By Shannon Anderson, author of Mindset Power: A Kid’s Guide to Growing Better Every Day
I’ve taught for 25 years and have had the opportunity to bring some pretty amazing experiences to my classroom and students. What I’ve learned, though, is that big projects and ideas can come with a price tag.
I’ve purchased large items, like couches, room transformation materials, and even a mini stage! I’ve also funded class shirts. I cover an annual book publishing project for students, and had the main characters of those books turned into plush animals.
Just about anything you plan is going to cost you time, money, or a mixture of both. But I’ve found some creative ways to pay for things over the years, from fundraisers to grants. Here are some ideas to try.
1. Donors Choose
This is a company that is specifically designed to help teachers fund projects and materials for their classrooms. You create a profile and describe your needs, and people and businesses can make tax-deductible contributions. (The company does build in a commission to fund its operations.)
This is a company that crowdsources funding for projects for anyone, not just teachers. The setup is very simple, and you can get started in minutes. I have heard that some schools’ administrations do not allow teachers to use GoFundMe, so check with your principal before setting up a fundraiser.
3. School Budgets
There are separate budgets for the many moving parts of your school system. If you are a newer teacher, you may not realize you can make a request. Some of these funds include Title I, gifted and talented, extracurricular, and grade-level allotments. It doesn’t hurt to ask your principal if you can apply for relevant resources.
4. Parent-Teacher Organizations
Your PTO/PTA may offer opportunities for classrooms or teachers to write a mini grant or use a certain amount of the PTO budget for special purchases. Tip: Attend PTO meetings and become involved at some level.
There are many big and small businesses that offer funding for schools. Walmart, Dollar General, and Target, for example, offer education grants that are easy to fill out. Many local businesses are willing to help out a community school if you can find a way to thank them publicly for their advertising purposes.
6. Sororities and Service Clubs
There are probably sororities and service clubs in your community that will support a project if it aligns with their mission or goals. Some have grants you can apply for, and others will give you a donation toward your project. You can check online for organizations in your area.
7. Fundraising Projects
Besides the traditional door-to-door sales of candles, gift wrap, and cheese spreads, there are many creative ways you can earn money as a class. One of my favorites is the Read-a-Thon. Give students a reading log to record their daily reading time for the month. They ask friends and family members to pledge a certain dollar amount for each hour the student reads that month. At the end of the month, students tally up how many hours they read and collect from those who pledged.
A similar idea is to host a Math-a-Thon, fun run, or car wash, where kids are doing some kind of productive work to earn the money in need. Most people would rather donate to something like this than buy overpriced popcorn or candy bars.
8. Host an Event
Host a dinner, variety show, dance, or some other type of family event where you charge an admission donation to attend. It can be profitable to pair your event with a silent auction featuring donated items or have a raffle for prizes. Consider setting up a photo booth and charging a few dollars for a commemorative picture.
9. Education Organizations
There are many organizations that exist to support teachers. For example, most states have their own literacy associations, gifted and talented programs, or even teacher retirement organizations. Most of them offer grant opportunities, which you can find if you look on their websites or talk to one of their leaders. They set aside money in their annual budgets toward projects and grants for classrooms. You just need to write your application in a compelling way to show the amazing opportunity they will be providing if they fund you.
10. Collaborate with Others
Another way to purchase a big-ticket item or event for your students is to collaborate with other teachers or classrooms. Let’s say you want to bring an author to your school, but the cost is $1,000 for the day. You could coordinate with other schools and work with the author to see if there is a way to have the author visit three local schools in one day and split the cost.
If you want to fund materials for a special themed project, set of books, or a room transformation, you could share costs with other teachers and each use the materials a different week or month.
11. Spare Change Drive
Send home information with students about what you are raising funds for and collect coins for the project. You can pair this with Grandparents’ Day programs or Family Literacy Nights. You’ll be surprised by how quickly coins can add up.
12. Kids’ Creations
If your school allows it, you can have students create magnets or calendars with their artwork, or even put together cookbooks of their families’ favorite recipes. These can all be sold online or at an event to raise funds for a special project or materials. Parents can’t resist these unique creations and may even purchase extras for gifts.
Whatever you decide to do, remember that you may have to combine a couple of these ideas to get fully funded for bigger projects. When you see your students’ smiles and even hear past students reminisce about special memories they had in your classroom, you will be so glad you took the time to make it happen. I always say, a more exciting experience for your students is also a more exciting experience for you! See if you can get some of your classroom wishes granted!
Shannon Anderson has her master’s degree in education and is currently a third-grade teacher, high-ability coordinator, and presenter, and a former first-grade teacher, adjunct professor, and literacy coach. She loves spending time with her family, playing with words, teaching kids and adults, running very early in the morning, traveling to new places, and eating ice cream. She also enjoys doing author visits and events. Shannon lives in Indiana with her husband, Matt, and their daughters, Emily and Madison.
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