Resources for Playground Funding for Schools & Parks – Part 2 – Sources for Playground Funding

Is your school, church, or other community organization looking for ways to fund a new playground, splash pad, or play area? In a previous article, “Writing a Winning Grant Proposal”, we discussed the components of a playground grant application and offered a few pointers on how to make your proposal stand.

Today, we will look at some specific resources to help you find funding for your project. We will also explain why funding agencies want to see that safety and value are built into your proposal. Showing you have a long-term plan to pay for the maintenance of your playground and to help protect children from the risk of falls and other injuries increases the likelihood of you receiving money from funding groups.

Whether you are building a new play area or seeking funding to renovate an old one, we hope these tips are helpful. You can also check out our article about renovating playgrounds on a tight budget.

Every year, churches, schools, and other youth activity organizations get billions in funding for community play and recreation projects. At your local library and online, you will find hundreds of local, regional, national, and international funding sources that underwrite the costs to build and maintain playgrounds, fitness parks, and other recreation initiatives. Some of these grants are not advertised, so you may need to find a company or a group whose values and goals align with yours and ask them directly.  Get ready to use the phone and knock on some doors!

Local Grant Opportunities

Big corporations like the NFL, CVS, and General Mills all have grant opportunities that are worth researching. But the drawback with these high-profile companies is that you will to be one of dozens (if not hundreds) of applicants.  For this reason, you should also look for fundraising opportunities a little closer to home.

For example, small businesses in your community and regional industries often have philanthropic and community development programs for children. Your county, municipality, or state government may also have programs and grants. In some cases, this funding can be used for playgrounds. Again, you may have to get on the phone and do some digging; while these agencies probably have a website, they do not always make it clear if funding is available.

Do not forget civic and service clubs like Kiwanis, the Lions Club, the Junior League, and the Rotary Club. Many of these local groups also have national foundations that may have funding available for large-scale, community projects. These service organizations include many community leaders in business, education, and government; engaging with their members can give you valuable networking opportunities when seeking fundraising support.

National Grant Opportunities

Here are a few organizations that offer grant opportunities that may match your needs.

  • The Afterschool Alliance is dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of afterschool programs. Their website has a funding section that includes updates on available grants, as well as tips on seeking funding for afterschool programs, guides on how to build sustainability, a database on funding sources, and information on the most common sources for finding funding to support programs.
  • The Target youth soccer grants program provides support for schools, government agencies and nonprofits. Money can be used to cover player registration fees, equipment, and training for volunteer coaches.
  • Grants4Teachers has a free grant database where you can search for current available grants for your school or organization. The database is updated continuously, so be sure to check back often for new opportunities.
  • The website provides a common website for federal agencies to post discretionary funding opportunities and for grantees to find and apply for them. There you will find information on over 1,000 grant programs, along with lots of helpful information about creating a successful application.

Show Them Safety Matters to You

Granting agencies want to see that you put thought and effort into planning your play area. This includes a plan for long-term safety and cost-effective surfacing options that require less maintenance and decrease the risk of injury from falls for years to come.

Remember: If an organization is going to help you pay for your project, they will want to make sure it is a well-planned undertaking with a long-term plan to help keep kids safe. When you are putting together your grant application, make sure you emphasize how you will minimize the risk of injury from falls. Safety surfacing is a piece of the project that is often overlooked.

Poured-in-place safety surfaces from No Fault offer impact attenuation from falls. In plain English, they offer cushioning when a child falls down decreasing the risk of injury. You may be tempted to use wood chips in your play area to keep the up-front costs low, but there are long-term costs associated with maintenance and replacement of wood chips to consider. Additionally, this material cannot match the safety features of recycled rubber surfacing, and they are not engineered to work with all the play equipment commonly found in modern play areas.

Got Questions? Contact No Fault!

We hope our series of articles on playground funding has given you some ideas. It is not an easy process, but if you are organized, diligent, and persistent, you can find the appropriate funding for your project and experience the satisfaction of making your plan a reality.  Make a pot of coffee; get ready to make lots of phone calls; and read the “fine print” on a lot of funder websites. Rest assured–when you see the kids enjoying the playground of their dreams, you will know that all your research and hard work paid off!

Finally, if you need assistance selecting the right playground safety surfacing for your play space, No Fault representatives can help! No Fault provides playground surfacing nationwide, including poured-in place rubber surfacing, bonded and loose-fill rubber mulch, rubber tiles, and synthetic turf. Wherever your group is in the planning process, you can reach out to No Fault today for help!

Resources for Playground Funding for Schools & Parks – Part 1 – Writing a Winning Grant Proposal

It’s not hard to create a “wish list” for your playground. Yet most of us have already found out the hard way that finding the money to build the playground you want isn’t easy!

Maybe your park or playground has old, broken equipment. Maybe parents and kids want features that you don’t have. Maybe it’s time (or waaay past time) to make upgrades to address potential safety hazards. The costs of playground equipment, site upgrades, shelter structures, safety surfacing and also outdoor fitness equipment can be intimidating. Most community groups quickly realize there’s a big gap between their vision and what their budget will allow.

Don’t despair; the funding is out there. It may take some creativity and detective work to find it. Whether you’re planning a project from scratch or updating an existing playground, you can find the funding you need even when your budget leaves a lot to be desired. There are playground equipment grants and fundraising resources available for your school, church, daycare, or non-profit. Many local and federal government agencies want to help and so do a slew of charitable foundations and non-profits.

These grants are usually made in accordance with a strict set of standards and procedures. To apply, your group will need to submit a formal proposal. First, you have to do your research. The donors are looking to fund projects that fit their vision. The grant applications also must be written a specific way. Make sure whoever is writing your application is a good writer and able to pay attention to detail, as well as follow instructions.

Successfully Navigating the Grant Process

Our Funding Playgrounds – Resources for Parks and Rec Professionals article listed a few resources to help fund playground renovations.

Anyone can apply for grants as long as they meet the requirements. You don’t have to be a pro! Who is the typical applicant? School systems or parks departments may have a dedicated grants coordinator or funding coordinator who specializes in seeking out funding sources. Smaller groups may have to take a more “do-it-yourself” approach. Church volunteers or PTA members can usually apply for the same funding as the “pros.” They just have to know how.

Components of Proposal

Writing grant applications can be a daunting task. As we said, it takes some planning, organization, and a good eye for detail goes a long way. Typical components of a parks/playground grant proposal include the following:

  1. Proposal summary
  2. Introduction of your organization
  3. Problem statement (a “needs assessment”)
  4. Project objectives (here’s where you need to make sure the funder sees how your project aligns with their stated funding goals)
  5. Design (this includes architectural plans and more)
  6. Future funding (remember–most donors don’t give money on an ongoing basis, so you’ll need to demonstrate how you plan to fund the playground for years to come)
  7. Budget
  8. Appendices

Tips for Writing Winning Proposals

Here are a few tips from successful grant writers that can help you through the process:

  1. Understand the purpose of the grant! Don’t waste your time applying for grants that don’t fund projects like yours. Write with the grant requirements in mind. If the funder’s goal is to improve accessibility, for example, make sure everything you write emphasizes how your project will accomplish that.
  2. Start early. Successful grant applications are rarely written by procrastinators.
  3. Apply for every grant you are eligible for. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket and expect a single grant to cover everything. You may need to combine funding resources to cover the whole cost of your project.
  4. Establish clear goals and write with an outline so your application is organized and logical.
  5. Follow instructions. Some foundations can be picky! They might specify page length, number of words, typeface, etc., so be sure to follow the specifications so you don’t get ruled out based on a technicality.
  6. Be detailed. Include drawings and detailed cost projections. Know the current safety guidelines to assure granting agencies that your proposed plans will meet all appropriate standards. The funders will tell you what to send. At the same time, don’t send more than they request.
  7. Proofread.  Have someone else read through your application to make sure it makes sense and doesn’t contain errors.

Don’t lose hope if you don’t get the money the first time around! No matter how perfect your proposal is, it is still the funder’s decision if they will fund your project. Even the best writers of grant applications get turned down from time to time, so don’t give up if it happens to you. In fact, if you are turned down for a proposal, send a sincere thank-you letter for having been considered. The funder may remember your graciousness and give your next application a closer look.

Grants can make the playground you’ve been dreaming of a reality. They don’t have to be repaid, and they can be combined with other financing options to help you afford the right play space for you.  Read more about who to contact to request grant money in No Fault’s Blog – “Part 2 – Sources for Playground Funding.”