As students and parents in Philadelphia have gotten frustrated with the lack of sufficient school funding, they have tried to find ways to bring additional dollars to their schools.
And the Office of Grant Development at the central office of the School District of Philadelphia is trying to help. In years past, we worked primarily with other central office departments at the School District, including curriculum, early childhood, and school climate, helping them find grant funding.
Now, we’re increasingly focused on working with community groups and community members interested in helping individual schools, including parents, caregivers, soon-to-be parents, neighbors, home and school associations, friends-of groups, civic associations, and sometimes businesses.
Last year, on average, our office received about one contact from a school community per week. This year, it’s been one a day.
School communities call for assistance in writing grants and finding money to pay for transportation for class trips, playgrounds, technology and more. We listen to their needs, help them set priorities, brainstorm ideas for funding, work with them on grant applications, discuss fundraising strategies, and if needed connect them with specific central office departments.
Unfortunately, not every school has successful community engagement, which can lead to the further deepening of the equity divide. In our office, we talk all the time about the schools that would be greatly helped by having organized school communities. So, when a principal, a teacher, a neighbor, or a parent calls from a school that does not have such organized support, we pay attention a little bit more.
To help bridge the divide, in May 2017 our office published “The Guide to Fundraising and Grantwriting for Schools,” which can be downloaded from our website. We have followed this up by offering training to teachers, AmeriCorps Vista workers, and parents. This year, we are offering three sessions: Grantwriting and Fundraising 101; Marketing Materials; and Writing a Grant Together. Teacher specific training sessions will be posted in SchoolNet, the district’s professional development system. All school community members are also welcome to request individual sessions if they cannot attend a training. If we have the availability, we can visit your school to provide a group training. Send us your training requests.
We just finished a sold-out three-course series in Family Academy: Courses & Training (FACT), organized by the Office of Family and Community Engagement. The parents and caregivers who participated came from these schools: Bethune, Fell, GAMP, Greenfield, Kearney, Lankenau, Lea, Lincoln, Locke, McCall, Mifflin, Motivation, Nebinger, Olney Elementary, Steel, Strawberry Mansion, and the U School. Check out FACE’s website for future sessions.
You can help fund our schools, even if you don’t have a child in the system now. Here’s what you can do:
1. If you are an alumnus of a Philadelphia public school, become an active member of your alumni association. If there is no alumni association, start one. And use it to raise money.
2. If you own a business or are part of an association of business professionals, contact the district’s Office of Strategic Partnerships to learn how to partner with a school. Then find out what the school needs, whether it is classroom supplies, air conditioners or sports equipment.
3. If you don’t have the time to directly volunteer with a school but still want to make a difference, then donate to the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia. Please consider giving to a school not in your neighborhood, using the crowdfunding site Philly FUNDamentals. This site, managed by the fund, lists school principal priorities and is searchable by school name or zip code. Or dedicate your gift to a district-wide project including Early Literacy; AED monitors; arts programs; and GreenFutures, the district’s sustainability initiative.
Every little bit helps.
Laura Lau is the Philadelphia School District’s lead grants development and support specialist.