Grants, funding, DonorsChoose, companies

I’m in my tenth year in my current building.  When I came to my school, my Orff instruments were upside down in closets with missing bars.  I had no drums.  I had a few keyboards in various states of disrepair.  I had a handful of rhythm instruments and an aging keyboard that literally exploded mid-performance (not kidding).

It was a bleak situation, made worse by the fact that budgets were shrinking and there was no money for the music room.  That didn’t deter me in any way though.  I put pen to paper and wrote a two page wishlist of everything I wanted for the music room.  It included drums, computers, a variety of world music instruments, and an interactive white board.  Within two years, every item on my list was checked off.  In my ten years at my school, I’ve received well over $25,000 for everything from tubanos to iMacs.  So what’s the secret?  How did I do it? Three simple words: Vision, Ask, and Patience.

What’s your vision for your program?  What do you want your program to be?  For me, it’s important that every child find their “voice” musically.  I don’t mean their literal singing voice – I mean they find that one way they connect to music as a life-long learner.  For some kids, it will be singing.  For others, it will be learning to play the piano, or drumming.  I want to ensure that I have the equipment and instruments in my room to ensure that every child makes that connection during their time in my classroom.  So in addition to visioning for my program, I also had to make a list of what I needed for that vision to come to fruition.
Ask!  Once you create your vision and identify what you need, then let people know what you need!  Tell your principal about your vision and what you need!  I shared my vision with my new principal and was given $500 to purchase some of the smaller items right away.  Tell your PTA about your vision!  When my keyboards were dying, I asked my PTA to help replace them.  I was allotted a small amount of money to replace a few, but then several mothers approached me about finding my keyboards on sale on Black Friday!  Those moms scoured every ad until they found the keyboards for 1/2 off.  Then they called the store and shared what they were doing and got an even better discount.  And then they went back to the PTA and got enough money to buy 15 (yes, 15) keyboards for my music room!  You would be surprised how many people want to help and support your program if only you ask.
Patience.  So, you might read this and think that every time I ask, someone writes me a check.  Ha!  You would be very wrong.  That same PTA that supported me with the keyboards gave me a big NO when I asked them for some ukuleles.  I’ve written grants in March and not heard a thing from the foundation for 6 months!  Fundraising for your program takes lots of patience (and persistence).  I came back to school one year to find that all of my desktop computers had been removed because they were no longer compatible with district software.  I was so upset that no notice was given  and that no replacement was offered, that I took matters into my own hands.  I decided I was going to outfit my room with iPad minis.  It took 3 years of grant writing to get 15 iPad minis and Otterbox cases for the music room, but I remained patient and persistent as I wrote and sought funding for my vision.
Grants, funding, donorschoose, companies
So where do I get funds for my music room?
  • Grants – For the big ticket items, I write grants.  I’ve received $3000 for Tubanos and $4000 for iPads.  There are many foundations that support the arts through grants.  People often get overwhelmed with the process or think they’ll never get funded.  You would be surprised how much you can get by simply “asking” through writing a grant.  One word of advice – make sure your grant MATCHES the vision of the grantee.  If the grant is to fund an artist to come to your school to perform, you’re probably not going to get money for ukuleles from them.  But if you write that you would like to bring an artist to your school to perform on ukulele AND will need some for your students to use, then you are more likely to be get your grant funded!  AOSA has a fabulous list of possible grants for music teachers.  You can find it here.
  • DonorsChoose – I love  I highly recommend that once you finish reading this, that you go post a project to be funded immediately.  My first DonorsChoose project was for 30 headphones for my new keyboards.  I posted it on Facebook but didn’t say too much to parents or staff about it.  A Swedish-American group of teachers found my project, rallied around it and funded it! As my class sizes increased, I found that I needed a few more drums for my room.  I wrote several projects for additional tubanos and had Disney, Gymboree, and The Woodwind and the Brasswind all help fund significant portions of my grants.  And ALWAYS have a grant posted.  Last week, DonorsChoose hosted a #BestSchoolDay where a company matched funds dollar for dollar.  Within in 6 hours, my project for a new 21″ iMac was fully funded.  Always have a project posted on DonorsChoose.  Always.
  • State Arts Organizations – I teach in Michigan, and there are grants available each year for materials for art and music rooms.  For many years, no one knew about the grants, so every grant submitted was funded.  Check out your state’s art organizations to see what grants are available within your state.  You can find a list of state & regional arts organizations here.
  • Community Foundations – A few years back, my community began an Education Foundation to fund educational projects for our district and city.  In the few years they’ve been around, they’ve funded over $300,000 in grants to teachers and schools.  I’ve written and received several grants from them for iPads to adaptive instruments for my special education classes.
  • Education-Friendly Companies – You might be surprised to know that many companies will make donations or have grant programs as well.  In the mid-west, the insurance company, Meemic, has multiple grant programs for educators.  From books, to classroom materials, many companies are willing to make smaller donations for classrooms.  Many Home Depots will gift 5 gallon buckets to schools for bucket drumming.  All you have to do is ask!
  • Parents – When all else fails, talk to parents and share your vision.  When the PTA said no to my ukuleles, a family came to me privately and donated $500 to purchase ukuleles.  The following year, instead of buying holiday gifts, many parents donated funds for additional ukuleles.  In 6 months, I had 30 brand new ukuleles for my classroom.  I’ve heard of other teachers placing a table in the hall the evening of the concert with instruments and the price to donate one to the music room.  The simply act of letting someone know of the need can do wonders!

And lastly, think outside of the box.  A few years ago, I heard about a local auction house that was liquidating a charter school.  On a whim, I checked out their site and found that they were getting rid of many items I would use in my music room.  Over the past three years, I’ve purchased $120 of Remo Hand Drums for $15.  I purchased a brand new Epson projector for $30.  I also purchased a $1500 iPad Charging Station for $40!    Yes, I paid out of pocket for these items, but I got them for a fraction of the price.  I alerted a colleague of mine who needed Orff instruments that they had Sonor Xylophones on auction.  She was able to purchase several Xylophones for $30-$40 each and her principal reimbursed her for the instruments.

So where you do start?  Vision!  How do you start?  Ask!  And what do you do when you get a no?  Patience.  What do you want or need for your music room?