by Eric Gibbons
We know that art is critical for student success. (http://goo.gl/aOgx2y ) There are even schools and administrators who know and believe this too, but where support may be genuine, the funds are not always available. This may be due to many factors, but sadly there are schools that have no budget for art. Art is one of the few content areas that require an investment in physical supplies. Though an art class can be operated with just copy paper, pencils, and crayons, that is hardly optimal.
To gauge a budget goal, consider how many students you see on the average day, for me it's about 150. I am allotted $6000 per year, or about $40 per student. It is a healthy and generous high school budget. When I first started at my school however I was allotted about $8000 and had 120 students per day. So that was about $66 per student when times were good, budgets were overflowing, and the district was growing at a healthy rate. So though I sometimes wish for the old days and bemoan cuts, I recognize I have a healthy budget.
An informal poll shows me that most art departments get about $1000 to $2000 for all their students, but many get nothing, a few are in my boat and have strong financial support. If you get more than $3000 for your supply budget, you are a rarity.
So here are 10 things to help stretch your dollars, make some money, and get FREE stuff:
(Always check with an administrator before doing anything that might impact upon the school)
#1. DISCOUNTS: Contact your materials supplier directly and ASK for their best discount AND free shipping. Nasco regularly offers 20% off and free shipping, Blick, School Specialty, SAX and others will make similar deals. Molly Hawkins does not but sometimes their prices on paper, canvas board, and sharpies beat everyone else. AUGUST? Check all the "back to school" sales. Many offer free items just for coming in. Get all the ads for Staples, Walmart, etc...
#2. Get a copy of your school's Tax Exempt Certificate, and make MANY copies. Visit all the big box stores, thrift stores, local arts council, Target, frame shops, and craft supply places. Speak with a manager or owner. Have a letter in hand asking for donations of broken, used, or donated supplies, maybe a wish list. With your certificate they get to write off the full value of their donation. Home Depot often has rejected paint, broken tiles, and other supplies you can use.
#3. Make a wish list of general supplies you would like, and hand the list to every child on their first day, as well as to everyone at the next PTA meeting. Parents will often donate supplies. Tell them that you can provide a tax certificate for a deductable donation should they wish it.
#4. If your admin will allow it, buy a pencil and a pen vending machine. These are CASH COWS and will generate a lot of income. Put them in your classroom or library where they can be monitored. 25 cents per pencil or 75 cents per pen will add up fast.
#5. Online fundraising: www.donorschoose.org, www.supplyourschools.org, www.gofundme.com, www.artsonia.com, www.dickblick.com/ara/, www.adoptaclassroom.org, www.arttoremember.com, www.terracycle.com/en-US/ are just a few.
#6. Back to school night: Make a poster of all the things you really need and a photo copy parents can take to remind them of particular things they may have. Let them know they can send them in with kids or drop them off at the office with your name on it. Have those tax forms ready. Photos from Pinterest too may help of things you'd LOVE to do with their kids... if only you have the supplies. Print a photo and list on the back all the things needed to do it with one grade or class.
#7. Connect with your library in the school or community for newspapers and magazine donations. Create an "Upcycle" center in your room for these items and cardboard.
#8. Check with other art teachers in neighboring schools, particularly at the end of the year for their donations. I send all my short pencils and items to the local shelter for their free kid's art program, but I'd happily donate them to a needy art teacher!
#9. Start an art club, and have those kids do a regular annual, quarterly, or monthly fund raiser. At the end of the year, during locker clean-out, have these kids collect pencils, pens, and other supplies you might appreciate. A successful fundraiser example for me was origami bunnies filled with candy. https://goo.gl/3x39ij and here, http://goo.gl/wjpNQr
Firehouse Publications also offers an art based fundraiser HERE.
#10, FREE STUFF: MY TOP PICK--> www.naeir.org They match companies with surplus to schools and non-profits who need stuff. The stock rotates, you put in a wish list, and they send you what they could match you with. All the school pays for is shipping. I got some AMAZING supplies from the company like laser holographic paper, rolls of tape, paper, and boxes of off items that made for some great sculpture projects. You have to have an open and creative mind, but the stuff they supply is AWESOME!
Naeir is not the only game in town, try these as well: https://www.freecycle.org, http://goo.gl/16Nc8A, www.sustainablesurplus.org, www.excessaccess.org, www.wastetocharity.org, www.donationmatch.com, www.gofundme.com, www.donorschoose.org, www.zerolandfill.net, www.pledgecents.com, and don't forget Craigslist.org! They offer a lot of free stuff, and if they want money, ASK for a free donation with a tax exempt form so they can take the cost of the materials off their taxes!
Local newspaper printers and book printers often have surplus and end rolls of paper they throw away.
Check with your local grocery store for donations of foam trays for printing projects, out of date flour for paper mache, or anything else you might need. Check with your local frame shop for mat board scraps. See if they will allow you to have a "used art supply" box for those artists that come in, 'cause we all have supplies we don't use anymore. Check with Staples or other office supply stores for open cases of copy paper they can't sell.
A "Thank You" bulletin board announcing any donations made by students or staff. This lets others know you're always looking, and thanks those who have made a contribution of any size.
At the end of the year, set up a donation box for used supplies: pencils, pens, markers, ANYTHING. Teachers toss a lot in May & June! Do the same on locker clean-out day, kids keep lots of crap in their lockers you can use next year.
Make a little card with your contact info asking for any unsold items for art supplies at your area flea markets, and if you see a vendor selling something you would like for your kids, give them a card so that if they do not sell it, they can donate it and write off it's value on their taxes!
See if you can connect to an area church or place of worship and try to have them "adopt" your class. This has been a successful approach for many.
If your administration has some creative idea for you to do in school, like a mural, music set, decorations for some event, cheerfully say yes but request some funds for supplies. You'll always have left overs and large projects bring attention to your program.