Funding For Playgrounds: How Can We Raise Money?

Playground Fundraising Ideas

Various businesses and organizations, ranging from daycare centers to YMCAs to places of worship, across the country have raised significant amounts of money for playgrounds. Playground funding goals include anywhere from a few thousand dollars for playground maintenance to $40,000 to $80,000 for a complete playground build.

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Before You Raise Your First Dollar: Getting Ready for Financing

Raising money for a playground is a project in itself, and can take several months to come to fruition. In most cases, the money will not come from one source, either, meaning you’ll need to explore multiple playground funding options. However, before starting to explore playground-funding ideas, create a game plan. You will need to:

1) Have a Plan or Design in Place.

Donors want to make sure you will put their money to good use, and they’re more likely to take your request for funds seriously if you can show that you have a carefully thought out plan. If you’re building a playground at a daycare center, for example, you could show them the playground location or venue and discuss the types of equipment that you might need. Even a simple drawing of what the finished playground will look like can spur donations.

2) Get Organized

Make sure you have planners, calendars and a system for keeping track of all grant applications, playground funding ideas and financing opportunities. Keeping everything in one system will ensure you don’t overlook a key deadline or opportunity.

3) Gather a Team

Because securing funding for a playground is an extensive project, you might consider utilizing a group of volunteers. You may need to have separate people or committees to contact prospective donors, research grant opportunities and write grant applications. Give everyone a job, making sure the people you appoint are the best ones for that position and they understand their deadlines and project goals.

4) Set Up a Money System

You’re going to need an account to keep the funds safe and in one place. Depending on your needs, you may want to open a savings account so the money earns interest while you raise additional funds. Alternatively, you can place the money into an escrow or checking account. In addition to a bank account, you will need a system to keep track of donations. That way, you can stay on track for your target and properly acknowledge everyone who donates.

5) Create a Plan for Keeping Motivation High

You need a plan to make sure volunteers, workers and the surrounding community continue supporting the playground project, even if it takes months or years to raise the money. How will you maintain energy? How will you keep people interested in the playground?

You may want to send out a monthly e-newsletter informing people of playground-related efforts to keep them excited. You may also want to set up a display outside your place of worship, daycare or YMCA to show donors how much money they have raised to date.

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Fundraising Ideas for Playground Equipment

Choosing the right option to raise funds depends on several factors, including the size of your volunteer team, your community, your fundraising goals and the amount of time and effort you can donate to the cause. Try to host several playground fundraisers throughout the year to keep the momentum up and keep the community interested in the playground. Some unique ideas you might want to consider as playground fundraiser ideas are listed below.

Host a Tournament

Tournaments are an excellent way to raise money as well as get the community involved in your cause. Encourage people to get moving and host a basketball, kickball or tennis tournament. Really, any sport can be used for a tournament as long as there is enough community interest. You can also host board game nights or trivia tournaments to get more families involved and participating.

Charge a tournament entry fee and raise money as community members have fun. You may even want to consider offering tournaments as a regular event to help with playground maintenance, upkeep or upgrades throughout the years.

Sell Advertising Space

Reach out to local and national businesses and offer advertising spaces on your playground. Specifically, focus your efforts on companies that sell to children and parents, as a playground is a perfect advertising location for their business. Custom-designed signs or plaques can honor and display these businesses’ advertisements and thank them for their generous donations.

If your playground has a fence, you may also want to consider selling advertising space there, too. Donors can have their names printed on the plats of the fence if you have a picket fence. You can also sell bricks or other parts of the playground.

Advertising space can be a big selling point for high-traffic playgrounds. Consider creating donation tiers where larger donors receive a prime advertising space.

Keep in mind there may be local laws about advertising in your area. Before selling any advertising space, be sure to check with a legal professional to determine if advertising is an option. Discussing potential advertising on the playground with the fundraising volunteer team or community is also a great idea to ensure a majority of people are in favor of the idea.

If advertising is approved, remember to keep your donors updated throughout the building process so they know how their money is being spent and when they can expect to see their advertisements.

Hold an Auction

Another fundraising idea is to ask for donations from local businesses and hold an auction for the items you receive. An auction can be held online if you want to garner donations from beyond your community, or it can be held live. If you decide to hold your auction online, review the rules for auctions and raffles in your state and take a look at delivery costs for winning items to make sure the donations will be worth the extra expense.

Auctions work because they let you get more for an item than you would receive just by selling it. You can also make an event of the auction itself by selling refreshments and hosting a raffle sale to bring in extra cash. When setting up the auction, consider combining items to drive even more revenue. For example, if a business donates a food basket, throw in a book of recipes or a certificate to a cooking class. Combining items makes them more attractive, meaning you can get more for each item.

If you struggle to get enough donations from businesses, check to see what skills your volunteers have. Someone can auction off barbecue lessons if they’re known for their grilling skills or gardening help if they own or work at a landscaping company.

Put on a Talent Show

Kids love to put on a show, and parents, family and friends love to watch them. Have kids put on a show — fashion, singing, talent or theater production — ideally in the spot where the playground will be located, and watch as families gather at your event to support their loved ones. Families or businesses can donate simple props and costumes, while children can sell refreshments.

Well before the event, make sure to hold rehearsals and advertise through social media and printed flyers. Print programs of the show and consider selling advertising space on the programs to businesses.

Shows can create memories and generate a lot of interest in a playground. Since children are directly involved, it can be easier to get an audience. At the very least, you can be certain the parents and family members of the participants will show up or volunteer. With children at the core of the show, it becomes easier to build a community spirit around the program.

Organize a Bake or Rummage Sale

If you’re on a budget, bake sales or rummage sales are a simple solution. These types of events allow you to rely on volunteers to provide the merchandise. Community members who love to bake can sell their delicious treats, while other community members can clean out their garages and attics for a good cause.

You can also make items — such as keychains, dog leashes, jewelry or T-shirts — and sell them at your YMCA or daycare, at events, or even online. If someone in your volunteer entourage knits or is crafty, homemade goods can also be a popular item to sell. Alternatively, you may be able to rent small machines to make personalized T-shirts, keychains or other small items for sale. You can even rent or buy 3-D printers to make custom designs, toys and other items.

Plan a Family Day

If you manage a daycare or place of worship, children’s events are a fantastic solution. Organize a family day or picnic where everyone has to buy a basket to participate or plan a teddy bear picnic for your children while you work on the fundraising efforts. Children’s events can also remind donors about the real reason behind your playground — kids.

Set up fun booths where members of the community get to try some fun activities. Sell tickets for each. Activity ideas for booths include the following:

  • Fortune-reading booth
  • Sketches, caricatures or poems to order
  • A volunteer makes up and sings songs to ticket buyers
  • Dog-petting booth
  • Juggling
  • Joke-telling
  • Hugging
  • Origami
  • A Photo booth complete with props such as fake mustaches and costumes
  • Ring toss
  • Arm-wrestling

If you can group together several booths at one big event, you can get more interest and have more people stopping by to check out the event.

Get Local Public Figures Involved

Have a well-known adult in the community challenge the community to a fundraising goal. If that goal is met, the adult volunteer will have to undergo something slightly embarrassing. This works best if it’s someone with authority — a principal, teacher, mayor, fire chief or police officer.

Then, sell tickets for anyone who wants to watch a part of the fun. For a school event, consider selling tickets to have people watch the principal shave his head. The tickets can even be used to sell part of the event itself. For example, every ticket sold gives participants a piece of sticky tape they can use to help wrap up a teacher or a soft ball they can throw at the mayor in a dunk tank. At the big event, sell refreshments and or photo opportunities with the volunteer.

Plan a Charity Walk

Since playgrounds are about encouraging activity, it makes sense to raise money with an event that gets people moving. Sell tickets for a bicycle ride, relay race or walk, and then have the community come out to take part. It’s a simple way to encourage physical exercise and raise money in the process.

It can be especially effective if you make the sporting event attractive to children, too. For example, host a teddy bear bicycle ride where everyone rides their bikes together and brings their teddy bear for a ride. Also, consider giving away prizes or other incentives to encourage people to register.

With a 5K, you can charge a registration fee to gather funds, but you can also encourage participants to gain sponsors to donate. These 5K events are perfect for incorporating smaller fundraisers within them, like bake sales, raffles and auctions.

Run a Car Wash

Your fundraising can come in the form of a service you and your volunteers provide to your community. Car washes are great because they are easy to set up, and you only need to purchase minimal supplies — many people will have car washing materials to donate. You can let donors choose their prices or set different pricing tiers for different services.

Use a Fundraising Company

Many companies offer out-of-the-box fundraising solutions for groups interested in raising money. For example, some companies organize chocolate-selling campaigns, T-shirt campaigns or other similar programs designed specifically for schools, daycares, places of worship and other organizations interested in raising money for a specific project. Some local amusement parks, museums and even local zoos also have fundraising programs.

Using these companies is beneficial because they include an idea, a marketing plan and other resources you can take advantage of to sell more items and raise more money. The company takes care of many of the details — you just need your volunteers or your community. These campaigns can also build trust because they are familiar. If you work with a local zoo or other company people know, for example, you may have an easier time raising money.

While this type of fundraising is easy to set up on your part, remember using these companies comes with a price — literally. A portion of the proceeds will go to the company, meaning you’ll lose some of the fundraiser’s revenue.

Grants for Playground Equipment

All the systems are in place. What next? How do you actually raise money for the playground? Grants are a great place to start, as they are funds that do not require repayment. Grants are offered by corporations, nonprofits and foundations for various types of projects. Depending on the grant, they can range from just a few hundred dollars to upwards of several thousand dollars.

There are many grants designed for child-based activities and community-based projects. A playground at a church, YMCA or daycare could meet the requirements for these types of grants — you’ll just need to find them to start applying.

Examples of playground grants include:

  • Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation: The Reeve Foundation has a Quality of Life Grant Program that assists nonprofit organizations in empowering people living with paralysis.
  • Home Depot: The Home Depot’s Building Healthy Communities initiative supplies grants, volunteers or both to refurbish, renovate or modify elementary schools and other similar facilities.
  • Project Fit America: Project Fit America works directly with schools and educators to encourage active, healthy and fit lifestyles among students.
  • Walmart Community Giving Program: Local schools and organizations can earn cash grants from the Walmart Community Giving Program. Walmart specifically looks to support projects that benefit the community as a whole.
  • W.K. Kellogg Foundation Grant: The W.K. Kellogg Foundation works with organizations that aim to provide equal opportunities to all kids in the community.

To learn more about these grant opportunities, Playworld has a handy guide to grants that also includes recommendations and suggestions on locating additional grants.

How to Apply for a School Playground Grant

Once you have a list of grant opportunities, the next step is applying. Use the following tips to help you find and receive grants for school playgrounds.

Prepare and Research

Before sitting down to write a grant application, ensure all of your project information is in place. Potential donors are going to have questions about your project, such as your timeline, your budget, information about the intended playground location and more. Having all of the logistical information organized and on hand can help set you up for success while writing and applying for grants.

Additionally, always carefully research donors and foundations to find out what they want to accomplish with their grant money. Finding donors and foundations that align with your mission increases the chances of your grant application being successful. After all, donors don’t just want you to build a playground. They want to see a benefit for themselves and their organizations, too. When you understand a foundation’s goals and values, you can write better applications that emphasize how your playground will serve others and will help the donor meet their own goals.

Follow Application Protocol

The school board or administrative board will need to approve grant applications before you write or submit them. The school must be in the know about the application process. For grants of a substantial amount of money, the superintendent will need to authorize the grant application. The exact procedures can vary by school district, but it is important to communicate with the school board before, during and after the grant application process. If you’re unsure of the exact requirements for your school, reach out to a school board member.

Develop Well-Written Applications

When filling out the application, think from a donor’s perspective — how would your playground benefit their mission or align with their values? While writing your grant applications, remember to thoroughly explain how your playground project will be part of that mission.

For example, if an organization wants to improve fitness in communities and your planned playground is slated to include a space for physical activity in a neighborhood where such opportunities are few, highlight this with information and include specific statistics or numbers, if possible.

It can also be helpful to organize a grant-writing party, where volunteers gather together to apply for multiple grants at the same time. You can brainstorm as a team, take turns editing each other’s work and collaborate to build strong applications. The grant writing party can be a lot more engaging for your volunteers and can even be festive with some refreshments. You might be able to elicit more enthusiasm, stronger applications and more grant applications with this approach.

Keep Trying

Multiple groups compete for funding, so don’t get discouraged if you receive some rejections. The best way to increase your chances of success is to continue to write the best grant applications you can for as many grants as possible. Continue to look for new grant opportunities and don’t be afraid to try again.

Plan Your Next Playground With Playworld

Playgrounds, in many ways, are priceless. They help children build memories, encourage activity and socialization and make people happy. For YMCAs, places of worship and daycares, the playground can be an important way children can learn to become part of their communities. The money for building a playground doesn’t have to be an obstacle. Multiple fundraising and financing options will help you raise the money you need.

At Playworld, we offer financing and leasing specifically for organizations interested in building a playground. So, even if your fundraising and grant efforts fall a little short of your goal, our team will help you bring the ideal playground to your community.

If you’d like to learn more about the cost of building your playground and how to pay for the project, contact Playworld. As a leading provider of playground equipment with several decades of experience designing and building playgrounds for places of worship, schools, daycares, YMCAs, community organizations and other groups, we know play spaces. We’d be happy to share our experience and help you understand what steps you can take to create a stunning play space for children in your community.

Contact Playworld today to begin planning and developing the perfect playground for your community.

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