As part of our Back-to-School series, we are sharing chapters and excerpts from the Makerspace Playbook: School Edition. Today, an excerpt from Chapter 9, Startup: tips for funding your Makerspace.
One idea not shared in the playbook that has come up time and again is having a Make Sale, where you sell some of the items made in the Makerspace. Hillel Posner’s students make cutting boards and necklaces in their woodworking class. Casey Shea at Analy High School recoups some of the high cost of buying and maintaining the school’s laser cutter with an annual yearbook-engraving fundraiser. What have you done in your school to raise money to Make?
On to our excerpt:
Your Makerspace may not need much of a budget to operate, if you have a space you can use for free, tools to borrow, and materials found or donated. For some Makerspaces, the ones with lots of parental involvement, many of the projects are self-funded. But if your Makerspace takes place at a school without as much family support, or if you simply do not have this all in place, you may need to research community or family foundation grants to fill in the gap. It’s possible there could be city or other government agency grants available to get your Makerspace what it needs. Sometimes you can find the funding with a “planning grant.” If you are partnering with a non-profit, get advice from the fundraising staff who may be able to suggest the right foundations to approach. Ask around.
Online tools like Kickstarter and Indiegogo might help you conduct pointed fundraising campaigns towards a specific goal. There are many sites like this – search on “crowdfunding” for more suggestions. While it’s not a Makerspace, we know that the Rhode Island Mini Maker Faire used this tactic to launch a Maker Faire. Maybe it could work for a Makerspace too.
You could invite business sponsors to donate and back up the expenses of your Makerspace, just as local sports teams have support from their community businesses. In general, Maker demographics are a desirable audience for businesses (techies and smart families). Remember that the earlier you establish it, the more valuable the sponsorship would be to the business, so don’t procrastinate.
Be flexible—you may have to “wheel and deal” a bit to secure sponsors. To get funding, you would identify potential sponsors and devote time and energy approaching them, following up, and then—when they sign on—representing them on your website and other materials. But keep in mind you may not be able to feature their logo too prominently at Maker Faire itself. Check in with your event staff before making any promises to potential funders.
Our friend Barry Scott, whom we met while he was the Da Vinci Center of the San Joaquin County Office of Education in Stockton, California, put together a very helpful blog called Grants for Makerspace schools which is full of links and tips, some of which we’ve quoted here:
Makerspace schools need more resources than most educational programs. It’s not as hard as you might think to find supporters.
National competitive grants may be offered by private sector foundations, nonprofit organizations, or government agencies. Government grants tend to require more complicated applications, while others, like the ING Unsung Heroes grant may be very brief (three pages maximum).
Regional grants are often offered by utility companies and corporations to support families in their communities. These are often less competitive and are usually easy applications to complete. PG&E and Los Alamos National Lab are examples.
Non-published grants and gifts to schools are often made by both large national organizations and smaller local companies and agencies. Most large corporations have a foundation or charitable contributions division which can be contacted for potential support.
Look at your community’s largest employers as potential supporters. They want to provide community support, improve school programs, and they want schools to produce a bright workforce as much as anyone.
Barry’s Checklist for Grant Planning & Development
- Key Qualities for a School Makerspace (makezine.com)
- In the midst of Maker Faire: A “How to Make a Makerspace” Workshop (makezine.com)
- Can 50 Closed Chicago Schools Become 50 Makerspaces? (makezine.com)
- Making Makerspaces: Creating a Business Model (makezine.com)
- Is it a Hackerspace, Makerspace, TechShop, or FabLab? (makezine.com)