by Connie Fleming
Public library funding slashed. Teachers forced to take unpaid furloughs Art and music programs eliminated.
We need fully funded libraries, well-paid and supported teachers, and art and music programs – like flowers need rain – like Pooh needs honey – like Batman needs Robin.
PTA, Boosters Clubs, and Title 1 funding are running on empty. With all of the budget cuts, is it any wonder that authors and illustrators are finding it harder and harder to book paid school or library visits? What’s a children’s author to do when a school says they’d love to have you visit, but they don’t have any money? What can the school do? What can we do to help?
Schools need to know that they don’t have to pay for these activities alone. Outside funding is available, but many schools don’t get the help they need simply because they haven’t asked, or don’t know who to ask. Here is where we can help with some phone-work, a little foot-work, and a whole lot of stick-to-it-ness.
Can an author or illustrator obtain financial help for the school? Maybe, maybe not, but they can, at least, pave the way for the school.
Even before the school has expressed an interest in having you come for a visit, you can lay the groundwork for outside funding. Make some phone calls or send emails to possible contributors. Keep records of their responses, warm, open, or negative, and share the positive responses with the school media specialist when you inquire about a visit.
So where do you start? Go to http://www.scbwicencal.org/authorvisits for some great advice. Another terrific source is the website of children’s author, Alexis O’Neill, PhD. She is a frequent contributor to the SCBWI newsletter, a popular presenter and school visit expert. You can learn more at http://www.schoolvisitsexperts.com or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org . I found her to be very gracious and helpful.
Here are some general sources for outside funding:
- National service organizations like Lions Clubs, Rotary Club, Kiwanis, etc.
- Large business corporations like McDonalds, Burger King, Kroger, Publix, Home Depot, Lowes, and many more.
- Local independent businesses. (Check with your Chamber of Commerce.)
- National philanthropic groups: Bill Gates Literacy programs, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
Keep your eyes open. Companies like to brag about their good deeds in the community. Look for plaques in restaurants, libraries, school hallways, stadiums, law offices, doctors’, and dentists’ offices. Ask questions, but be considerate. For example, don’t ask to speak to the manager of McDonald’s during lunch hour. Don’t forget to ask about school business partners.
To find local chapters of Lions, Rotary, or Kiwanis clubs, search websites that give locations of local chapters. Also search literacy websites that end in “.org,” or “.edu.” Call or email local leaders and ask what kind of help they offer schools.
The PTA may also have a list of sources that have helped in the past. Friends of the Library might be willing to sponsor a visit to the public library.
If the topic of your talk is pertinent to the school’s curriculum, as in local history, a biography, or a writing workshop, the teachers might ask the parents of the students to contribute as a group to fund your presentation.
When you make your initial contact with the school about doing a presentation, have an attractive brochure ready to send them with a specific list of these organizations and their websites, or a link to your own website which details this information.
The love of books and reading is a wonderful thing to share with boys and girls, and who better to share it than the creators of the books? However, unless you are J. K. Rowling, no one is going to come knocking at your door. So, it’s up to you to be the rain to flowers, the honey to Pooh, or Robin to Batman, and go knocking on some doors, yourself.
ABOUT CONNIE FLEMMING:
Author, Illustrator, Ventriloquist, Speaker.
C. M. (Connie) Fleming is a former GBI Analyst and Fingerprint Technician, author of “Finder’s Magic,” and “Halley’s Hope,” historical fiction at its gritty, page-turning best. Fleming is a 2008 Georgia Author of the Year nominee. “Halley’s Hope” was a 2009 Quarter-finalist in The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest.
Good lists of reasons why to have school visits:
Kristyn Crow - 10 Reasons Why To Have An Author Visit Your Child's School
Deb Lund - Benefits of Author Visits
Articles confirming benefits of school visits:
The Guardian - School Visits by Authors Boosts Children's Writing Confidence
The Society of Authors - AUTHOR VISITS IN SCHOOLS
Good advice on finding/raising local funds:
Mara Rockliff - Funding Author Visits
Cynthia Leitich Smith - Grants for Schools
Cynthia Leitich Smith - Guest Post: Greg Pincus on Alternate Funding Options for Author Visits
School Visits Experts - Finding Funding for School Visits[video from Alexis O'Neal] and Sample Letter of Request for Funding.
Fundraiser Insight - Fundraising Ideas
GoFundMe.com - Fundraising Ideas for Schools
SignUpGenius.com - 50 Fundraising Ideas A couple others to check out:
Amber Brown Grant From the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
Grants for Librarians A comprehensive list, with links.
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