Finding funding sources is a creative, open-ended process requiring diligence and imagination. Targets may include government funding, donations & pledges, strategic fundraising events, and available capital that has already been identified for play and recreation improvements. Your vendor may also have options for lease payments. (Although the term lease can be confusing, this simply means you can obtain financing for the equipment, paid over a period that is identified by the leasing company.)
Projects led by government entities such as parks and recreation departments, primary and secondary public schools and the military can take advantage of funding generated by government funds (budget, bonds, internal services) and revenues (user fees, dedicated tax receipts, third party arrangements). Yet even when you partner with these groups, you may still need to fundraise. Even in a healthy economy, the demand for public funding may be greater than the funds available so it is best to plan on augmenting or looking beyond government funding, even if your project qualifies.
Donations & Pledges
Donations and pledges are an immediate and tangible way to raise money for your project. They represent those one time contributions from donors, as well as their promises to provide a certain amount of funding over a certain amount of time. They are often the result of direct solicitation that takes place in person, over the phone, or online.
To encourage prospective donors to financially support your cause, relate directly to them and describe the importance and impact of their individual gift, the opportunity they have to address specific project needs, and the progress you're making against that goal. For example, you might let them know it takes $100 to fund a swing seat or $500 to fund a bench (your vendor can advise you of actual amounts) and to effectively serve the children and families within a ten minute walk of the proposed space, you're hoping to purchase six swing seats and four benches in total, and you're currently halfway to your goal. You're detailing the dream for them so that they can help make it a reality.
Fundraising & Special Events
Fundraising activities such as bake sales, car washes, movie nights, or recycling drives never go out of style, and they are fantastic opportunities for engaging the community. Special events like talent shows, concerts, or carnivals remain very popular and can be an important part of your fundraising strategy, These hands-on activities and events are not only time-tested and proven, but also FUN - they put you directly in touch with your community, future supporters, and caretakers of your play space. Your choice of activities - small or large, simple or complex, sponsored or non-sponsored - will depend upon the time, material, and people you have to make it happen.
Be sure to check with local government for licensing requirements and restrictions on fundraising events in advance.
Naming rights have grown in popularity over the years as an effective means of generating additional funding resources. They are different than grants, gifts, unsolicited donations, even commemorative naming, in that they are transactional in nature. They confer benefits and recognition to individuals and businesses in exchange for financial consideration.
With recreation spaces, naming rights appeal to every level of giving as they offer the right to name the entire space or portions of it, depending upon the amount of funding provided. Custom signage is typically a permanent acknowledgement of these naming rights. You can also work with companies that provide engraved bricks or pickets that can be used to create pathways and fences near the space. People love to see their family name in a permanent exhibit. However, not all potential funders will be comfortable with public memorialization, and may wish to remain anonymous.
Make sure your guidelines for naming rights offer numerous avenues to recognize funders. These may include sharing facts about what their money and/or support allowed you to do and relaying firsthand stories about the lives changed. By cultivating and recognizing donors in this way, you are sure to make lasting friends as they will want to remain loyal to the cause.
Though we tend to think of funding as money - cash gifts and donations, funding can also take the form of in-kind contributions - people's time, talents, goods, and services. Non-cash inputs that can be assigned a cash value add up and can help reduce the amount of fundraising you actually need to do.
Just think about all that will be involved for you and your project team from project kick-off through ribbon-cutting and program delivery. In-kind contributions can go a long way in helping you host meetings, provide refreshments at those meetings and other gatherings, hold design days, lead fundraising events, support construction of play space, market and promote the project and of course, thank the volunteers. Look at the volunteer resources outlined in Plan It and Build It. If you need to augment your list of volunteers to add a skill set or talent that will help you get to completion, find out who has that skill, and seek out the people who can offer what you need!
The possibilities for in-kind contributions are vast! Here are a few (listed by category) to get your creativity flowing:
- Items for auctions and raffles
- Gift baskets
- Travel packages and frequent flyer miles
- Proceeds from ticket sales
- Crafts and jewelry
- Event tickets
- Volunteer time
- Graphic design or copywriting
- On-air advertising
- Copy paper for flyers
- Meeting space
- Website development
- Social media campaigns
- Plastic construction fencing or barrier tape
- Power tools
- Use of backhoe with auger
- Babysitting services
- Shade tents
- Music/public address systems
- Photography services
Another way to maximize assets is to consider partnering with a group in your community who may have funds, infrastructure, or manpower that, when added to your own, can make the goal more easily achievable. Developing an effective partnership takes research, planning, collaboration, and trust. Both partners' mission and goals should align. Partnerships are growing in popularity as communities seek new ways to add facilities and sustain meaningful programs. Unified We Play: Partnership Best Practices for Play and Recreation is a national report that was developed with the input and expertise of partner-focused park and recreation leaders. It can provide insight and guidance in identifying, building, and sustaining effective partnerships, as well as several case studies of innovative partnerships that have helped create meaningful programs and facilities in communities throughout the country.