Grants 101: What a Grant Specialist Wants You to Know

By Jeff Bidwell, CST, CSFA, CSA, KCSA, MA, FAST, With Contributions From Craig Dixon, Madisonville Community College

Jeff Bidwell, CST, CSFA, CSA, KCSA, MA, FAST, Program Director, Madisonville Community Technical College

One area in which new surgical technology program directors can enhance their programs is through grants. At Madisonville Community College, I have been very fortunate to work with David Schuermer and Craig Dixon, two grant specialists who frequently lend their expertise and insight when it comes to all things grants. Through their efforts, we have been able to obtain items for the surgical technology program that have enhanced the students’ learning experience. Just a few of those items include a surgical table, surgical instruments and a LAPSIM training system. 

When it comes to grants, what follows is some good advice I received from Craig Dixon:


When I was learning grantsmanship, the one notion that stood out to me more than any other was, “Funders fund outcomes.” This may be the most misunderstood concept in the grant world. When people approach me about grants, most times they ask if there’s a grant to buy new computers or hire someone new.

Strictly speaking, the answer is no. Few, if any, grantors make funds available simply to buy things or hire people. Instead, grantors are looking for specific outcomes — measurable changes in the status quo. Graduate more students, reduce the number of workplace accidents or improve participation in an event — these are the kinds of things most grantors are interested in.

The most important factor in determining whether you will receive grant funding is the extent to which you can show that what you propose to buy with grant dollars will enable you to produce the outcomes in which the grantor is interested. Instead of thinking about what to buy (or even what to do) with grant dollars, think about what needs to change. Then, consider which grantor(s) would be interested in seeing this change. These are key steps in writing a successful grant.

Instead of thinking about what to buy (or even what to do) with grant dollars, think about what needs to change.

As you begin to write your grant, be careful not to propose outcomes that you cannot realistically measure, demonstrate or achieve. All grants have required reporting, and a failure to demonstrate promised outcomes can result in your institution having to repay awarded funding. It can also jeopardize your chances of receiving future funding.

Lastly, an important note: The right time to think about grant reporting is before you write your proposal. Consider if and how you can continue doing the things in your proposal after the grant money is expended. No grantor wants to fund a promising practice that will be discontinued the minute funding dries up. Will the improved outcomes result in more revenue for your institution? Can you commit to using that revenue to continue the program? This is the most common way to achieve project sustainability.


If you are currently a program director or clinical instructor, please take time to get to know your grants department or research what could be available for your program. It is well worth the effort. Our students are deserving of the best learning experiences possible, and grant funding is one means of helping bring such experiences to life.


Return to What's New Page »