If your school library is like our school library, there never seems to be enough money for all of the books, furniture, makerspace items, and technology that you want or need. While I am fortunate to get a pretty healthy book budget, I cannot afford to purchase any of the extras without the help of grants and fundraisers. I especially cannot afford to travel and attend all of the professional development opportunities I take part in without the help of grants and funding ideas. In a perfect world, all school libraries would be adequately funded, but we all know this is not a perfect world, and sometimes it is necessary to find funding in other ways. Over the past 4 years, I have been fortunate enough to receive over $85,000 in grants and through projects on Donors Choose. The following are some of my favorite grants and funding sources, along with a few tips.
Donors Choose: Donors Choose is a great way to get new and extra copies of your students’ favorite series. Periodically, I will go into our school’s Amazon Business account and save the most recent Dog Man or Wings of Fire in my cart, even though it might not be released for a few months. I do this for all of our most popular book series. Every few weeks, I will check to see if anything has been released and create a $200 DC project for those books. Projects that are $300 and less tend to be funded extremely quickly. I’ll share the project link on our social media, and it is usually funded within the hour by someone in our community or an anonymous donor. I have a project uploaded at all times, because you never know when there will be an anonymous donor or a surprise double/triple match day. It’s an easy way to get 10 quick copies of that new title.
AASL Grants & Awards: AASL offers over 15 different grants and awards each year. Some of the grants and awards will have multiple recipients. For example, the AASL Inspire Special Event Grant can have up to 5 winners, each receiving $2,000. There are grants for collaboration, collection development, special events, and even money to attend the ALA or AASL National Conferences. As a recipient of two of these grants, as well as being on one of the grant committees, I can tell you from experience that your project should be innovative and attainable. However, you do not have to reinvent the wheel and many past projects are discussed in previous Knowledge Quest blogs. Check out what others have done to get a few ideas.
Dollar General: Dollar General offers 5 different categories of grants, and awards millions of dollars each year to schools and libraries. The Adult Literacy Grant, Summer Reading Grant, and Family Literacy Grant are currently open through February 17, 2022. The Youth Literacy Grant opens in March of 2022 and the Beyond Words Grant is open year round for public school libraries that have incurred substantial damage or hardship due to a natural disaster or fire. Many school librarians apply for these so do not get discouraged if you do not receive a grant your first year. It took me four tries!
You are your own best advocate. We are all proud of the work we do in our school libraries. It is absolutely okay to nominate yourself for an award. If we waited to be nominated by our administrators, many of us would be waiting for decades. Awards usually come with money attached! It’s not bragging—it’s advocating. Don’t be afraid to showcase your accomplishments and share them with award committees. I told myself that I was going to apply for the School Library Journal Librarian of the Year and the I Love My Librarian Award every year until I either retired or received one. As Wayne Gretzy famously said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Write your nomination and apply every single year. You never know!
Funding for Professional Development
Finding the funding to attend conferences can be a bit tricky. Donors Choose offers professional development funding, but they have currently suspended projects that involve travel. Keep checking their website. If your administration or district will not pay for PD, think outside of the box. Submit proposals to conferences. Presenters are often given a discount code for registration. Local organizations often offer PD grants. Our state teacher association offers $500 PD grants several times a year to attend conferences.
There are so many organizations and companies that offer grants. If you receive a grant, be sure to post on your school’s social media! For additional grant and funding links, check out my Wakelet Grant Board, take a peek at this previous presentation , or listen to me talk in depth about this topic on Episode 49 of the School Librarians United Podcast. I also post a monthly newsletter and often include grant links in the resources. You can view the January newsletter and sign up to receive a link each month. For many of these grants and awards, you will find examples, rubrics, or descriptions of past grant project winners. Make sure you know the criteria and gather as much data and evidence to back up your projects as possible. Once you write one grant, save it! Then, you do not have to start from scratch the next time you write a grant proposal. Good luck in your funding endeavors.
Author: Amanda Jones
Amanda is the 2021 School Library Journal Co-Librarian of the Year, a 2021 Library Journal Mover and Shaker, the 2020 Louisiana School Librarian of the Year, and a 21 year educator from Watson, LA. She’s a teacher-librarian and certified reading specialist at a 5-6 grade middle school. She is Vice President of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians and is the 2019 AASL Social Media Superstar Program Pioneer. Amanda is an active member of several committees for AASL and is on the Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice Awards Committee. Visit her library website at lomlibrary.org and/or find out more about her at http://librarianjones.com/.