Fundraising is a consistent question that comes up for schools that are planning, maintaining, or expanding a garden. Grants
are helpful for many school gardens, but are certainly not required! Many schools have found success with raising funds on their own, with or without grant support. Conversations with garden coordinators from around Wisconsin have helped us build this list of best practices for school garden fundraising. Make sure to check out our success story this month to read about one school that has put the list into action!
Create a wish list
It’s easier to ask for resources if you know exactly what you need. Putting garden needs into a list format helps encourage people to give what they can, and see where their donation is making a difference. Information to include: number of items needed, cost if bought new, and whether used items would suffice. Also consider putting volunteer hours or specific skills on your list!
Ask for help
The response may overwhelm you! Many people are excited to donate or volunteer for a project they can see directly benefits their kids or community. Seek help within your school – parents, students, staff – as well as from businesses, non-profits, and garden enthusiasts in the surrounding community. Make a plan to recognize donors and volunteers.
Share your garden story or vision
Get people excited about helping by sharing how the garden will benefit students, stories about what you’ve already accomplished, and your vision for moving forward. Consider developing a 30-second “elevator speech” to share with people on the fly, writing a garden column in your school newsletter, or starting a garden facebook page to share photos, videos, and quotes. You can also share your story with WSGI
– we’ll help you write your story for publication in local newspapers, or across the state via our monthly newsletter!
Plan in phases
Some of the most-repeated advice from experienced school garden coordinators is to start small, and grow from there. This is excellent advice overall, and especially when funds are limited. Set a yearly goal that feels achievable, and build on your success with a new goal each season!
Think outside the “stuff”
While some material objects are certainly needed for a garden, consider how you can make use of skills and expertise to achieve the same results. Is there a local handyman or woman who can build a compost barrel instead of buying one? A parent who has experience writing grants? A student who is a great photographer or social media guru? Many people have multiple skills to share, or can develop skills they don’t even know they have!
In the midst of building an outdoor classroom, one Wisconsin teacher told us that his strategy was to just say “yes” to everyone who offered to help. “Whatever they had to give, I found some way to incorporate it,” he said. “Then they were invested, and they got other people invested, and it just grew from there.” While we recognize that this exact
strategy may not work for everyone, cultivating an inclusive attitude is definitely recommended!