Fundraising Ideas for Kids to attend a Robot Workshop
May 1, 2008 4:39 PM   Subscribe

If you were a school group wanting to attend a sweet robot workshop, but couldn't afford it, how would you fundraise? What tips or information would you want to know to ensure your success? Looking for fund raising tips and witty engineering/computer science themed ideas to pass on in an informative package!

I actually don't need to raise any money at all. I'm the person who actually -teaches- the sweet robot workshops. I run a full day event where students build and program a robot and get an opportunity to learn about Computer Science and Engineering with the ultimate goal of encouraging them to work in the field of Sciences and Engineering. The equipment we use is quite expensive, and this is a great opportunity that most of the kids would otherwise never have. The response I have had from teachers is overwhelmingly positive - everyone wants these workshops to continue to run.

Recently in my area, it was decided that teachers are not allowed to ask parents for field trip money. In the past the parents simply paid the $10 per child that it cost, but alas this option is no more. I'm also finding that typically, when the money gets handed out, PAC's and schools are willing to provide money for a sports team, but less willing to provide money for science activities.

I don't want kids to be denied the workshop just because of funds. Furthermore, I need them to pay for the workshop in order to ensure the workshop can continue to run. In an effort to help out, I want to put together a fundraising package for the schools - right now they can apply for a busary, but ultimately that bursary fund is going to go dry. It is not a sustainable option, and more and more schools are depending on it. My plan is to put together a fundraiser package which includes promotional posters, pledge form templates, and fundraising tips. I want to include a booklet with suggestions (for example, run a bake sale to sell robot-gingerbread men and include a good recipe and decorating tips, or the traditional 'guess how many items in a jar' game but put nuts and bolts or 'robot parts' in the jar). In theory, not only would the kids be earning the money they need, but they would also potentially be getting themselves psyched up for it, and maybe even learn something along the way!

Hive mind, does this spark your imaginations? I would love to hear either a new fund raising idea, or an older idea with a twist that fits the Robot/Computer Science/Engineering theme. Tips from experienced fundraisers that I could include would also be much appreciated!

Typically the fundraising would be done by a single class with a single teacher. We would be looking at groups from grade 5 to grade 12, and a class of 30 students would need to raise a maximum of $300 - so we aren't looking for big bucks here.
posted by billy_the_punk to Education (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Does the robot workshop include robotics competitions? Then you don't need a fund raiser, you need a sponsorship. As in, you name the robot after the sponsor ("The Johnson Chevrolet Electric Robot Man"), and plaster the sponsor's name on the robot and mention the sponsor's name to every local news organization you send press releases to in order to promote your participation in the competition.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:56 PM on May 1, 2008

CPB is on the right track. Hit up the hi-tech companies that are in any way associated with the workshop. Intel or Microsoft are probably a good bet. Even if they don't want to fund the students directly they might be willing to donate equipment.
posted by doctor_negative at 5:00 PM on May 1, 2008

Can they sell Hex Bugs?
posted by olinerd at 5:08 PM on May 1, 2008

Wow, I just want to volunteer for the workshop! That sounds like super duper fun!
posted by Echidna882003 at 5:08 PM on May 1, 2008

Whoops, that link goes to a reseller page that doesn't explain the Hex Bug thing. Here you go.
posted by olinerd at 5:15 PM on May 1, 2008

Yes, you definitely need a sponsor. When I was in middle school, I participated in a math team organization which had meets about once a month. The local meets/teams were all sponsored by local companies (my school by a local engineering firm). They paid for the meets, our school buses, and our trip to the state competition (when we had blown all of the other regional mathletes out of the water). It was great publicity for the engineering firm, and a bit related to their own business. They had lots of signs up at the meets for their firm and just encouraging science and engineering careers in general. I think it was a good situation for all.
posted by bluefly at 5:32 PM on May 1, 2008

I would highly recommend sponsors. In high school I was involved with US FIRST Robotics, a very expensive endeavor (we spent $20-30k each year). We got all of our money from corporate sponsors. Large donors became part of our name and every sponsor had their name/logo plastered on the robot and our t-shirts. Since it is an academic endeavor, companies are happy to donate money and becoming a non-profit organization will help even more. Also, don't just stick with tech companies, non-tech companies may donate if they can deduct it from their taxes (hence the NPO) and since it is an educational endeavor.
posted by stevechemist at 5:46 PM on May 1, 2008

Are you familiar with Dean Kamen and The FIRST robotics program? Because if you aren't, you really should be. They have grants and fundraising programs and are right up your alley. I would think they would be an excellent resource for you.
posted by misha at 5:47 PM on May 1, 2008

on preview, stevechemist and I are on the same page.
posted by misha at 5:48 PM on May 1, 2008

Everyone else is on the right page.

Have the kids or you or the teachers submit proposals to local corporation that would benefit from future quality employees. Yes, much of this can be boilerplate. But, you will likely have more success if you heavily customize each proposal for its intended audience (each unique corporation). Be sure to let the corporation know what they will get in return: press releases, interview with media?, mention in school newsletter, the privilege of supporting the youth in their community, etc. I suggest asking local corporations (or the local branch) because the major branch gets hit up all the time.

Your ideas of going to the parents for funding is also good. But, it might be harder to raise lots of little donations than one larger one. I'm a fundraiser, mefi mail me if you I can give more suggestions.
posted by fieldtrip at 6:18 PM on May 1, 2008

If they're simply not allowed to ask the parents to pay, but the parents can in general afford it and are used to paying $10 for a field trip, then I would try and make sure any fundraising allowed for 'random donations' - I know my parents were far more likely to throw in $10 for something than actually be interested in going around selling chocolates or whatever.
posted by jacalata at 6:44 PM on May 1, 2008

Ask local colleges. The engineering deparment at my university would sponsor exactly this kind of stuff in the hopes of getting this kids to study there in the future. All they asked where that you give out some fliers.
posted by Dr. Curare at 6:55 PM on May 1, 2008

Response by poster: Oh dear, I think I came across with the wrong impression in my post... you guys have great ideas but it is much, much bigger than what I am looking for. To be honest, sponsorship is far far too much for a class field trip.

I do not need to fundraise. And Dr. Curare, although I agree that Universities are great sponsors, I am running this -through- the University. Money on my end is not a problem, but at the same time, it is not sustainable to exclusively run free workshops. Becoming a sink hole is a good way to lose funding. For a variety of reasons we charge for these workshops. The value in them is quite high, and there are other free workshops and presentations to be found on campus.

As a way to encourage teachers to fundraise, I am producing a fundraiser package with ideas, suggestions and supplies. I am looking for clever ideas to make the fundraising relevant and fun - robot ginger-bread cookies and so on. Corporate sponsorship is not required for a single field trip. Fundraising is just a crafty way to get the parents to pay without asking them to directly pay.

I am looking for -small- fundraiser ideas, along the lines of my examples in the post, that a single class can produce to raise up to $300.00.
posted by billy_the_punk at 7:23 PM on May 1, 2008

They can sign up for a rewards program, such as at Chapters or When the parents buy books, groceries or whatever, the school (or class) gets a percentage. I've asked a couple of schools to sign up for the Stong's program in Vancouver -- and offered to donate my 4% -- but no one has taken me up on it, not even the inner city schools.

They could write to the Legion. The Legion gave me money when I needed funding for various activities.

They could write to some local technology companies and ask for support. Sometimes, there is a fund in the HR department for sponsoring high school students, as part of long term recruiting.

I don't know if this still works, but, when I was in high school, I raised a lot of money to go to Japan by selling hot dogs for donations at the grocery store. Overwaitea (Save-On Foods) was awesome.
posted by acoutu at 7:56 PM on May 1, 2008

It sounds like you are opposed to asking a business to sponsor the workshop because you don't need much money. Plenty of small, local business (especially any business owned by a parent of someone coming to the workshop) would like to get the advertising exposure of sponsoring this for $300. There is no reason that a sponsorship can't be a small fundraising idea. Maybe a local business that markets to parents of these kids, or a local computer store or support business would be interested. The class should have an assignment to write the business thank you notes after the workshop, and it would be a nice touch to send a few photos and a paragraph or two about what the kids learned.

If you want a fundraiser the kids can do, have them sell LED throwies at school for $1 or $2 each. Er... I guess that could be considered encouraging vandalism -- LED locker magnets, maybe?
posted by yohko at 10:20 PM on May 1, 2008

Best answer: For a sum as small as $300, I think you could use the tried but true, framed within your theme.

Robot Guts (spaghetti) dinner - the teacher does the cooking, the kids serve the diners- charging something like $5 or $7 a plate. If they can get donations of sauce, bread, butter, disposable plateware and the like, their upfront costs are pretty low, and it's possible they'd make the entire $300 in one go.

Metal Disk Collection (a penny drive) - have the kids decorate the collection jars to look like robots, and then put them everywhere; in school, in local high traffic businesses, etc. A penny fundraiser can run for a week or 6, as needed.

Nuts and Jolts baskets - nut and citrus fruits baskets to sell (buy in bulk and package them attractively). Jolts could also be packaged gourmet coffees. I couldn't think of something to go with 'bolts' as in 'nuts and bolts,' but you might be more clever.

Name the Robot Contest (check local laws for legality) $1 per name suggestion, winner name drawn or decided on a date a month or so from the beginning of ticket sales.

A raffle (again, check local laws...raffles are not legal in Colorado where I am, but are legal in other places) - with a very cool engineering/computer science themed (and possibly donated) prize.

Not specifically themed, but an online auction can be really profitable for fundraising groups. It is a lot of work and takes a couple of months to put together (in addition to someone needing the skill to create the online auction page - for us, it was the school's IT division), but the student group I just did this with collected about 60 donated items from local and regional businesses and raised $1500 with a smidgen over $2000 worth of retail goods and services. Reliable donors for us were tourist destinations, sporting goods stores, restaurants, movie theaters and the like, but we also got donations from hotels, book stores, local artists, grocery stores, coffee shops, etc.

Cookie dough fundraisers are apparently very popular, but I have no experience with those, and unless one of the doughs is fortuitously named, I am not sure how you would wrap it into your theme...nonetheless, they are by all accounts good fundraisers and worth noting in your fundraising package.

posted by faineant at 1:50 AM on May 2, 2008

Car washes are a time-honored tradition for school groups here in my neck of the woods. It's pretty easy to find a local business who is willing to contribute a chunk of their parking lot and their outside water tap to the cause. The local IHOP did so for my daughter's soccer team last year. Many gas stations are willing, too.

As an aside, I can't believe your school has forbidden hitting-up parents for the cost of a field trip. Of course, with so many funding cut-backs these days, parents do get hit by an endless stream of fund raisers. It's sad that teachers have to constantly go begging just to provide an education.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:11 AM on May 2, 2008

Best answer: Trying to think of stuff my daughter's school has done. Kids in middle school grades seem to like:

- paying a minimal amount for special privileges, like wearing a hat or their pajamas at school

- seeing their teachers in embarrassing situations, like in a dunk tank or wearing their pajamas to school or the principal having their hair cut by a kid. Is there some kind of robot costume that you could get for the program, and loan to a principal to wear if the kids raise enough money?

- contests between classes or grades

The last one might lend itself more to your theme. Getting pledges for radio-controlled vehicle races in the gym? A Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots Contest, using something like sumo wrestler outfits? Heck, buy up a bunch of those old games, and loan them out to schools for contests that kids have to pay to enter?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:48 AM on May 2, 2008

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