Obtaining Resources Home Page

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Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Appendix D

Appendix E


Index (Search Engine)

List of Moursund's Websites

Chapter 6: Types of Proposal-Writing Situations

Proposal-writing situations generally fall into three categories: highly competitive, moderately competitive, and noncompetitive.

Moursund, D.G. (2002). Obtaining resources for technology in education: A how-to guide for writing proposals, forming partnerships, and raising funds. Copyright (c) David Moursund, 2002.

Section Headings for Chapter 6

Highly Competitive Proposal-Writing Situations

U.S. Department of Education

U.S. National Science Foundation

Moderately Competitive Situations

Dwight D. Eisenhower Program

Meyer Memorial Trust

Non and/or Very Low Competitive Proposal Situations

Scenario 1: Subscription to a Periodical

Scenario 2: PTA/PTO

Scenario 3: School/Business Partnership

Scenario 4: Teacher Professional Development Funds

Scenario 5: School Maintenance and Remodeling


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Proposal-writing situations generally fall into three categories: highly competitive, moderately competitive, and noncompetitive. Of course, there are no strict boundaries between these categories, as shown in Figure 6.1.


Figure 6.1. Degrees of competitiveness in proposal-writing situations.

  • Highly Competitive

    The most competitive situations are those in which a large number of people or organizations are eligible to compete for resources from a government agency, corporation, or foundation. Such competitive situations are often widely publicized. There is a clear statement of the amount of resources available. There are directions for how and when to submit a proposal. The underlying assumption is that the resources will be awarded to the best proposals. The number of submitted proposals is usually many times the number that can be funded.

  • Moderately Competitive

    Many proposal writing opportunities fall someplace between highly competitive and noncompetitive. For example, suppose you approach your local Parents and Teachers Organization (PTO) to fund a new computer in the teachers' lounge. There are many other possible uses of the PTO funds, so this is a competitive environment. However, the PTO does not advertise that it is seeking competitive proposals for how to use its resources and it is possible that no one else is seeking funds for technology in the school.

  • Noncompetitive

    Some situations involve no direct competition with other proposal writers for resources. For example, you might approach a local business seeking volunteers to visit your school to inform students about technology in the business world. The local business has not advertised that it is seeking such proposals. It is possible that a number of individuals from different schools would approach this local business, but you could be the only one who has thought of the idea and followed up on it.

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Highly Competitive Proposal-Writing Situations

The "grant business" is a multibillion dollar business. Over the years, guidelines have been developed that help systematize the process of receiving, and processing grant proposals. As a result, many funding agencies have strict content and format guidelines a proposal must follow if it is to qualify for funding. Of course, general guidelines vary with the funding agency.

The total resources available from Resource Providers are limited. Demand always exceeds availability. Given this fact, the overall proposal business is very competitive. However, the level of competition varies widely in different situations.

In openly competitive situations, such as funding requests submitted to federal agency programs, the level of competition is fierce. There may be 200 proposals submitted where there is money to fund 10 projects. You can imagine how it feels to be rated 11th out of 200 proposals submitted and still not get funded! The difference between being rated 11th and being rated 10th might be a tiny thing, such as a single sentence that is unclear, an obvious reference that is overlooked, or a spelling error. Careful attention to detail is essential in such highly competitive situations.

The following sections provide examples of several sets of proposal guidelines. The first set is extracted from literature published by the U.S. Department of Education. The second set comes from a document published by the U.S. National Science Foundation. Both agencies fund numerous projects each year.

The U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation are discussed in more detail in the next chapter on evaluation criteria. It is important to pay careful attention to such evaluation criteria when writing a proposal.

U.S. Department of Education

The detailed submission guidelines for the U.S. Department of Education are many pages long. There are special forms that must be filled out and included with the proposal. Details for specific proposal areas are available at the US Department of Education Website.

The following outline describes the essential components of a proposal to the Department of Education.

Part 1: Abstract.

This may vary in length between approximately a quarter page and a half page. There may be a strict limit on the length, such as 200 words. Often the abstract is the first part of the proposal that a proposal evaluator reads. While it is placed at the beginning of the proposal, it usually is the last part of the proposal to be written. It should provide a good overview of the key points in the proposal. The funding agency often reproduces the abstract in reports of its funding activities.

Part 2: Statement of purpose of the project.

What problem is being addressed? What is the project designed to accomplish? The statement of purpose may vary in length from a single sentence to a short paragraph. Usually this comes at the very beginning of the body of the proposal. There must be no doubt in the reader's mind what problem is to be solved or what task is to be accomplished by the project.

Part 3: Literature review and general methodology based on the literature review.

What is known about solving the problem or accomplishing the specified task? The discussion, based upon published information about this type of problem, should lead to a description of the general methodology for attacking the problem.

Part 4: Plan of operations, evaluation plan, key personnel, and adequacy of personnel and other resources.

This is often quite detailed and includes a timeline. This is the core of the proposal. Usually there is a strict limit on the number of pages in this section of the proposal. This section may include links to Websites of the organization, key personnel, and related project work being carried out by the organization and/or the key personnel.

Part 5: Organizational capability, budget summary, and justification.

What resources (what cost sharing or in-kind contributions) do you and your organization bring to the project? Justify the claim that your resources together with the funding agency's are sufficient to solve the problem or accomplish the task.

Part 6: Appendices.

The appendices provide additional information that is too detailed to include in the body of the proposal. They may include a bibliography, vitae of proposed project staff, letters of support, statements of commitment from an organization or an advisory board, and other material.

The U.S. Department of Education issues many different Requests for Proposals (RFPs) each year. These specific programs vary considerably in size. Thus, one particular RFP may call for proposals in a particular area of special education. The program might be designed to support 10&endash;15 different research projects funded at about $60,000 to $75,000 per year for three years. This RFP might attract perhaps 75 to100 proposals. A different RFP might call for proposals to establish one research center to carry out and synthesize research on a particular topic, such as student drug abuse. This RFP might indicate funding for this research center at the level of $2 million a year for five years. Dozens or even hundreds of organizations might submit proposals in response to this RFP.

U.S. National Science Foundation

The submission guidelines for proposals to the National Science Foundation (NSF) are lengthy and are accompanied by a number of special forms that must be filled out and included with the proposal. NSF grant application forms are available electronically, and many of their programs now require that proposals be submitted electronically.

The following list identifies the main components that must be included in a proposal to the NSF as of this writing.

Part 1: Cover Sheet (NSF Form 1207) and abstract. Approximately one-third of a page is provided for the abstract.

Part 2: Project Data and Summary Form (NSF Form 1295).

This provides statistics on the number and nature of people being served. This data is used both in evaluating the proposal and also in gathering statistical data on the proposals being submitted and funded.

Part 3: Table of Contents. Typically NSF proposals are long enough and detailed enough so that they benefit from having a Table of Contents.

Part 4: Project Description/Narrative (including results from previous NSF funding).

This is the core of the proposal. Usually the number of pages in this section is strictly limited.

Part 5: Bibliography and analysis of literature relevant to the proposal.

Part 6: Biographical sketch of Principal Investigator(s).

This is usually a brief narrative; more detailed vitae (typically limited to two pages) appear in an appendix.

Part 7: Budget (NSF Form 1030) and Budget Justification.

This form includes details on cost sharing.

Part 8: Current and Pending Support (NSF Form 1239).

This form lists all your current and pending grants. The NSF wants to make sure that the Project Director and key staff are not committed beyond one full-time equivalent (FTE) of employment on grants.

Part 9: Appendices.

These include letters of support and detailed information that is not appropriate to place in the Project Description. Usually the proposal guidelines limit the nature and amount of material that can be placed in appendices or indicate that the proposal evaluators will not necessarily read the appendices.

The Department of Education format is somewhat more open ended than the NSF format. Both organizations require use of certain forms that they provide. Both ask for enough information to satisfy all legal requirements being placed on their agencies. Both use outside reviewers, so they require uniformity in the proposal layout.

The Department of Education and the NSF are prestigious organizations. Thus, if you are a faculty member at a university, having a grant funded through one of these organizations can contribute significantly to your obtaining promotion and tenure.

Note added 4/21/06. At the time this book was being written, the NSF was funding about 1/3 of the grant proposals it was receiving. Here is a brief note from a 4/21/06 NSF news report. It indicated that the NSF is now funding about 1/4 of the proposals it receives.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of $5.58 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 1,700 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 40,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes nearly 10,000 new funding awards. The NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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Moderately Competitive Situations

There are many grant situations in which the level of competition is moderate. Often these are situations in which the competition is within a state, For example, a state may receive funds (such as Block Grants) from the U.S. Federal Government, and then distribute some of it though a competitive process within the state.

Many school districts use a competitive process to help distribute some of their educational technology funds. A school district may decide to invest some of its budget in a few "model school" programs rather than distribute funds evenly over all schools, or the district may decide to implement a program in half of the schools in the first year and expand it to the remaining schools in the second year. Typically, the proposal writers have a clear understanding of how many projects will be funded and the nature and amount of resources each will receive.

The following two sections provide good examples of moderately competitive funding programs.

Dwight D. Eisenhower Program

The Dwight D. Eisenhower program allocates U.S. Federal funds to the individual states according to a formula laid out in the authorization for this program. Each state has its own set of rules governing the program, but these must be approved by program administrators at the federal level.

Recently in Oregon, for example, about three-fourths of the funds were allocated by formula to the school districts, while the remaining funds were placed in a competitive grant program. The Dwight D. Eisenhower program for science, math, and technology in Oregon had approximately $500,000 earmarked for proposals to be submitted through higher education. Proposals were to be in the range of $25,000 to $50,000. Data from previous years suggested that fewer than 20 proposals are typically submitted each year, and that perhaps 10&endash;12 are funded. In the most recent round of funding, about three-fourths of the submitted proposals were funded.

This is a rather low level of competition. Moreover, the competition comes from within the state. Finally, the size of the grants and the restrictions places on them tend to make it so relatively fey "Grant Mills" apply.

Meyer Memorial Trust

The Meyer Memorial Trust is a good example of a private foundation that operates regionally. It is the largest foundation in the Pacific Northwest. Eligibility for most of the programs operated by this foundation is limited to applicants from Oregon or the part of the greater Portland metropolitan area that expands into Washington state. This tends to restrict the number of proposals that it receives.

The Meyer Memorial Trust has several different programs. One of the newest, Support for Teacher Initiatives, is for elementary and secondary school teachers in Oregon and the Clark County region of Washington. This program targets relatively small, teacher-initiated projects.

Support for Teacher Initiatives grants are available either to individual teachers or teams of two or more teachers. Quoting from the Website:

Support for Teacher Initiatives is intended to recognize and support the initiative and imagination that teachers employ to engage students in learning. The program provides grants to individual teachers and teams of teachers, in public and private elementary and secondary schools, for projects intended to stimulate more effective classroom learning. The maximum amount of a grant is $2,000 for an individual teacher, and $7,000 for a team of teachers. To qualify for the maximum amount, applicants must secure matching funding from other sources.

The annual deadline for the Support for Teacher Initiatives program is February 1.

This is a very open-ended program. Appendix B contains a hypothetical sample proposal designed to fit the Meyer Memorial Trust guidelines. The sample proposal given in Appendix B is of sufficient quality so that it probably would have been funded. However, it is relatively easy to see ways to improve the proposal.

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Non and/or Very Low Competitive Proposal Situations

There are many different funding opportunities involving little or no competition with other Resource Seekers.

Various states have encouraged long-range planning for educational technology at the school district level by awarding technology implementation money to every school district that submits a reasonably well-written long-range plan. This is an example of a noncompetitive situation. Every proposal that meets the standards specified in the RFP is funded.

There are many minimally competitive funding situations sponsored locally by schools, school districts, and other community providers. Taking advantage of these opportunities requires innovation--figuring out a good plan of action and actively pursuing it.

For example, perhaps you are involved with a school making its facilities increasingly available to the community after school and during evening hours. What roles would you like educational technology to play in the community school? Perhaps you would like to involve the school's computer facilities in the program. Perhaps you would like the program to encourage students to help their parents learn about computer technology. Perhaps you would like students to offer courses to other students and adults, possibly as a way to generate a little income to acquire more computer facilities. You are working in a minimally competitive environment, so achieving all of these goals might be relatively easy.

Many school districts budget funds for professional development. Some districts allocate a specific amount per teacher per year, and teachers can receive funding by writing a short proposal. A teacher might be able to get $300 to help pay expenses in attending a computer conference--merely by filling out a one page request form. There is no competition, but there are strict guidelines on what types of activities will be funded.

Here are a few scenarios that represent noncompetitive situations. Each describes a Resource Seeker taking an innovative or opportunistic approach to obtaining resources.

Scenario 1: Subscription to a Periodical

Sue carries a full teaching load. In addition, she serves as the volunteer technology coordinator in her school. In this unpaid position, she meets once a month with the school district's technology committee. She regularly reads several computer magazines and shares ideas with her fellow teachers. From time to time, she helps people in the school office solve their computer problems.

One morning, Sue helps the school secretary format a report the principal has written. The secretary later tells Sue that the principal was pleased with the appearance of the report and wanted to thank her for her help.

Later in the day, Sue talks to the principal as they walk down the hall together. She tells the principal about a computer education conference she attended at her own expense the previous weekend, where she saw a copy of Learning and Leading With Technology, a periodical that seems well suited to the needs of teachers in the school. She gives the principal a sample copy and subscription form, and asks the principal to request that the school media specialist subscribe to this publication.

This scenario illustrates a very informal proposal. At first glance, it may seem that no advance preparation was required. However, the advance work probably included the following:

  1. Obtaining a copy of Learning and Leading With Technology and a subscription form at the conference. Sue was probably already familiar with this publication.
  2. Knowing that if the principal makes the request to the school media specialist, the probability of success will be much greater than if a teacher makes the request.
  3. Figuring out how to best make her request to the principal. Sue's approach may have been based on her personal knowledge of the principal's management and decision-making style.
  4. Deciding to take advantage of the fact that the principal was grateful for Sue's help on his report earlier in the day.

Of course, this is a lot of work just to get one new periodical into the school's library. But, "the way the twig is bent …" is an important idea. The next step might be to convince the principal to form a committee to make recommendations on Information and Communications Technology books and periodicals that are needed by students and staff in the school.

Scenario 2: PTA/PTO

Tom has two children in elementary school and is an active member of the Parents and Teachers Organization (PTO). From talking to his children and their teachers, he knows that computers are not widely used in their school because little modern equipment is available. He prepares a proposal to the school's PTO to earmark some of its funds for six computer workstations in the library media room. These stations would be networked to a laser printer and linked to the school district's Internet connection.

Tom has done his homework. His written proposal details the cost of hardware, software, and teacher training. He includes letters of support from the library media specialist, his two children's teachers, and the school district's technology coordinator. His oral presentation includes a discussion of curriculum in which students access a wide range of information sources, communicate with people throughout the world, and create reports with a desktop-publishing program. Tom has discussed the proposal with several other PTO members, and they make statements in support of the proposal.

This proposal is very apt to be funded. It is strengthened by Tom being a parent of students in the school and a member of the PTO. The support of other PTO members is a very important feature of the proposal.

Scenario 3: School/Business Partnership

Irene and George are middle school science teachers. They know their school lacks the high-tech hardware, software, and other equipment routinely used in the high-tech manufacturing facilities operated by several local companies. By talking with their students, they identify a number of students whose parents work at one of these companies.

Irene and George prepare a school&endash;business partnership proposal that has four components. First, representatives from the company where the students' parents work will make in-school presentations to students about the nature of the high-tech work the company does and the type of education and training its employees have. Second, the students will go on a half-day field trip to the company, where they will talk to individual employees and watch them work in a high-tech environment. A free lunch in the company cafeteria will also be included. Third, a teacher from the school (perhaps Irene or George) will receive a paid, eight-week summer internship with the company. If all goes well, this project will be an event repeated annually.

The fourth component calls for Irene, George, the school, and the school district to make a major effort to provide the business with good publicity. The project will have a high public profile. Newspaper, radio, and TV media will be informed of the project, motivating the company to participate.

Such a bold proposal requires a lot of groundwork. It requires considerable dialogue with an appropriate company official. It requires the backing of the school, and perhaps of the school district. Typically, such a proposal is not put into written form until after a lot of informal discussions have occurred. If the business agrees to examine a formal written proposal, the proposal probably has a good chance of acceptance.

Scenario 4: Teacher Professional Development Funds

Pacific Ocean Elementary School is in a school district that allocates $350 per teacher per year for professional development. The school is reasonably well equipped with computer hardware, software, and printers. However, it is not doing much with multimedia because it lacks equipment such as scanners and digital cameras.

Six teachers in the elementary school decide to see if the school district will allow them to pool the funds allocated for their professional development. The six teachers agree that they will pay their own travel and per diem expenses to attend a two-day workshop on how to use a scanner and a digital camera to do multimedia curriculum activities in the elementary school. They prepare a budget request for $2,100 (that is, 6 x $350) to purchase the hardware and six registration fees for the workshop. Their detailed proposal includes preliminary planning on how they will integrate this computer technology into their classrooms and share their increased knowledge and skills with other teachers.

Scenario 5: School Maintenance and Remodeling

Leslie is the school principal. Her school is the oldest in the district and is scheduled for significant maintenance and remodeling this coming summer. Leslie notes that the electrical system in the building is totally inadequate for the installation of pods of computers into each classroom. She also notes that the lighting within the classrooms does not allow partially darkening the room for use of a computer projection device. Finally, she notes that while new and/or improved wiring is being installed, it would also make sense to provide high bandwidth network connections to each classroom.

Leslie prepares a proposal that all of these tasks be accomplished using the School District funds for maintenance and remodeling. She gets endorsement of her plans from the School Maintenance and Remodeling Committee, the School's Site Council, and the School's PTO. She even gets a commitment from the PTO to provide volunteer labor in installing the high bandwidth connectivity into each classroom.

With all of this commitment and support in hand, she approaches the School District central administration with her plan. She notes that she has discussed the plan with a couple of the School Board members and that they are supportive.

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  1. Analyze the brief outlines of the requirements for formal proposals to the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation. What are their similarities and differences?
  2. Analyze the application instructions from the Meyer Memorial Trust, available on their Website. Compare and contrast them with the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation proposal requirements.
  3. Using the techniques described in Chapter 4, do a cost/benefit analysis for a proposal to the Meyer Memorial Trust Teacher Initiative program. Assume that about one-fourth of the proposals to this program are funded.
  4. Make a list of some noncompetitive resources relevant to the educational technology problems that concern you. Make a list of goals related to educational technology that each Resource Provider might have. Then describe an educational technology problem that interests you and each Resource Provider. In this analysis, you are working backward from the solution (the resource) to the problem.
  5. Make a list of some local companies that may be appropriate for a school&endash;business partnership. Analyze each from an educational technology point of view and from the point of view of improving the quality of student education. Select one of these companies and develop a brief preliminary proposal.

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