Funding School Makerspaces

Funding School Makerspaces


robot-fundraisingAs 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

General considerations

Specific considerations

  • Your project demonstrates basic understandings of sciences and content involved.
  • Your grant is based on some things you already do with kids.
  • Your grant is not dependent upon (or an extension of) another grant, if so it must stand on it’s own merit.
  • Your project includes a “kids teaching kids” component.
  • Your students will work with other classes at your site.
  • Your students will work with students at other schools.
  • Your project involves students’ homes or families.
  • Your project has interaction with local businesses.
  • Your project will impact the community.
  • Your project will have a positive effect on your school’s culture.
  • Your project has a long-term vision and may carry on into the next school year.
  • You have “buy in” from your administrator.
  • You’ve consulted any school facilities staff that may need to be involved.
  • Your application is concise, brief, and “paints a picture” of your “finished project”. (less is more!)
  • You have considered ALL of the potential obstacles to completion of your project
  • You’ve allowed at least two peers to review your draft and provide feedback, including one non-science person.
  • You’re composition style is easily comprehensible and you’ve checked the spelling of your document.
  • A detailed budget is provided and all the funds are allocated.
  • Letters of approval and support are provided.
  • Follow the application format carefully, it is your blueprint to success, don’t be repetitive.
  • Project Title is brief and suggestive of the project’s goals or activities.
  • Project Description includes specific goals.
  • You have identified the target audience (this may include more than students).
  • You describe specific student activities including the energy science content studied.
  • Student leadership and service learning/community involvement goals are described.
  • State Content Standards correlations are delineated (this can be at the very end)
  • An Evaluation section explains how you will evaluate the success of your project.
  • An Expansion section describes how your project might be replicated or expanded.
Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

Michelle, or Binka, makes . While at Maker Media, she oversaw publications, outreach, and programming for kids, families, and schools. Before joining Maker Media in 2007, she worked at the Exploratorium, in Mitchel Resnick’s Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab, and as a curriculum designer for various publishers and educational researchers. When she’s not supporting future makers, including her two young sons, Binka does some making of her own, most often as a visual artist.

View more articles by Michelle "Binka" Hlubinka


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