One of the woes of modern arts education is we never seem to have enough access to funds that are easily accessible and continually supported so that a school art program is assured to all students. The current research shows a distinct link between the arts and achievement, so why is it so hard to have consistent funding?
For one, on a national scale, the federal government seems to vacillate on full funding for the National Endowment of the Arts. As federal support changes, states take those changes and use them as grounds for limiting emphasis on the arts in the state education system. Local districts then pass those funding cuts on to the schools and often only high school art classes are supported. I taught for nearly 40 years and only taught in one district that had funded elementary art programs. I piloted and started an elementary art program in my school with the superintendent’s blessings, but without any money. I have always been an inventive person with materials and not at all shy about asking for things from businesses, friends, and family, but it is next to impossible to fund a quality program for a school of over 1,000 students just from donations. There have to be some consistent monies available. Here is how I funded my art classes for nearly 20 years.
Number #1: Don’t be afraid or shy of asking.
I constantly was on the watch for sales, closeouts, and discontinuations of all sorts of materials from area businesses. Framing shops often will collect the drop outs from cutting mats, bent and slightly damaged canvases, discontinued framing samples, etc. that can creatively have a new life in your art room.
At the beginning of each year I sent out a request for materials to be collected by parents and brought to school by their children. As the need arose for others I sent out another request.
I made an appointment with the school secretary, the PTO/PTA President, and Treasurer each year at the beginning of school to see if there were any extra monies that could be earmarked for art.
Since the school was a Title 1 school, each year I asked for a small % of those funds.
When the school did its big fundraiser each year through a program called Boosterthon, I always had a request ready to present to the principal and funding committee.
I made a point of meeting with the middle school and high school art staff of our feeder schools so that I could set up a network to exchange materials.
I always advertised in the area’s free papers for donations to the art department of supplies and funds.
As my Grandmother always said, “If you don’t ask for it, you certainly will not get it!” But constantly asking and visiting prospective donors is very time consuming and usually doesn’t produce a plethora of very high quality materials. So here are other techniques I, and others, have used successfully for not only adding funding to our art programs, but also for creating public relations moments and community-wide art recognition for our students.
Number #2: Using National Art Reproduction Fundraising Companies
For the last five years, before I retired, I used the artworks from our participation in Everyartist Live! each year to earn from $1,700 to $3,000! How? I had my students participate in the Everyartist Live! Event and saved their artwork for the following semester when I had scheduled a fundraiser with one of several student arts companies such as Square 1, Original Works, or Art to Remember.
A couple things to note, though: You must schedule these fundraisers ahead of time and you must adhere the artworks to specific paper provided by the company which is an easy, but time-consuming process. I highly recommend enlisting some volunteers to help!
In these nationally available programs, the companies can reproduce the student artwork on a variety of objects for the parents, family, and friends to purchase such as coffee mugs, coasters, key chains, mouse pads, phone covers, calendars, and t-shirts. When the items were paid for, my art department received about 35% of the profit. Some of these programs offer a free refrigerator magnet or set of stamps for each student so that no child is left out, no matter how little money their parents have.
These companies make customized order forms for each child in full color that shows their own artwork on a large coffee mug so that parents and others can see what to expect. You can find links to some of these companies at the end of this article.
Number #3 : Make Use of National Funding Programs and Grants
Organizations like DonorsChoose.org offer grants for supplies to many classrooms across the United States. National business organizations, professional organizations, and even individuals contribute toward a grant goal that you set up when you apply. The application process is not very involved and you can actually be very specific about the kind, number, and source of the materials requested. For more information go to https://www.donorschoose.org
With school and district permissions, you can use online fundraising sites to try to reach a specific goal like buying a kiln that might otherwise be cost prohibitive: Be Careful of Scams Though!
- Go Fund Me https://www.gofundme.com
- Snap! Raise https://www.snap-raise.com
- Double the Donation https://doublethedonation.com
Number #4: A Kids Art Exhibition Fundraiser
Absolutely one of my favorite ways to fundraise for my art program is a school-wide art show! Each student makes one or more pieces of art to be sold. This is a lot of work, but so much positivity comes of this.
I have used the main display night for Everyartist Live! as an art fundraiser by displaying the pieces throughout the hallways and inviting business leaders, district school administrators, the Chamber of Commerce members, area merchants, and area organizations to our Evening For the Arts show. At the doorways, exemplar students met the visitors and led them on a guided tour of the building, making note of the wings and special areas in our museum. Each visitor was given a donation card and a set of 5 cards that they might bid in a silent auction of student artworks chosen as the best 100 from our school by students from each class.
I sent notes to all parents asking them to ask their place of employment for a donation or to sponsor the purchase of a piece of art.
I have used a school themed event like “A Festival of Families” where my students researched the countries and areas of their family origin and we combined forces with the social studies classes to have a night that we dressed as our heritage. Students in art classes in all grades made art pins to sell for $2.00 each. Depending on their age, the pins ranged from wooden and metal freeform jewelry to painted leather pins to art pins made from slide covers and great art reproductions from catalogs.
Companies like Art to Remember will frame each student’s work and offer it for sale on an art gala night. The drawback here is that each piece is about $32.00 and the art department gets 50%. These costs can be prohibitive depending on the economic status of your student body.
With the advent of computerized searches, art teachers can find almost anything online in a search. I encourage you to spend an hour a week looking online for sources for art income. Here are some of the many sites and articles I easily found in a 10-minute search.
Art Fundraising Companies:
- Square 1 Art | It Starts With the Art!
- Original Works: Home
- Art to Remember: Easy Art Fundraiser | School Fundraising Ideas
- Silver graphics Fundraising
- KidsKards.com: Art Based Fundraising For Schools and Nonprofits
- SCHOOL FUNDRAISER - Children's Art Educational Fundraiser
- Kids Kreations - Home
Art Show Fundraising Companies: