such as energy tracking and management, should plan to collect data and include it in the grant's final report.
Budget Narrative and Detailed Project Budget
The budget narrative should clearly summarize project expense categories and identify all sources of funding. Describe in-kind or cash matches. In-kind contributions can include but are not limited to: volunteer hours, materials donated to the project by a person/company, etc.
A detailed itemized project budget is also required. When creating the project budget think about:
- Leveraging low or no-cost resources. The Resources section of the Sustainable Jersey for Schools action that the project corresponds to is an excellent place to identify low or no-cost resources.
- Maintaining consistency between the budget narrative and detailed budget and making sure the itemized expenses are specifically related to the proposed project. For example, the project is to perform a waste audit, but the budget template only lists the funding for purchasing recycling bins. Where are the other resources to complete the project coming from?
- Determining if the budget is realistic, costs are justified, and resource contributions have a reasonable value.
- Determining if all additional funding besides the Sustainable Jersey for Schools grant is in-hand or committed.
- Adhering to limits on what can be spent on promotional items such as t-shirts, awards, and give-aways.
- Including shipping costs.
- Consultant/contractor service fees
- Staff stipends
- Project supplies
- Training and educational materials
- Promotional items (including meeting supplies, incentives or awards). Promotional items may not exceed $1,000 for large grants over $10,000 and $200 for $2,000 grants
Ineligible Expenses: Facilities/administrative (overhead) costs. Submitting for reimbursement of a project that has already been completed is not an eligible use of funding.