Whether you’re seeking $500, $5,000, or much more to launch a new program or sustain an existing one, there may be funding sources available to help you reach your goals. And, most likely, the talent you need to raise these funds can be found within your school community. There are a range of options to help fund your school arts program. Start by working with the administration to determine the school’s specific needs and priorities and the rules around fundraising. Identify potential resources, then get to work!
Here are some ideas that can help you reach your fundraising goals.
1. Speak with your Principal
Funding for school-based arts programs can come directly from a school’s budget. Set up a meeting with your principal to make the case about the importance of arts education for student success. The research supports you. For best results:
- Align your request with the educational goals of the school and school community.
- Bring parents, teachers, and students with you, if possible.
- Remind the principal that, there are state and federal funding streams that can support arts education, such as federal Title I, Title II, and Title III education programs.
2. Speak with your PTA
Parents can be your strongest ally in supporting the arts in schools. Afterschool (and sometimes school-day) arts programs can be sponsored by the PTA and can also boost parent engagement. Ask the PTA to:
- Sponsor a parent/student arts workshop or host a Family Arts Day.
- Co-sponsor fundraising events to support your school arts programs.
- Even better, make the case for the inclusion of an arts line in their budget for future years. Now that’s sustainable!
3. Host a Fundraiser
Yes, people will give to your school if you ask them. Parents and community members understand that school budgets are limited and arts education is often under-funded. Host a bake sale, a car wash, a raffle, or other tried-and-true school fundraisers to support your arts programs. To increase your chances of success:
- Involve students, teachers, parents, and administrators in the effort.
- Coordinate fundraisers with a student performance or arts event when parents are excited by the program.
- Engage local businesses and seek corporate sponsorships to help meet your fundraising goals.
- Make sure to express the importance of the arts in developing healthy and well-educated children.
- Share your enthusiasm about your event: people give to people who are passionate about their cause.
- Look at the fundraising events sponsored by other schools in your area. What’s worth duplicating and what’s missing from this mix? Choose the ideas that are most cost-effective and likely to garner the most support.
4. Pursue Grants
There are a wide-range of grant opportunities available for school-based programs. Research is key to identifying those that align with your goals. Keep an eye on who funds similar programs at other schools, search the web, and talk to school administrators and grant writers for leads. Once you identify potential funders, follow their guidelines and create a compelling application outlining the problem and steps you will take to solve it. Consider these sources for funding:
Local, state, and federal agencies distribute tax dollars through grant programs that could help your school. Typically, there are grant guidelines, a formal application process, and a deadline to apply.
Foundations typically fund projects and organizations that are making a difference in their communities. Investigate the foundations in your area and review their funding guidelines.
Corporations often set aside money to support community projects as a way to build goodwill and/or build brand awareness. They may sponsor events, have their logo imprinted on materials, or donate products or supplies. Corporations may also match any donation their employees may make to the school.
5. Ask Your Elected Officials
An essential piece in building a sustainable arts program is winning the support of local elected officials. Many distribute grants to support public schools. Consult with school leaders on a plan to build support from your representatives.
- Contact their offices and see if they have Discretionary spending is government spending implemented through an appropriations bill. This spending is an optional part of fiscal policy, in contrast to entitlement programs for which funding is mandatory to award. Also known as "pork barrel". In NYC it's a duly-appropriated sum of money in the City's expense budget allocated to an eligible not-for-profit organization or school. to award. If so, ask for their funding guidelines and and work with your school to apply.
- Invite them to the next school play or performance. Ask them to speak at an upcoming parent event.
- If they fund your effort, remember to thank them, and express your appreciation by posting publicly on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.
- Even if you’ve missed the application deadline, remember, it’s never too late to start building a good relationship.
6. Apply for Free Programs
Many community organizations and arts groups have already raised funds to provide arts education and are looking for willing school partners. Keep your eyes and ears open for such opportunities and encourage your school and/or PTA to apply. Follow the guidelines and build a relationship with the organization. Reaching out in advance to put your school on their radar is always a good idea.
7. Reach out to Local Business
Generating community support can be a critical piece in building a strong arts program. Businesses like to be good neighbors and to be seen as supportive of local schools. Building a good relationship with them is key.
- Develop a clear A good ask is an actual question inviting a person or company to take a specific concrete step on behalf of your organization.. Let the businesses know the impact their contribution will have on the school.
- Put their name on flyers, email announcements, and the event program; and invite them to the school.
- Local businesses may contribute supplies, food, a percentage of profits, or make a donation.
- Make a list of local businesses and divide it among volunteers for an afternoon or two of outreach. Be sure to include businesses owned by parents in the school and with an arts connection.