Teachers have always had to scrounge for funding and the current economic situation only makes this more of an issue. Even with government stimulus packages and big grants, teachers don't see much money for our individual use. We've all wished we had more money to purchase books, supplies, equipment, and other items for our students and our classrooms. But what do we do when the money just isn't there?
The first place to look is grants. There are a lot of grant sources out there. Not all of them are easy to get though. I always suggest that people ask for help from grant writers or other teachers who have been successful in getting grants. Most grants have tips and advice on their own web site also.
Some schools may qualify for Priority School District grants and other State and Federal grants. These are for low income districts and can be used for supplies and equipment to help with extra programs related to drop out prevention and improving student performance.
A great resource for funding classroom projects is Donors Choose. Donors Choose was actually started by teachers. You sign up for an account, fill out a project proposal, selecting the items you need from a variety of vendors, and then people with money to donate go to Donors Choose and select projects to fund. I have had multiple projects funded through Donors Choose. It is a very simple process and the staff can help you with any problems.
Donations are another source. Local Businesses may be looking to donate money, supplies or equipment. Many companies would rather donate old equipment and supplies to a school rather than just throw it out. Your school gets supplies and the company gets a tax write off. I have gotten lab supplies from a DNA company that updated their labs, a computer from a small company that upgraded theirs, and our school has gotten office supplies and furniture from a nearby business that was moving their headquarters. Many teachers have contacts at area businesses through friends or family. Use these contacts to your advantage.
Do more with less. Look for cheaper or free alternatives to the major brands. There are a lot of manufacturers of interactive white boards out there. Shop around and find the best deal. Make your own white boards using melamine coated hardboard from a hardware store at a fraction of the cost of a commercial white board.
Use free software and web services instead of paying for licensed software. There is a free resource for pretty much any paid software (check this blog you are reading along with some on my blogroll to the right).
Partner with local colleges. Sometimes they have older equipment that they can donate to you. They may also have grants that they can get that can also benefit the K-12 system.
Look for grants and funding opportunities on the web. TechLearning has a great section on funding tips. There is a Grant Guru column, as well as a data base of grant sources.
Edutopia and Nortel Learn It also have grant and funding resources. And of course, you can always "Google" for more information. Educational conferences are another great way to find funding resources and talk with vendors on different ways of funding purchases.
You can also look at professional societies for the subject you teach. For example, I use aviation and aerospace examples to teach physics. I have gotten grants and resource from the Air Force Association and American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Many of these types of groups have classroom grants.
Please share your funding and money tips with us!