6 Questions to Ask as You Begin Your Fundraising Journey

This PLTW Blog entry is an excerpt from the PLTW Fundraising Toolkit. You can download the full toolkit here.

The first step in the fundraising process – engaging in up-front planning – helps you create a roadmap for your efforts and is crucial to the long-term success of your work.

As you kick off the fundraising process for your PLTW program, we challenge you to consider the following questions.

1. What is our goal?

When considering your goal, we encourage you to think about the big picture and carefully outline the desired outcomes of your fundraising efforts. While it might be tempting to answer this question with a dollar figure, think instead about the purpose of your fundraising. In addition, consider how the core components of PLTW – student engagement, hands-on learning opportunities, and career readiness – align with your overall objective.

What is the end goal your district or school is trying to accomplish, and how does PLTW fit into that vision? By answering this question, you are setting the purpose for fundraising and developing the vision to share with your potential funding partners.

2. What do we need to accomplish our goal?

Again, it might be tempting to approach this from a monetary perspective. Instead, we encourage you to consider what roles and resources – teachers, district leaders, partners, equipment, and supplies – you need to meet your goal. Thinking about your needs in a non-monetary mindset first can help you better see the resources your school can already leverage, think creatively about how to get what you need, and help you better identify potential resources to help accomplish your goal.

3. How do we get our leadership on board?

Before creating any fundraising plans for your PLTW program, it is important to build buy-in among your district and/or school leadership to ensure PLTW – and any accompanying fundraising – aligns to overall needs and goals. Having PLTW champions within your district and school leadership will help ensure your program has the support and resources it needs to reach its full potential. Furthermore, support from leadership is key to creating opportunities like student recognition and connecting the program to the rest of the school, community, local business and industry, and economy. In addition, you may need to seek fundraising approval from other stakeholders like the school board, superintendent, or a Career and Technical Education (CTE) director.

To build buy-in among stakeholders, you’ll want to share how PLTW makes a positive difference in the lives of students and teachers. Several resources are available to help you convey this message. First: You may want to consider arranging a visit to a nearby existing PLTW program to give everyone an opportunity to experience a program in action. In addition, you may also want to consider sharing PLTW materials such as videos, brochures, and success stories with these stakeholders.

4. What kind of partners might be interested in supporting our goal?

When identifying funding resources, the goal is to find supporters who share similar goals or interests. Businesses and organizations focused on areas such as workforce development, community enhancement, education, manufacturing, healthcare, and technology are more likely to become great long-term partners. 

5. How can we accomplish and sustain our goal?

Securing resources to start or sustain something can be time intensive, whether it’s having one-on-one conversations with a potential donor or taking the time to write a grant application. A key to success is harnessing the talents of a diverse team of individuals who can come together to support your shared goal.

As you consider this team-oriented approach, you’ll also want to note that many grantmakers, sponsors, and individual donors have requirements for funding recipients such as financial reporting, program updates, and more. It is important for your district and/or school to review any requirements and determine how you will leverage strengths across your team and share responsibilities in order to meet these requirements.

6. Should we hire a grant writer?

Hiring a professional grant writer may be helpful, but it is not always necessary. We recommend taking a number of factors into consideration.

A grant writer may have experience in successfully securing grants and typically has strong writing skills, but an external grant writer will likely not have institutional knowledge of your school and PLTW, which may not result in a reduction of time and effort from your team. Other factors for consideration include the level of complexity of the grant application, the cost of hiring a grant writer, time, and access to internal writing talent.