Granted RepairsDisaster struck, leaving the Maries R-1 School gym, in Vienna, Mo., in need of repair. In order to get the project on its way, a Vienna Eagles Booster Club member applied for and received a grant from a Utah-based software company.
The Vienna Eagles Athletic Booster Club always keeps an eye out for grants to apply for, as part of its fundraising strategy. When booster club member Lisa Jones saw a message in her e-mail in-box about a $10,000 grant being offered by New Dawn Technologies, based in Logan, Utah, she knew it was something she wanted to look into.
New Dawn Technologies provides software to justices and government professionals to improve their services. To celebrate its 15-year anniversary, New Dawn offered a grant, to represent its commitment to improving communities. The New Dawn Community Grant was open to all community groups or organizations, as long as the funds would be used for a community-based project.
In filling out the application, Jones wrote how winning the grant would help the booster club reach its lofty goal of repairing the school gym, which had been damaged by a flood. The club's members wanted to make $55,000 worth of repairs, and having a $10,000 grant would get them started.
"I explained in simple terms the situation we were facing," Jones says. "We were flooded, and our gymnasium roof had been damaged. Water leaked into the gym and onto the floor, which caused the floor to buckle. The walls were peeling off from the moisture in the gymnasium, and part of the lighting had shorted out. I also wrote about how we're a small community of about 600 people and the gym is the heart of our community--even though they would get applications from much larger places, the impact for us is bigger than it may be to some others."
New Dawn wanted to hear how the grant would help the club in achieving its goals. The application format required an essay, with a few paragraphs explaining the need. The end product that Jones submitted was about 400 words. "It didn't take long, probably about 20 minutes--I did it on my lunch hour," she says. "It was easy to write because I know the subject and could speak from the heart."
After the application had been sent, further damage occurred and the gym had to be closed, which was a hard blow for the community. Upon receiving notification of the successful grant application, the club spread the news.
"It was absolutely amazing when the news hit our little town," says booster club president Vicki Bates. "When we won the grant, our bank heard about it and gave us another $10,000 and we also had the estate of an elderly lady who was a long-time supporter of our school give us $10,000. Being able to earn that much just by using the media and getting the word out was amazing."
A few years ago, the club had received a "Miles for Smiles" grant from a local Wal-Mart, which allowed them to start a nest egg. However, the two grants and subsequent donations didn't cover the cost of repairs.
"After we had those donations come in and we received the grant, we held a couple of fundraisers to keep things going," Bates says. "We put together a t-shirt quilt, where we took old school spirit t-shirts and we sewed them together, and raffled it off. We made almost $600 with that. Then we had a steak night with a pie auction, where we sold steak dinners and had the kids all bring in something to raffle. We raised $5,400 that night. So we're about $1,600 shy of our goal, right now."
Although the club isn't finished with its fundraising efforts, it has brought in enough to re-open the gym. "The whole story is making Vienna, Mo., smile, I can tell you that," Jones says. "It's great to get the word out that it never hurts to try for these grants. I spent 20 minutes working on this one, and it got us $10,000. I was so surprised when I got the call--it was wonderful."
Along with finding and applying for grants, Jones has some grant-writing tips to share:
- It's important that you have community support, and that you work as a team to identify the issues that matter most. Having a solid understanding of the club and community's needs makes it easier to express them clearly in the application.
- Have a plan in place for how you're going to effect change if you receive the grant. Write about how the money will fit into your plans and make a difference in the community.
- Be sincere in your plea, and be honest in explaining everything. Don't exaggerate your need. Rather, explain what you need, and how it will be used.
- Write from the heart. It helps if you have a background with the club, and fully support its cause within the community. When you have this personal involvement, it's easier to convey the importance of the project--which will help your application stand out.