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How to Launch a STEM Program When You Have No Funding

Scrambling for money to get your STEM program off the ground and into the lab? You’re not alone—and (thank goodness!) not without options. Here are five resources to look into to make your big-time idea a big-time success.

Student and PTO fundraising

There’s a reason students sell popcorn and wrapping paper and bagels before homeroom: It works. Students, their parents, and their communities are eager to raise money that will help in ways they can see. Why not host a block party in a parking lot, charging for food and drinks (which can be donated by families or local businesses) as well as games or contests? Opt for something fun—you want to engage the community, get people to come and learn about it, even if they’re not necessarily going to take part in the program.

Crowdfunding

Kickstarting your way to the equipment or materials you need is an easy option for bringing your program to a larger audience. Enlist tech- and design-savvy students to help you make an explanatory video, fun graphics, and an approachable story that tells why your school or community needs this opportunity, and where exactly their money will be going. Come up with fun gifts, too, like school t-shirts signed by your students or the chance to name a robot. For fresh ideas on crafting a fully funded proposal page, click here for Kickstarters we love.

Alumni connections

Chances are you have at least one well-connected graduate who would be interested in your project. Reach out to her with your idea. Even if she can’t personally fund it, her company or her industry contacts might offer up the bulk of the money you need to make your program a reality. Alums take great pride in helping others follow in their footsteps. If money isn’t on the table, take it in stride…and suggest setting up a mentorship agreement in conjunction with your program, instead.

Area businesses with industry interest

Philanthropy and community involvement are increasingly becoming cornerstones of business plans small and large. Crack the business world by approaching CEOs, directors, and personal contacts with the benefits your program would bring to the area and to the business itself thanks to feel-good marketing. Not convinced? Mark Hoffman, a physics teacher at Bethlehem High School, was able to garner the interest of—and tens of thousands of dollars in funding from—a local business that has a history of youth education. Read more about his story here.

Local colleges, vocational, and technical schools

Just like businesses, higher education organizations are looking for opportunities to give back to their communities…and assist in nurturing stronger students and future job seekers in various STEM industries. Do your due diligence to research similar symbiotic relationships between schools, and then approach an outreach officer to launch a formal relationship. The possibilities are endless, and organizations that are in positions to help are often willing. You just need to ask.

Hone your program presentation with tips from TED veterans. We’ve got ‘em right here.

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons

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Brittany Taylor

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