Change your thinking, change your funding

Zola Maddison /

In their webinar, Grant Writing for Libraries Serving Children, Dr. Gail K. Dickinson and Dr. Sue C. Kimmel, from the Darden College of Education at Old Dominion University in Virginia, propose some innovative approaches to applying for grant funding. Dickinson and Kimmel suggest flipping our thinking around some old ideas can help anyone become a successful grant writer.

Partnerships—we need them. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking “I need money for my library or my library programs,” but increasingly, funders are looking for evidence of partnerships. Partnerships also give you more funding options to choose from and often make for stronger programs to the community. Several webinar attendees discussed their partnerships for grant-funded programs:

"Our library partners with a local coffee shop and the school system to create a teen poetry/art club."

"I partnered with the mission of American Association of Theatre in Education and local schools to develop an elementary drama program at the library."

"We partner with the Friends of the Library."

"We've partnered with Kohls and our county's Family Resource Coalition, and I do major collaboration with our school district's Parent Connections program."

Resources—we’ve got them. While it’s tempting to emphasize a deficit of resources to receive funding, most funders actually want to see that you understand the resources that you have at your disposal and that you are making the most of what you have. Highlighting your resources helps you tell your story to funders by setting the context for what you are doing with what you have now, what the grant funds will allow you to do, and the expected impact of being able to provide a new program or service through funding.

Just try! Rather than taking classes and reading books on grant applications, Dickinson and Kimmel urge us to simply begin applying. Even if you don’t get the grant, real grant writing is the best training any of us can get and each application will become stronger. And as we heard from participants, just trying can lead to some unexpected results:

"I was talking to friends of our library about a grant and what it entailed and they funded the program so that I didn't have to write the grant! Amazing!"

"We tried to get a Pepsi grant to put in handicap-accessible doors. Didn't get it, but the publicity we generated got us enough donations that we were able to fund it anyways."

To learn more strategies for successful grant funding, view the presentation or check out the other resources on the archive page.