Dear Squeak and Blat,

I have enjoyed your first few months of helpful hints. Help me with something I have wondered about. How do I find money to develop a music lab? It's clear at my school that everyone is excited about technology but the money internally just isn't there, so says my boss. I need to raise the funds. Short of candy sales, what is your advice?

John B.




John. Try cheese and sausage! I like the cheddar cheese balls the best and the stuff sells like crazy around the holidays! Orange and grapefruit are also popular with the health-conscious. Just kidding--my band director days are showing through.

Seriously, I have had great success from the private sector. It really is amazing how much money is out there waiting to be given away. This is especially true if local donors know that the money will be going to help the students in the area--some of whom might be their own kids!!! If you have a development or grant officer at your school, you can start there. Get a listing of private individuals, corporations, or foundations that might be interested in funding technology and education. Music and computers is a sexy topic that often catches the imaginations of people--especially the engineering and business types who are want-a-be performers. Do some reading and try your hand at writing a prospectus to be reviewed by your development or fund raising people. You can even try:

Foundation Center's online web page -

I've had good luck writing a prospectus that is no more than about 3-5 pages or so that communicates the big picture. Use non-technical language. Include a rationale for why you want such a lab and how it will support music teaching and learning. Write a plan that unfolds over a multi-year period and don't be afraid to ask for big bucks! Your development officer can always scale back in the search. Sometimes it is far easier and more effective to ask for big money! People take you more seriously.

Once the prospectus is written, it can be discussed in theory with individuals, corporation officers, or foundations officials. If there is interest, a more detailed proposal can be written that involves the guidelines of the donor. You may need to get some cost-sharing arrangements with your school. This will get that stingy boss of yours to spring some money from "somewhere."

By the way, if you don't have a development or grants officer, you can work on your own, always getting the permission of your boss (wouldn't want to step on toes!). By the way, larger communities have libraries that actually specialize in reference material for finding donors. Don't forget the Internet as a source for leads!

If you hit the mother load, let us know! Don't forget Squeak and Blat's 5% commission to help with our passion for cheese balls.



John B. Instead of pushing those cheese balls you could always promote customized mousepads or startup screen graphics for the holidays! Blat just likes to eat that junk food while programming all his HyperCard stacks!

Blat's has really covered a lot of territory in helping you layout a proposal. There are lots of resources on the Internet to help you track down private, corporate, and government grants. Check out the web page I have set up for my fine arts folks. It's called the ORAT Grants Assistant web page:

The Chronicle for Higher Education has an online listing each week of deadlines for grants and fellowships that will also give you leads for technology funding.

Here's some other strategies to consider. First, a friend of mine had a neat system. He created folders in his desk file for $1000 ideas, $5K ideas, $10K, $50K, $100K, and $500K ideas. Any time he had a notion of a grant concept he'd quickly jot down his ideas, what he needed as resources to make it happen, and how much money it would take. Then he'd drop it in the appropriate folder. Now, should he read about a grant opportunity (like on the Chronicle list above), he'd open his file to the right dollar amount, pop a fresh batch of microwave popcorn (my preference over cheese balls), and start writing the grant.

Second, try getting your art and theatre folks to join you in making it an arts technology, rather than a music technology project. Everything's going digital multimedia anyway, and combining graphics, video, music, and sound together makes lots of sense pedagogically as well as financially. You can consolidate space needs, hardware, supervision, training, and lots of other things. You will then be in a good position to present a unified front when competing for campus dollars. Many students in education, computer science, communications, and industrial technology are interested in the kinds of classes you could offer around a multimedia lab. This gets your FTE up, lets you create some new and exciting courses, and shows the campus that the fine arts folks have something unique to offer that's worth investing campus computing dollars for.

Now, once you've got your fine arts lab going its time to start working the computer software and hardware companies for beta software, matching donations, grants, loaners, and just about anything you can talk them out of in turn for showing good visibility for their products. Explore offering workshops and training sessions on music, graphics, and multimedia topics that local schools, businesses, and corporations are interested in for their employees. Of course you want to charge for these! $100 or $200 for the day and then give them the mousepad for free!

1410 Last modified on November 22, 2013
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