12 Dec Hit the Ground Funding!
By Radhika Dalal
Senior at Kamiak High School
Arranging for Funding
You’ve finally created the blueprint for your optimum aquaponic system. However, finding funding for your dream design can be difficult, especially if you don’t know where to look for the resources you need. Don’t worry, that’s what this article is for! I hope to explain in a few steps the way for you to go on this part of your journey.
1) Make a Budget
This one seems rather obvious. You need to know how much money you need before you arrange for it! Keep in mind that aquaponic systems require regular maintenance, so account for the quantity of the materials you may need on a quarterly or annual basis. Also, if you are ordering materials online, remember that shipping is often extra!
If you’re an amateur in budgeting, a good rule is to overshoot your budget by 1.25-1.50 (you could call this your “safety net” budget) in case of unexpected expenses. For remaining funds, you can always save these towards the next time you run your system.
How to keep track of your budget:
The best way to do this is through a Microsoft Excel sheet. I have made a budgeting template on Excel that may help you in the planning process! Find it here.
2) Understand the Rules
This is very important!
If you decide to arrange funding from places outside of ASB for a school-affiliated system (read about these ways in step 3), be careful to comply with all Associated Student Body (ASB) and school rules on managing money. Missteps can often have serious consequences for staff and students, so it is important to speak to someone knowledgeable on this matter!
Also, understand how money can be used for expenditures based on how you choose to integrate your system. For example, is the money for your system placed in its own folder with ASB? Who is allowed to actually charge any expenses you make? These are some of the things you should know about.
I would recommend being closely in-touch with ASB cabinet members or a staff member who has had experience arranging for funding and having them as part of your team, as this will make the process much easier on you and others involved!
3) Arrange Funding
Being a part of a school can often make the process of arranging for funds incredibly simple, but at times a little complex too. There are several ways to bridge the gap between making your ideal system a reality! These are some of the options you can use:
One way to do this is by forming a club, pairing with an existing club, or working on it as a school-wide project. As a club, you may find that your ASB has enough in its budget to contribute towards your project, and even a small sum can help push you towards your goal. Even though following ASB rules in working with money may be annoying (hence the difficult part of affiliating you’re your school), earning faculty support will prove to be incredibly helpful in your journey as opposed to having to work through any difficulties on your own.
Should you partner with a club to make your aquaponic system (check out how PF1010 High School Interns Ethan and Mariam did this at Redmond High School!), you may find that the club can allot some of its own budget towards the system and the materials required for it.
But what if your school can’t contribute funding to support your project?
Never fear! If you have a teacher you are working with to create the system, make an application with DonorsChoose, a crowd-funding site for projects for your school. Share your request with friends and family on social media and other means to help promote support towards your aquaponics system. Tip: a key part of your application is to include why this system is important to you and students’ learning- this is what donors want to hear about! For more information on what donors look for, check out this helpful article!
Another pro-tip: Be sure to apply before Best School Day! Stephen Colbert and several other celebrities came together on March 11th of 2016 to flash-fund projects posted on DonorsChoose. The date may be different this year, so keep an eye out! Just a fun(d) video to watch about Best School Day:
Another way to arrange for items you need is through in-kind donations. In-kind donations are contributions by businesses that are not monetary, but still important for you to reach your goal. An example of this might be a donation many Project Feed Interns received towards their aquaponics systems at the end of the summer: fish tanks! Fish tanks are an obvious necessity for an aquaponics system, but can also be costly. However, students who received this donation no longer had to worry about the costs associated with this basic element. As you can see, in-kind donations can significantly aid you on your way to arranging your system.
Be sure to approach local businesses or companies that may have some items you need for making your system. The best way to do so (email, in-person, etc.) depends on your relationship with the business. However, regardless of the way you choose to contact, it’s important to have a strong statement as to why this aquaponics system is important to you and other students, and what this can contribute to your school/community. And of course, how you would like them to contribute. I would recommend having this in the form of an attractive flier, booklet, or pamphlet.
Note: If you receive a donation, make sure to note the item and its estimated value in your budget.
4) Make it happen!
You’ve done one of the hardest parts of a project: getting the funds to make it happen. Remember all you’re doing an amazing service for your students and community, and that money should not limit you from reaching this goal!