The Power of Community: Helpers are all around us

Summer’s hit documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, tells the life story of beloved television host Mr. Rogers. It’s a powerful film that highlights the importance of community and of the “helpers” (using Mr. Rogers’ lingo) who surround us.

We were reminded of his noble vision of community when this story popped up on our Twitter feed a few days ago. This teacher—while traveling to visit family—told the tale of her students’ needs to a fellow passenger on the plane. Her story was met with unexpected generosity and kindness from strangers. She left the plane with hundreds of dollars in donations for her classroom.

Her tale reinforces that good is all around us—and that helpers can be all around us, too. Sometimes, all we need to do is tell the genuine, heartfelt story of our schools and students, and the need is met.

Are you struggling to meet the needs facing your classroom this year? Consider how you can share the story of your students with potential helpers in your life.

In addition to talking with people you meet in your day-to-day routines, remember that there are many other channels. Neighborhood businesses are often willing to support local classrooms or to display school supply donation jars. The PTA is a great resource for flexible funding. School or district foundations are another source of assistance. Local or regional community foundations can provide support; in addition to the core foundation grants, many of them also host donor-advised funds that support education needs.

Finally, there are online crowdfunding sites, such as Donors Choose or Class Wish. This model allows you to share your needs with a broader community, often resulting in a greater chance of success.

Wherever you seek funding to support your students, remember to tell the genuine, heartfelt story of their need. Whether it is shared on a plane or online, the compelling story is the reason people will choose to give.

“We live in a world where we need to share responsibility,” Mr. Rogers famously said years ago. “It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

Go tell your heartfelt story and find your heroes.



Successful Grant Writing: A Tip from Italy

One (very lucky) GrantsAlert team member just returned from a glorious vacation in Florence, Italy. Along with tales of rich gelato and amazing art, she shared a story about the Duomo—the city’s iconic dome—that resonated with all of us.

Back in Italy’s heyday, an iconic cathedral was built in Florence that included space to add a jaw-droppingly enormous dome.  The problem? Nobody knew how to design and build the dome structure to complete the cathedral. In 1418, the leaders launched a contest to see which great artisan was up for the challenge for the reward of 200 gold florins (the currency of Florence in the 1400s).

A number of men approached the leaders with design ideas. One of those men was Filippo Brunelleschi, who provided drawings that showed an enclosed dome without visible crossbeams for support. When asked how he would accomplish the dome without the typical supports, Brunelleschi allegedly showed them a turnip that he had carved as a model. (A favorite tidbit about that turnip: out of fear that others would steal his design, he immediately used the turnip to make a soup to keep his design secret safe.)  Brunelleschi’s design was ultimately chosen and is now the acclaimed Duomo of the Florence cityscape.

What does this architectural feat have to do with grant opportunities for educators?

The process—right down to the turnip model—has a lot of similarities with the grant protocol of current times.

While today’s process might be a touch more sophisticated, the core qualities of a successful applicant have withstood the test of time: creativity, clarity, and ingenuity.

Brunelleschi was able to convey his idea in a way that proved him to be the right designer for the job.  In the same way, successful grant applicants are able to clearly articulate their needs in order to thoroughly address their challenges.

As you apply for grant opportunities, remember to align your needs to the grant proposal with as much gusto as Brunelleschi did. Tap into your creativity to tell the story of your project. Be as straightforward as possible, without losing the enthusiasm of your work. And, don’t be afraid to sprinkle in an unexpected element (think: turnip) to help the grant reviewer see the soul of your proposal.

GrantsAlert is proud to be your resource for education funding opportunities so that you can win funds to make your school or district a masterpiece.