Navigating the Maze of Grants

When you’re a campus leader or teacher looking for grants, where do you start? What pitfalls should you avoid? Kish Russell, an expert in grants and federal compliance, generously shared her knowledge on this topic during our recent podcast episode, “Show Me the Money!” This post distills some of her insights to help guide you through the complex maze of grants. Learn how to find, win, and certify compliance for federal and competitive grants today.

Decoding the Grant Landscape

The world of grants can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to reporting requirements and management logistics. Kish suggests starting with smaller, more manageable grants: “I recommend anything under ten thousand dollars. You get into the hundred thousand, that’s when all the reporting gets into play and you have to make sure that you have the staff and the time to do all the reporting for that.”

Looking in the Right Places

Kish also highlights certain types of organizations that may offer less burdensome grants. Examples include:

  • Large corporations such as Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, and Home Depot.
  • Banks, which frequently offer grant programs.
  • Local and national foundations on resources such as Candid.

She emphasizes the importance of a fast turnaround time, as many such entities offer multiple cycles of funding requests, providing quicker access to funds.

Navigating Grant Restrictions

Several common restrictions require careful attention when seeking grants. These include:

  • 501c3 status: Many grants require tax-exempt status. Most school districts don’t have this, so they need to work with their Education Foundation and utilize their 501c3 status to access grants.
  • Active registration: This registration needs to be active and up-to-date to access many state and federal grants.
  • Geographic restrictions: Some grants serve only specific locations, so your project must align with these stipulations.

Stay Diligent & Keep Trying

Grants might seem daunting, but Kish encourages educators to be persistent. “Keep trying,” she emphasizes, “the first time you do it, it may not work out, but you just have to keep going. Build on your success and then before you know it, your success rate will increase.” She further advises understanding the competitive nature of certain grants, where your application must be particularly compelling to stand out.

Success Stories & Support

Hearing about real-world success stories, such as the dropout recovery program in San Antonio ISD that benefited tremendously from a grant, reinforces the potential value of this effort. Kish provides a wealth of guidance and resources for grant seekers on her website,

In addition, her newly published book, “State Compensatory Education Compliance by Design,” serves as a comprehensive guide on managing and monitoring compliance with state requirements for at-risk students. It is a must-read for those striving to close achievement gaps in reading and math.

Grants can be transformative opportunities for programs, campuses, and students. Navigating this landscape requires diligence, persistence, and a little guidance. As Kish puts it, even if your first few attempts don’t pan out, “It all leads to good things.”

Kish Russell is a grant-writing expert based in San Antonio, Texas. Kish has worked in education for over 20 years, from the kindergarten classroom to her Superintendent certification and into higher education classrooms. Now she’s working in consulting with public and private schools, foundations, and higher ed institutions, providing phenomenal dynamic guidance on all things grant writing in compliance. You can learn more about Kish on her website, including links to her books, podcast episodes, coaching resources, and even just free guides for navigating federal grants like Title I or ESSA. To hear more from Kish Russell and dive deeper into the world of grants, tune into the full podcast episode “Show Me the Money!“. Remember to keep trying, keep learning, and continue making a difference.

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