5 Places to Find Money to Fund Your School OT Practice
by Marie Toole, MS OTR/L
on the School Tools From Your Pediatric Occupational Therapist Blog
Recently I wrote a grant for sensory supplies. I put some pictures up on my School Tools for Pediatric Occupational Therapists Facebook page and I got lots of responses from others wanting to know how they can get funding too. I don’t have the magic pill…and you too can ask for money for supplies. Here are 5 ways that I tend to find money. Know that I can be tenacious and will keep asking until I get what I need for my students. It is not begging…I call it advocating for my students. Here is how I advocate!
Your first stop should be your principal or assistant principal to ask them to fund items that you need for students. I find if I go to my principal with a specific request and a PO all filled out with a specific amount they sometimes can find money in their discretionary budget. My greatest success rate is when it is for a specific piece of equipment for a specific child (ie Joey needs a pressure vest, size small) and when I can a) demonstrate the need, b) demonstrate that research backs this up and c) let the principal know that I will take data and train the parapros/TA’s to use the equipment properly and at the correct times I often get the funds.
Sometimes the principal’s hands are tied and their budget is frozen. My next step is to go to the PTO group. They often fund many extra items that are not typically in the school’s budget. If you can demonstrate the need and the benefit, they can sometimes find some money. I feel like my biggest success with PTO group is for items that many students will benefit from. I recently put together sensory bins for each classroom. PTO helped me out with additional supplies for 24 sensory boxes.
Medicaid to Schools Funds
This is a new one for me. In my old district the medicaid funds went into a general fund that the Special Education director used. In my new district I can request funds for a specific child or a group of children who are identified and have IEP’s in place. The process was easy for me to request a dizzy disc for the Autism program I work with. I am not at that school every day and I really did not want the TA’s to be using the swing without OT supervision so I thought a dizzy disc would be a great alternative. I had one in my old school and it was used frequently. I put the paperwork in and a few weeks later it arrived. It certainly would not hurt to ask if there is a way to use Medicaid to Schools funds for equipment that you need. Of course that means that you actually need to do your Medicaid billing!
In both school districts I have worked in there has been an adjunct Education Foundation that raises money for teachers to use for special projects, to go to expensive continuing education programs or try specific curriculum units that need to be funded. This is the program I used to write my $1000 grant for sensory supplies for each classroom in one of the buildings I work in. There are generally guidelines on that foundation’s website, and sometimes they will even help you write the grant. Watch for emails from the education foundation in your district about grants and the deadlines you will need to follow. Find a mentor to help you write the grant or ask the foundation directly for help. They honestly want to give the money away for great projects that help students succeed. It is an awesome opportunity to expand the Education Foundation’s awareness of “related services” and OT in particular. Maybe you can write a sensory grant with your speech pathologist or social worker. Collaboration between disciplines often get funded before single service providers.
Outside Philanthropic groups
As a last resort I have gone to outside groups in the town where the schools are to ask them for money. Let your principal know that you are doing this as principals generally do not like to be caught blindsided by these type of requests. Does your town have a Rotary/Lions/Kiwanis group or a Men’s/Women’s group in town that gives scholarships away? Maybe there is a church group or another community service group in town that has money to give away, Look in your small, weekly local paper for those type of groups. Find out if they have money to give away. You may have to go to their meeting and do a short presentation, answer questions etc but it is certainly worth it. Be considerate of how often you ask the same group for money. Spread the wealth…and the public relations of talking about Occupational Therapy to all of these groups all over town. Look at it as an opportunity to share your passion for OT and remember to mention our Centennial year–100 years as a profession this year! How awesome is that?
Whenever you do get funds from a group remember to send a thank you note and pictures. They will often put them on their website as further PR for OT and your school. Maybe you can start a partnership with this group for additional volunteer opportunities at your school for its members!
If you need funds for additional equipment or supplies for your students do not be afraid to ask. What is the worst thing that could happen? They say they do not have any funds at this time. So move on to the next group and ask them. As you continue to advocate for your students you are subsequently advocating for Occupational Therapy and raising awareness. Look at this as an opportunity to practice your OT Month PR pitch as often as is needed! I look at this as me asking for needed supplies/equipment AND promoting Occupational Therapy to a wider audience. Doesn’t get much better than that!
Money Picture: https://pixabay.com/en/money-euro-profit-currency-1015277/
Office Computers: https://pixabay.com/en/office-two-people-business-team-1209640/
Conference Room Table: https://pixabay.com/en/conference-room-table-office-768441/
Marie L. Toole, MS, OTR/ L, is a pediatric occupational therapist with 28 years experience in NICU, Early Intervention, and private practice with the last 20 years spent working in public schools. She is NBCOT and SIPT certified as well as a member of AOTA, NHOTA, and OTAC. She now lives in Colorado and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @MarieTooleOTNH, on Pinterest marietooleNHOT, and on School Tools for Pediatric Occupational Therapists where she tweets, pins, and posts about OT, education, autism, and sensory integration, as well as other school related topics.