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 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 2018 grant opportunities that may match your needs. Click through the links below to read the requirements.
- 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 Tony Hawk Foundation is accepting applications to build public skate parks in low-income areas. Grants from $1,000 to $25,000 are available. Application deadline is June 11.
- The 2018 Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program is offering grants to help create and improve state and locally-owned park and outdoor recreation areas. Applications can be submitted through September 14.
- 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. Application deadline is June 30.
- 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 Grants.gov 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 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 gravel or 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 and pea gravel to consider. Additionally, these materials 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? Call 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!
No Fault Safety Surface installed for playground at ARISE at the Farm in Chittenango, NY
You might remember what it’s like to be shorter than all the grown-ups around you. When all the conversations were sailing over your head, and all the excitement was UP THERE, out of reach.
It’s no wonder some kids turn into mountain goats as soon as they reach their toddler years. It doesn’t take them long to learn that “all I have to do is scoot that stool over there to be able to reach the table!” or even “all I have to do is pull myself onto the couch, then I can reach something on the bookcase!”
Anyone who’s been around children knows climbing comes so naturally to them. It literally gives them the power to change their perspective. When they look out and see the world from a new vantage point, they feel accomplished. They feel proud of pulling themselves up to that level where “important” things happen.
You may not be surprised to know that kids learn through movement. Jumping, running – and yes, climbing. Those are all ways for them to explore the world around them and find their role in it. Obviously, it’s a huge confidence-builder for little minds. It’s also a great way to strengthen kids’ muscles and help them develop critical problem-solving skills and sharpen cognitive skills such as memory, spatial awareness and risk-taking. It gives them a challenge.
It’s not just young kids who are yearning to go up. Rock climbing in public spaces has gotten popular in recent years. These days, many parks and playgrounds feature natural and manufactured boulders.
(In fact, if your park or playground has room to accommodate adventurous older children and give them some instruction, you might consider creating space for rock climbing using a top rope. It’s arguably safer than cycling or kayaking, and it will certainly encourage healthy habits that can last a lifetime.)
Boundary-pushing and thrill-seeking aside, we have to be mindful that sometimes a child who loves to jump and climb may try to jump or climb on things that are not safe.
With climbing, especially, comes the danger of falling. In response, playground equipment manufacturers have been “caging in” or enclosing some of the taller climbing structures found on modern playgrounds. This is somewhat controversial, as studies show children misusing this equipment (often by climbing outside the barriers) can get tangled up in the rope netting or otherwise injured by the enclosure.
If you are considering incorporating climbing structures into your playground, be sure to install safety surfacing under and around it. Fortunately, today’s IPEMA surfacing manufacturers (like No Fault Sport Group) offer surfacing that meets the ASTM F1292 Safety Standard for impact attenuation to heights that approach 16 feet. “Impact attenuation” of playground surfacing material is the measure of its shock absorbing properties.
What does that mean? It means a significantly reduced likelihood of severe head injuries (the most serious type of playground injury) and the most frequent cause of death from playground fall-related accidents.
“Critical height” is defined as the “maximum height below which a life-threatening head injury would not be expected to occur.” These properties differ by the playground surface material. For instance, with rubber mulch, if the playground equipment fall height is 8 feet, the mulch must be 6 inches deep. If PIP is used as a protective safety surface, a depth of 3.5 inches is required.
No Fault Safety Surface is made with a combination of EPDM or TPV rubber granules and a cushion layer of rubber that is poured-in-place on-site. It’s “Americans With Disabilities Act” approved for indoor and outdoor applications, low maintenance, and freeze/thaw resistant. The complete No Fault Safety Surface System provides a resilient, porous, and seamless playground safety surface that is known to be the absolute best playground safety surface available for fall protection. To learn more, give us a call today!
Beautiful things come in small packages! No Fault partnered with Jefcoat Recreation to provide our No Fault Safety Surface in a stunning blue color for Edna’s Child Development Center in Gulfport, MS. Safety and beauty combine to make this a very appealing place for kids to play. The attractive Miracle Recreation play equipment provided by Jefcoat has a clever “general store” theme along with the letters of the alphabet to spark children’s imaginations and set the stage for learning.
Ms. Edna Nelson, owner, stated, “The children and I love the surfacing! It is really soft to walk on.”
At No Fault, we always strive to make our customers happy! We want you to love your new rubber surfacing, and enjoy it for many years to come. Please contact us so we can help you plan your next playground project, whether large or small!
A top priority for those of us who create industry-leading playground safety surfacing is minimizing the risk of injury. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t understand the importance of active, adventurous playtime that allows kids to challenge themselves, discover their physical abilities, and develop their self-confidence.
It’s important that the people who design and build playgrounds understand that “danger” and “risk” are not the same thing. Whether we’re a parent or a parks administrator, it’s our job to eliminate the danger, and also to preserve the safe risk-taking that fosters creativity, challenge, and discovery.
Many children’s activities come with some risk of injury or accident. Sports, like swimming and soccer, come with a higher risk than playing on a playground — especially when the playgrounds use safety surface products to keep kids safe.
Still, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 200,000 children under the age of 14 are injured on the playground each year. The dangers are real, and we must do everything we can to prevent these accidents from occurring.
Modern play equipment design and regulations are making kids safer every year. Heavy metal swings, high “trapeze” rings, and rusty merry-go-rounds are a thing of the past, and no one is saying these dangerous playground features need to return.
However, let’s not forget about the “reward” that comes with a healthy level of risk. Playing outside (whether on a playground or in a team sport) helps kids develop mentally and physically and can also set them up for healthy habits as they become adults.
A lack of outdoor activity means less movement and less interaction with other children. Behavioral issues, social difficulties, and developmental delays have all been connected to a lack of outdoor play. That’s why eliminating physical risk entirely can run a much greater emotional risk.
Are Americans too Risk-Averse?
In today’s litigious society, concerns about playground safety are linked with concerns about liability. Even if a school or community wanted to have a giant metal slide, rope swing, or big trampoline on its public playground, American Standard Testing Methods (ASTM) and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) guidelines would prohibit their use. Equipment manufacturers won’t sell them because they don’t want to increase the liability they would face in the event of an injury.
In Europe, however, public trampolines aren’t uncommon. Safety is enhanced by keeping them low to the ground and surrounding them with safety surfacing. They are usually small enough to discourage too many children from using them at once. Everything considered, there are no more injuries caused by trampoline use than by using any of the “safer” features in European parks.
In some cases, the overabundance of caution in America is due to a misinterpretation of safety data. Neither ASTM nor CPSC standards prohibit teeter-totters or merry-go-rounds, but schools and cities have been removing them from playgrounds for years due to a perception that “moving parts” create a danger to children. On the contrary, studies show that only three percent of all playground injuries involved moving equipment.
Statistically, falling is a much more significant risk on the playground. Although, this danger is becoming smaller thanks to increased use of playground safety surface materials which are ASTM F-1292 compliant and meet all critical fall height standards and requirements.
Why Tolerate Any Risk at All?
Researchers from Iowa State University, North Carolina State University, and the University of Georgia collaborated to publish Making Room For Risk In Play Environments And Playground Standards. The authors argue that making playgrounds safer in the last couple of decades has also been “associated with a decline in creative, challenging, and exciting play.”
Risk-taking comes with a chance of injury. But did you know that risk helps kids develop gross motor skills that will help them reduce the potential for future harm? Balance and proprioception help kids feel more secure on their feet. Additionally, allowing children to engage in beneficial risk on the playground helps them learn to set safe limits on their behavior and evaluate potentially risky situations in the future better.
Put another way, reasonable risk keeps kids engaged on physical and mental levels, teaching them the skills to better assess and negotiate challenging situations and obstacles on their own.
On the playground, danger is not the same as risk. Eliminating all risk within play runs the possibility of removing creativity, challenge, and discovery. Furthermore, risk-taking opportunities on the playground can benefit a child’s health and learning in all the following ways:
- They improve children’s physical, social, and cognitive health.
- Children who are allowed to take risks tend to be more physically active and have lower obesity rates.
- A healthy level of risk develops cognition and helps instill a greater sense of self-assurance.
Contact No Fault Sport Group today to discuss ways you can make your playgrounds safer by adding safety surfaces such as poured-in-place rubber surface, rubber safety tiles, rubber mulch (bonded and loose-fill), and synthetic play turf.
This is the second post of the two-part series on renovating playgrounds on a tight budget. It looks at a number of ways to find the funds necessary to make improvements.
Funding shouldn’t be a barrier in order to provide kids with a quality play space. But let’s be real — without money, your grand plans will never leave the drawing board. Budget considerations include safety surfacing, site preparation, shipping of equipment, installation, and ongoing maintenance.
Playground grants can help you bridge the gap between your budget and necessary costs. There are many charitable foundations and nonprofits devoted to children’s fitness and well-being that allocate funds. Many local and federal government agencies offer assistance as well.
When you apply for playground equipment grants, you’ll need to provide detailed information about your plans including what type of equipment will meet your goals. You’ll also want to consider any compliance stipulations set forth by the granting group. Make sure you are up-to-speed on safety guidelines to assure these agencies that your proposed plans will meet all appropriate safety standards.
Ultimately, a successful playground renovation gives children a better opportunity to enjoy vigorous exercise and creative expression. It improves the space kids have for organized games and unstructured play.
If increasing the physical size of your playground and purchasing new equipment are beyond the scope of your budget at this time, you and your team can get creative. Parks and Rec departments and schools working with tight budgets implemented the following small-scale changes and saw a real impact as a result:
Put On A Show. Create a “performance” area, a small area for a stage with seating in front of it. It’s an affordable way to give kids a place for creative expression. For not a lot of money, you can buy a supply of loose props to help kids unleash their inner thespian or musician.
It’s Just a Phase. If your group can’t undertake a full-scale renovation all at once, consider doing the work in phases. You might consider building out play structures for younger kids (kindergarten and elementary school), then focusing on larger, more challenging installations for older kids. Kids get excited about each new phase and can’t wait to see what’s next.
Get Everyone Involved. A handful of volunteers can make a big difference. Ask a church youth group to come paint aging play structures. Know some retired folks who are handy with tools? Ask them if they’d be willing to make benches or picnic tables. Get the community involved, and they’ll become a partner in keeping your playground nice. The kids and their families can enjoy small improvements over time and the community volunteers will feel pride and a sense of accomplishment. After all, parks and playground renovations benefit entire communities!
Give Budding Artists a Canvas. Install an outdoor chalkboard or “graffiti wall” for drawing murals and other artwork. No, you don’t have to hand the kids cans of spray paint (that’s a BAD idea, in case you’re wondering), but they can have endless creative fun with water-soluble paints or colored chalk.
Get Your Game On. With some paint and some imagination, the top of a picnic table can become a chess/checker board. An unused area of asphalt can become a hopscotch area. Turn under-used surfaces into games and other opportunities for collaborative play.
Think Inside the Box. If you need a low-cost addition for the youngest visitors to your playground, a sandbox is a no-brainer. Keep it stocked with plastic shovels and pails and you’ll keep toddlers occupied. Keeping the sand clean and within the box is important, so make sure you have the resources for ongoing maintenance.
Include Inclusivity. If you only have enough money to make a few changes, use it to ensure your playground is accessible to all children. Inclusive equipment will help children with disabilities feel included and give them the developmental benefits of outdoor play.
Upgrade the Surfacing. If safety is the main motivator behind your planned upgrades, look for opportunities to protect kids from falls. Gravel and wood chips don’t offer the protection you need, and they make it harder for children who use walking devices or wheelchairs to get around. Replacing wood chips with poured-in-place rubber surfacing or bonded rubber mulch makes play areas easier for kids who need walking assistance. It makes the play area safer for everyone, too.
Public school administrators, commercial park owners, school boards, and parks administrators have a lot to consider when planning a playground renovation: accessibility and ADA compliance, sustainability, safety, maintenance costs, and child engagement. No Fault Sport Group can help you find affordable playground surfacing for a fun and safe space to play.
This post is the first of a two-part series on renovating playgrounds on a tight budget. It addresses the need for planning. Part 2 will examine a number of ways to fund such renovations.
Playgrounds offer opportunities to learn through imagination and exploration. Having a fun and safe environment can make a big difference in a child’s life. Keeping a playground “fun” and “safe” is an ongoing challenge, however. Many communities and schools want to update or renovate their play areas, but find themselves constrained by tight budgets.
Not sure where to start? Whether you’re upgrading a playground for your school, church, or community, there are some things to remember as you make a plan.
You don’t always need a big budget to revamp your playground. What you do need is a schedule. To create one, you’ll need to thoroughly assess your available space, how much you can spend, and the needs of the kids who play there. Whether you’re seeking additional funding or trying to make the most with what you have, it is a good idea to get a clear vision of what you need to achieve. Ask yourself (and your team) these questions:
- What outcome do we need?
- What is the need/primary use for your playground?
- Who currently uses the play area?
- Who do we want to attract to the play area?
- What benefits will the play area bring?
- When is our deadline?
- Do we have enough space?
- Do we need planning permission?
Start by looking at what your playground has now and what it lacks. Is it space you need? If there’s not enough open space for running and other gross motor activity, look for ways to create that space. Is it more equipment you seek? A renovation should add or improve opportunities for children to engage in both group and individual play.
Focus on the areas that need the most attention. If there is any broken equipment, should you fix it, replace it, or remove it entirely? Is there a section of the playground that doesn’t get used much? Consider doing something with that space that might be more popular.
Don’t make assumptions about what you need without fully understanding how your playground is being used today. Simply observing kids in their natural habitat (your playground) will give you this understanding. For example, are the kids standing around waiting their turn on a popular slide? If so, think about adding another one.
Also, seek input from the adults who come to your playground — parents, teachers and other community members. Ask what they would like to see. Natural features, landscaping, and safety surfacing around playground equipment are all things that children probably won’t think about, but their parents will.
(That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask kids for their input, however. They are the ones who will be using the playground. Their insights may be just as vital and informative.)
Public school administrators, commercial park owners, school boards, and parks administrators have a lot to consider when planning a playground renovation: accessibility and ADA compliance, sustainability, safety, maintenance costs and child engagement. No Fault Sport Group can help you find affordable playground surfacing for a fun and safe space to play.