Years ago, when I started a new school counseling job, I stood in my new office, looking around at 40 years worth of counseling materials left behind from the counselor before me. Trash bags filled with old felt puppets, stacks of outdated curriculum and college textbooks from the 70s, bins of transparencies, binders of lesson plans penciled in cursive writing smeared from years of use. The only technology in the cinderblock annex was an old cassette tape player, which doubled as a tape recorder. A career’s worth of materials and I didn’t know their context.
It was frustrating, especially as a new counselor, to begin a year without a counseling budget or with limited funding. You see so many amazing ideas and book reviews on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook, and you want to implement everything all at once. Today I’m sharing 11 ways to think outside the box to find extra funding for your school counseling program needs.
- Create and share an Amazon teacher wishlist. I named mine “Ashley Bartley – SEL and Trauma-Informed Resources.” My friends and family purchased 21/29 of the items on my list! I wrote a small caption with each item explaining how I would use the item in my program and posted my wishlist on Facebook. Each time I received an item from my list, I not only sent a thank you note, but also took a picture of the item and tagged the donor on a new Facebook post, and linked my wishlist each time. It seemed like every time I posted, a new person would see the post and purchase an item. Many people asked me for the link. I also paid it forward by purchasing items for my friends off their teacher wishlists. It was so fun to look through their lists! My list is here if you need ideas (not an affiliate link).
- If your school has a PTO or PTA, consider presenting a written request for your specific program needs, or attend a board meeting when they discuss budgets. Price up exactly what you need, where to find it, and how you will use it, and write up a small proposal with all this information. I was able to get a SmartBoard for my room and some much-needed hygiene supplies for students this way. If you are running a club or leadership group, the PTO/PTA might be happy to support your efforts, like footing the bill for a pizza party for your 5th grade helpers!
- If you have a school counseling supervisor, or someone you report to at the division-wide level, check with him/her about access to funds for your program. Present specific requests and how you will use them. Share what you’ve already done to secure some of the funds. Sometimes conference money is available at the division-wide level. Vendors at conferences often discount their items 10% for conference attendees, and you may be able to use school purchase orders if you ask your school in advance.
- Before your school submits its annual budget, put in your own requests for large items. Do you need a piece of furniture or large-ticket item, such as a Cozy Cube, dollhouse, or sand tray?* Or a large classroom counseling lesson plan bundle? Your principal might be able to honor large-ticket requests in the school’s budget, especially if you don’t have a counseling budget of your own. It can’t hurt to ask — one year, right before I purchased a yearlong curriculum from Counselor Keri, I submitted a request to my principal, and she approved my request! I saved myself over a hundred dollars just by asking.
- Form school-family-community partnerships to meet the needs of your school. Check out this post about 12 school-family-partnership ideas and this one for supporting your students and their families during the winter holidays.
- Look into attending conferences that might provide technology incentives. Recently, many of my coworkers acquired Chromebooks after completing a Google course. I was able to get a document camera and iPod from attending an NTTI conference and completing a small project over the summer.
- Partner with a local high school. I was able to get clothes for our clothing closet and Red Ribbon Week materials by partnering with my vertical teams at the middle school and high school level, which freed up my money for other things.
- Apply for a local grant! Many times, there aren’t as many applications as you would think, so check them out! Attend a grant-writing workshop or online course, come up with a fabulous idea, and go from there! Conduct a needs assessment and use the data to justify your request.
- Check with your school librarian or technology resource teacher. My library had a technology budget for the school, and I was able to purchase a bluetooth speaker* for traveling to classrooms with this money. Your local library may also have many of the books you need. If not, check with your school librarian to see if he/she can purchase the books you need for the school, then check them out!
- Raise your own funds in creative ways. The counselor before me always held a plant sale to raise money for her Career Day budget. My co-counselor has a jewelry business where she donates 10% of the proceeds from the sales of her beautiful earrings and mask necklace chains back to our school to help children read and succeed.
- Lastly, don’t forget to write off up to $250 of your own money you spend on materials when you do your taxes. Keep receipts organized in a folder along with a spreadsheet to make things easier when you enter your deductions during tax season. When you spend your own money, shop at thrift stores and yard sales to find great deals on books and games you can use. I found The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game at Goodwill for 99 cents, individual Play-doh tubs on clearance after Halloween, and many children’s books from a retiring counselor. Just be careful when purchasing games used, such as Jenga – check the pieces carefully, or you may just end up with an adult version of Jenga!
Remember that it doesn’t happen all at once. You may get a few things here and there, and over time, you’ll find creative ways to fill in the gaps. What other funding ideas would you add to my list? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below!
*Amazon Associates Program affiliate link