Here are some tips that I have picked up over the past couple of years. I'm no grant writing expert, but I have had 26 grants fund since 2009, and I currently have four projects up and running right now.
1. Start by asking for small projects. Keep the total close to $100 because onece the fees get added, this project will be worth close to $180. I noticed that when I kept my project small like this, it always got funded and it got funded within a few weeks. When I started up, I asked for a $600 carpet. What do you think happened? You are right, it failed and I lost the points that I used to ask for it.
2. Check the "Partner Funding Page" frequently. here you will find companies that are willing to provide two types of funding. Double Your Impact Match funding and Almost Home Funding.
Double Your Impact Match funding: The company will match your project half way. For example, lets say you asked for a grant that cost $200, if it qualifies for the match, your project will appear with half the funding provided and bring the cost down to $100. This grant should be funded pretty quickly at this price. I try to do this as much as I can. It's pretty common to see lots of match funding offers in each state. Now, this doesn't mean they will give you half the money. The way this works is a company will put up a certain amount of money, let's say $10,000, and they post their criteria such as "hands on science projects less than $400." Every project in that given state that is a science project worth less than $400 will show up as having half the money donated. The remaining amount has to be donated by other donors, when that $10,000 has been exhausted the funding disappears from all projects that didn't receive the rest of the money that was needed to complete their project. This sounded totally confusing to me when I started, but once you get started, it totally makes sense.
Then we have my FAVORITE: Almost Home Funding
Almost home funding works kind of the same as the match funding, except they will reduce the price down to $99 or less. This almost garantees that you will get your resources. The only catch is that this money disappears quickly. You need to read the details and make sure you grant is written the right way or else you will have wasted more points. I don't think many people use this option and they should. For example, at this very moment if you are in Tuscaloosa AL, you can ask for UP TO $3,000 worth of any supplies, State Farm Insurance will bring the cost DOWN TO $99!!! Just to clarify, they will not give you the money, they are willing to donate it, if someone else funds the reminaing amount. If the money is used up, and your project hasn't received enough funding, your project goes back up to the amount it was originally.
When I see that type of funding I use it to ask for something I really need, that I would be willing to pay for! I write up my proposal and when I see my project go down to $100, I donate the $99 to my project and then I can use the receipt and claim this donation on my taxes!! I did this when I wanted an ipad for my classroom. iPads generally don't get funded too often, or quickly, understandably because most people will give to a teacher who needs paper and pencils rather than a person who is asking for an iPad. Knowing this, I knew my best chance of getting it was to pay for it myself. Well, since I didn't want to pay $700 for it out of pocket, I saw an opportunity to get it for $99 and I did!
3. Sometimes companies are out there with funding but are not on the Partner Page, so I do a quick scan of projects in my state and then filter to search for the least expensive projects. Many times I will find another offer for a match, or $99 funding. I just have to do a little research to find out what the criteria will be to get this funding. For the Partner Funding page, the company will tell you exactly what you have to do to qualify. If it's not there you have to figure it out on your own. Sometimes I will put a project up and it won't qualify. I do more research and I find out that it's a specific grant for math and economics, so I go and rewrite my project and take down my other one. Fortunately I have the luxury of doing this because I have so many points. This is not something I would do if I was new to the site because I wouldn't have the points to sacrifice.
4. Read other projects already posted on Donorschoose.org. This will give you an idea of what to say for your project to get it funded. When I want something like a pencil sharpener, I do a search for that. I read over a few projects and that gets me going on what I want to say for my project.
5. Don't get discouraged. I have seen many people who just quit after a couple of projects fail. This happens sometimes. Do more research and have someone check your grant proposal to see if it sounds good. My husband is usually the one who proofs my grants.
6. Always have a project posted, or more if possible. You never know who will be in a giving mood at any given time. Sometimes I have a project posted for months and it doesn't get any donations. In my head I have given up on the project and all of a sudden, I get an email stating that it's been funded. Sometimes it takes just one person to bring those materials to your room.
7. Each time that someone donates to your project, thank them as quickly as possible. I have my emails from DC come to my phone and whenever I see a donation I get online and thank the donor. Sometimes you will get repeat donations this way from the same person.
8. Once your project is funded, accept the grant through DC within a couple of days. If you take too long, they cancel your funding. Plus the moment that you accept the funding, you get an extra point!
9. When your grant is funded and you receive the materials, take pictures of your kids using everything! Take good shots showing that the kids are happy and grateful for these resources. The donors will see these pictures and you want to make sure they see the kids using everything.
10. Some donors, usually the last person to make a donation, or someone who gave more than $100 will qualify to receive letters from your classroom. Try to write your thank you notes as soon as you can. Make sure that they have lots of color, and you proof read them before hand. Sometimes I have been close to putting a beautiful letter in the envelope and when I read it over again I find that one of my angels wrote "please give us more money," Oh boy! I had to give a quick overview on being grateful and appreciative that day.
You will learn tons more when you get on the site. The most important thing is to be active. With budgets being what they are, we cannot afford to keep purchasing everything for our class.
I hope this inspires someone to go out there and start using Donorschoose.org! Good Luck!