A Guide on How to Get STEM Funding

Are you looking for information on how to get STEM funding? If so, you’ve come to the right place! As a youth services librarian and head of the technology committee at my library, I have been searching far and wide for the best information on STEM funding. I have written this post to share my knowledge.

How do you get STEM funding? Gather all the information you need including why you need STEM funding and what you plan on doing with it. Find organizations that offer STEM funding or STEM grants and use your gathered information to apply.

STEM funding opportunities come and go, so if you’re not prepared, then your kids won’t be either. Many appear yearly and some are “one-and-doners.” The application process can be arduous, so it’s best to be ready for them. The following post is aimed at giving you tips on how to get STEM funding, how to write a winning STEM grant, and what to do with your STEM funding.

STEM Funding Tips

With limited school funding, teachers cannot give students access to the latest STEM equipment or even simple tablets. But with their students’ dreams of programming robots and using 3D printers, determined teachers seek their own funding from the local community, corporations, and grants. How can you make your STEM wishes come true? What STEM grants are the best? Read more to find resources, tips on writing, and funding options to get money for your classroom or program!

  1. Look in Your District. Your district may have special STEM funding for after school clubs or projects. Consult the STEM Coordinator or Curriculum Director in your district to get help, or ask your school principal.
  2. Find STEM Companies. STEM companies often provide STEM using a community-based approach. Search for state-wide, local, and national companies with employees near you. A lot of city websites list major companies and industries in the area. Look for manufacturing, healthcare, science, and related companies. Once you’ve found a company, look for open grant opportunities. You can do this on your favorite search engine. For example, I Googled “Honda grants” and found the American Honda Foundation, which offers STEM grants. Other examples are Toyota and Shell. Not only can you submit grants online, but you can also contact local branches. An excellent way to reach out is to invite STEM professionals to a career day or a STEM family night as the first introduction to your school. When their employees are involved, companies are more likely to respond.
  3. Consider Crowd-Sourcing. If, for some reason, you don’t find any luck with any of the first two funding options or you’d rather go through the sometimes difficult application process for them, consider crowd-sourcing through sites such as DonorsChoose or AdoptAClassroom.
  4. Pay Attention to Underrepresented Groups. STEM companies try to diversify their businesses by seeking more minorities and women. Many students are looking for careers in high school, and companies realize that reaching them early is essential to prepare them for a demanding STEM career. For this reason, there are more funding options in Title 1 schools that represent the interests of minorities, women, and students. This is even more so after the March 2018 federal spending bill was signed into law. Title IV, Part A under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), has increased funding from $400,000 to $1.1 billion. Also, companies want a more significant impact, so schools or libraries that have few or no STEM programs are more attractive.
  5. Work with Other Organizations. Many agencies want to offer STEM programs, and they may be interested in working with you to provide programs at your school. Here are some national organizations: Boys and Girls ClubYMCAGirls Inc, and local libraries if you’re at a school and vice versa. These organizations often participate in after-school programs through 21st Century Learning grants and may be able to add STEM events.
  6. Focus on the Results. Sponsors are all about numbers and results. Be ready to show how your STEM program or projects will lead to an increase in academic performance and consistency in STEM. In addition to adapting to the standards, you can also discuss how STEM’s project-based activities, which relate to real-world applications, make students interested in STEM subjects, and strengthen their confidence in academics. This will lead to a greater interest in classes and higher school attendance. Who would not want that?

Your STEM project can include the following:

  • Collaborations with local STEM professionals
  • Student-driven discovery of science, engineering, and mathematical relationships
  • Skills of the 21st century
  • Real-world project-based learning

Possible STEM results:

  • Increased confidence and excitement for science and math
  • Higher science and math grades
  • More interest in STEM career paths
  • Increased endurance in STEM courses: choosing engineering electives or participation in STEM competitions

With these results, you should, of course, be able to collect data! Be sure that your district can provide grades or other outcomes to show funders.

Tips On Writing a STEM Grant

Have you ever written a grant? You don’t need to be an expert to receive a grant. The most important thing is to precisely follow the funder’s instructions.

Use these 19 tips to get started:

  1. Determine the need. Specifically explain why you need funding. Your state may have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, and your curriculum may require alterations to meet these standards. A large number of students may not meet expectations in math or science. Or maybe your district is determined to fill the “opportunity gap” for low-income students and minorities.
  2. Make your goals clear. How will you use the grant? Set realistic goals and strive for results that are measurable. For example: “We plan to launch a pilot program to integrate science and engineering lessons for fourth-grade students in three schools, which will reach 600 students in three years.”
  3. Determine how you rate success. How do you know that the introduction of a new curriculum made a change? Higher student test scores? Improving performance after implementation compared to performance before implementation? Prepare to describe the tools you use for assessment.
  4. Obtain permission. This step is easy to skip, especially when you’ve done all your research, and you have your eyes set on the price. But don’t forget about it! Most grants require you to show that you have the approval of school administrators.
  5. Create a budget. Your budget should clearly reflect the relationship between what you are going to do and the money needed to do so. Do you need a few hundred dollars or a few thousand? Don’t forget to indicate the cost of staff as well as supplies.
  6. Identify potential funders. Examine your goals and budget, and look for different funders that meet your needs. Then, select the best match. Sites like STEMfinity collect information on available grants. Grants.gov and S&S Worldwide have convenient online grant finders to help you find opportunities. Search for funders who want to support your type of project instead of getting your project to meet the requirements of an attractive grant option.
  7. Follow Instructions. Each funder will give detailed directions on what to expect from you. Double-check your work after carefully following the instructions.
  8. Know your needs before applying. This is crucial to finding the appropriate grant. Funders like to know if their investment matters. Therefore, you must be prepared with the learning outcomes that are desired or proof of significance. School teachers and administrators should know what STEM means in their village or district. What is the strategy? Is there a procedure, protocol, or process for providing grants in your school system?
  9. Design a project plan that is sustainable. It is worth making sure that your project has clearly defined goals and a transparent path to success. You might even want to start a steering committee, consisting of parents and teachers, for your project to give impetus and ideas for a brainstorming session.
  10. Begin early. The grant process is lengthy and complex. Therefore, make sure that you have defined goals and objectives and that you have time to work out the project before it is completed.
  11. Write a budget. Sources of funding want a clear idea of how you’ll use the grant, and sometimes about what other sources of funding you have and plan to use.
  12. Explore and find the appropriate match. Read the organization’s website and contact the grant manager to make sure that you understand their objectives in providing funds. Is it an organization that focuses on general STEM education? Female equality? Bridging the gap in opportunities for at-risk students and English Language Learners (ELL)? Make sure your project is suitable before starting the application.
  13. Understand the guidelines and requirements. Most funding foundations disclose grant guidelines that must be strictly followed. If you have any questions, contact them and ask.
  14. Make strong evidence. Your “statement of necessity” defines your entire grant application. Make sure you clearly understand your mission and how it will solve the problems of your classroom. Do you need to purchase digital curricula that will help tutor those who are behind in math? The number of students? What are the test results? Does your school serve a large number of ELL residents? State all the details.
  15. Write a compelling project summary. A “project summary” summarizes the objectives, goals, needs, and budget of your project — all in a few paragraphs or on no more than one page. Make it clear so that someone can understand the meaning of the project without your understanding of science or mathematics. Make it seamless for the reader to know your main points with bullets and subheadings. And most of all, help the funder get inspired about making a difference by engaging students in active learning.
  16. Use SMART goals. Each proposal requires a description of the budget objectives and the measurable goals of your project. “SMART” goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable within the budget, Relevant, and Time-bound. Take the time to detail all the activities of the project and make sure that the details of your budget matches the details of the activities. Your assessment should carefully measure whether the stated objectives were met on time.
  17. Build trust. Be sure to identify important teachers, parents, and other community members who are dedicated to the program. Some funders may accept a letter of support from a distinguished member of the community.
  18. Write a great cover letter. Your cover letter shouldn’t just repeat the proposal. It should bring life to your project and actively attract the reader in one page.
  19. Get ready for collaboration. Brainstorm with other parents, teachers, and stakeholders in the community who might be passionate about your project.

How To Spend STEM Funding

Schools do not have the resources needed to properly teach students how to code. Not surprisingly, US employers were able to fill only 10 percent of the available IT jobs with qualified candidates in 2016. In 2017, progress was made when President Trump directed the Education Department to invest at least $200 million in grant funding annually for STEM and computer science education in schools. This was complemented with an additional $300 million from tech firms and the private sector dedicated to K-12 computer science programs.

Although many believe that these funds are a glimmer of hope for schools in the future, there are some concerns that schools don’t know how to use the money to stimulate changes in coding education. One solution is to focus on STEAM programs so that we don’t accidentally waste recent progress. We can do this by starting teacher training programs, investing in durable educational technology products for classrooms, and improving curricula to assert coding in each subject.

Invest in teachers first

Although some tech-savvy students know a little about coding, most of their teachers have not received clear instructions on how and when to integrate technology into their classes. To properly incorporate coding and computer science into our education system, it is essential to provide teacher training programs that support their professional development, and to better prepare them for technologies that they may not be familiar with. Give teachers support to continue learning.

Schools should invest in supporting teachers through lesson plans and supportive classes to give them confidence in teaching concepts that they may not be competent in. Teachers are in direct communication with students. If they aren’t ready to teach coding or STEAM-related principles required by their schools, all the facilities that are provided to improve students’ understanding of these concepts are no longer used for their intended purpose.

Investing in teachers first is the best way to build a solid foundation on which all students can study coding and computer science, and make it clear that STEAM learning is a priority every year. If this lack of important confidence is not resolved directly, the remaining solutions won’t matter.

Make wise purchases in edtech

Teachers cannot merely depend on textbooks to teach specific subjects. The best way children learn STEAM topics is through hands-on learning, so textbooks may not provide a perspective in which students need to truly understand crucial concepts. As a result, many teachers in the United States are looking both online and offline for a variety of resources to help create lesson plans.

Teachers usually invest in useful products, but districts should consider buying tools that will help everyone be on the same page. However, school administrators need to do research when deciding on the appropriate school edtech products. Products that come with both hardware and software are smart investments. Equipment alone can become quickly outdated, so the software component updates, and assures a longer shelf life – all essential factors for school districts on a small budget.

Include coding as part of each subject

Teachers, schools, and educational companies need to communicate better so that coding applies to those students who are interested in all subjects. Coding is an essential skill for many professions, including those that aren’t as obvious, such as marketing, finance, and design. That’s the reason why it’s so valuable to include coding in each subject’s lesson plans.

Students who are familiar with computers and have some programming skills will be useful in the future automated world by applying their critical thinking skills and creativity. Understanding these concepts provides benefits in a wide variety of areas.

Jason Velarde

Jason Velarde is the guy behind STEMcadia. He has been involved with libraries for over 15 years, starting as a Circulation Desk Clerk, working his way to becoming a Youth Services Librarian. Nearly every evening after work, you’ll find him either reverse engineering (breaking) a gadget or building prototype robots, but when he's not, he's here researching and writing about all things related to STEM on STEMcadia.