How to Start a PTO Grant Program

Mini-grant programs are a great way to set aside some funding for items that aren’t already covered by your PTO budget.

All PTOs should have one because they help keep your budget in balance. It’s also a good way to pay for new opportunities that come up during the year.

Quite often, teachers will come across new programs and items that would really be helpful to the students during the year.

If you don’t have an extra pot of money set aside to pay for these new opportunities, you’ll be left with two choices: decline the request or scramble for the money.

Neither are good options, so an alternative is to plan for these unexpected requests with a mini-grant program.

There’s pretty easy to set up and get going!

This post will walk you through the process of setting up and running a mini-grant program that’s effective for your PTO!

Have scheduled dates for grant submissions.

Make sure all staff know about the deadlines so no one feels left out and there’s equal opportunity to participate.

Keep things fair by not accepting late application submissions.

Having a set application deadline also avoids the situation of first come, first serve.

Without a dedicated date, requests will come flooding in throughout the year.

Maybe the best proposal comes in after all of the grant money has been allocated.

Then you’re left without a way to fund something your really want to fund!

Avoid this situation by setting a deadline or two- one in the Fall and one in the Spring.

Pick submission deadlines that don’t come at really busy times for teachers, like during state testing or right before Winter or Spring break.

Teachers are stretched thin during those times and you’ll have lower participation.

Set Limits

Make it clear how much money is in the mini-grant pot up for grabs and consider setting a limit on the total dollar amount requested for each application.

This way, you won’t have sky high mini-grant requests that you have no way of funding.

This just leads to disappointment and frustration from everyone.

So clear up any possible confusion by stating the available amount of money at the onset.

After that, you can set limits for the individual grant requests to fund as many mini-grant proposals as possible.

If the mini-grant program has $1000, maybe you want to limit the size of grant funding to $250 each so you can fund four grants to read around the money?

Talk about this with your executive board and do what’s best for your PTO.

Develop a grant application

You’ll also want to develop a set of grant request guidelines outlining the information you’ll need to make a determination.

Most teachers have experience with writing grant proposals, so there shouldn’t be an issue.

If you don’t ask for the right information, you may not get it.

So be clear about what you need.

Mini grant criteria

When I revamped our school’s mini-grant process, I instituted a quick application process.

Teachers are busy, so the application wasn’t long at all.

There were just a few requirements!

First, I wanted to be able to quickly share the applications with the mini-grant committee members, so I required the applications to be submitted electronically.

Next, the application asked for the following information:

1. How much money is being requested?
2. How the will money be used?
3. How many students will be impacted?
4. Overall cost estimates.
5. Is this a one-time cost or a repeating cost?

Grant Terms and Conditions

Further, you don’t have to get too formal with these, but you’l need some terms and conditions.

Mainly, you should also decide what should happen to the items purchased with the grant money.  

Do the items become property of the school?  
Or can the teacher take them with her if she’s transferred to a different school?

Once your Executive Board nails down this information, make sure you communicate it clearly.

It’s probably best to include this agreement in your email or letter letting the grant recipient know that their request will be funded so there’s no questions down the road.

Also, you’ll want to set a limit for the time the teach has to use the grant.

I made sure the teachers knew they needed to purchase the items immediately and submit a receipt for reimbursement.

You may want to consider purchasing the item directly for the teacher, especially if you are a tax-exempt organization.

Your grant dollars will be stretched even further if you’re not paying tax.

Teachers sometimes get a sales tax exemption from some stores, but not all.

Teachers also may not have the money to pre-pay for the items.

Form a Grant Committee

Each grant application should be reviewed by the PTO Grant Committee.

The committee can be a standing one, as designated in your Bylaws and Standing Rules, or you can form it each term.

By default, the PTO President serves as the head of all committees, and a grant committee is no exception.

There’s not a really good reason that the Teacher representative can’t serve on this committee unless she has submitted a grant application for consideration.
Without a “horse in the race”, there’s no inherent conflict of interest because she’s a teacher.

Distribute the applications to the committee and then the committee talks it through to decide which grants to fund.

The last task of the grant committee is to inform all applicants in writing whether or not their grant application will be funded!

Over to you!

And that’s how simple it is to set up a mini grant program for your PTO!

How do you think your school staff will react to having a clear process to follow?

Share your thoughts in the comments!


You might be interested in this!

If your PTO is looking for an easier way to track income and expenses and generally get a better handle on all things PTO money, be sure to check out the Treasurer’s Finance Manager.

Posted in Finances and Money Management, PTO Officers and Leaders and tagged , .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *