5 Tips for Funding Your Makerspace

Girls working on maker projectYou’ve spent time gathering all the information needed to present the idea of a makerspace to your administration and it has been approved. It’s now time to find a way to fill your space with all the tools your students and staff will need to explore maker projects that interest them. Over the years, I have used many different ways to fund and stock makerspaces, and I’ve also seen some creative ways others have found to support their spaces. To get you started, here are five tips you can use to bring your makerspace to life.

1. Gather Community Feedback

One of the first things you are going to want to do is start making a list of things to purchase for your makerspace. Pause, and fight that urge.

The first step you’ll actually want to take is to communicate with your learning community. Find out the types of things they are interested in learning: What do they want to explore? Are there areas of the curriculum that could be expanded with some purchases for the makerspace? These questions are fundamental to building a space that will have student and staff investment over time. If you only fill the space with tools that interest you or you think might be beneficial to your school community, then you have just created a space for one person. That is not how a great makerspace in a diverse learning community is made.

You can also reach out to your broader network on Twitter or read blogs to find out what others think about the different gadgets they’ve tried in their makerspaces. This will be another route to helping you decide which tools can help you achieve your learning goals. There are so many educators sharing their thoughts and experiences on their own blogs, as well as right here in the makerspace section of Demco’s blog.

2. Focus on Grant Writing

The quickest way to fund a makerspace is to write grants. They are not easy to get, but they can jump-start a space very quickly. The most important part of any grant request is the narrative you tell — it needs to focus on student learning. If you write a grant that just focuses on getting a bunch of shiny new toys, it will be passed over. Draw attention to the skills the students and staff are going to learn by using new tools. Write about how students will be able to approach learning in new and different ways and how that will lead to increased engagement and learning opportunities. Every makerspace has a story and you need to make sure you articulate yours to receive the grant.

Read Mary Bangert’s post, 6 Tips for Writing a Successful Grant, to get advice on how to get started.

3. Make a Donation Wish List

You’d be surprised how many parents are looking to donate items to your school, but they may not know what you need. Creating a makerspace wish list is a great way to stock up on perishables, such as glue sticks, yarn, craft sticks, cardboard and other art supplies. These supplies can be used in so many different projects throughout the year and will get used up quickly in your makerspace. Having them donated can help stretch your budget each year.

Send out a list in the summer when parents start buying school supplies and another list at the mid-year point if you need additional items for upcoming projects or projects students have shown particular interest in. Don’t be afraid to put old computers, phone chargers, phones and other old tech on the list. They can be great for students to take apart and reassemble, and they can also be destroyed and turned into art projects. Your donation list will be a great way to fill out these odds and ends in your makerspace.

Need Help Getting Started?

Download Demco’s How to Start a Makerspace Guide for tips on funding, getting buy-in, low-tech and high-tech tools and more.

4. Connect with Your PTA

Another great resource for funds is your PTA. PTA members are always looking for creative ways to support learning in their schools. For larger purchases, such as a 3-D Printer or CNC machine, reach out to your PTA to see if they can donate the funds. If they don’t have the funds, ask them to help coordinate a fundraiser to acquire the needed money for the purchase.

You could also host a family night at school with a focus on coding, robotics, circuitry, etc., and ask the PTA to donate or help provide funding for the tools that are used. Make it an annual event and you’ll then have use of the tools in your makerspace all year long.

A PTA tends to have connections throughout the community, so a fundraiser could bring in the extra money needed for not only larger purchases, but restocking supplies as well. Partnering with the PTA can create a long-lasting relationship and help support the growth of your makerspace in the years to come.

5. Reach Out to Local Businesses

Reaching out to local businesses is another great way to support your fledgling makerspace. If you never ask the community to connect with your space, you are missing out on wonderful opportunities for supplies, as well as chances for future collaborations. Depending on the business, you can get great materials for amazing projects.

  • Talk to local grocery stores and any other businesses that receive regular shipments to see if they will donate cardboard boxes. Businesses tend to recycle them, so asking if they will set some aside for you is a good idea.
  • Reach out to local fabric stores to see if they can spare fabric scraps, cardboard rolls and other excess crafting supplies. There are so many bits and scraps that are tossed out each week by these businesses that would be perfect for outfitting your new makerspace.
  • Lastly, if you have local businesses that are looking to donate to schools but are hesitant to write a check, reach out and ask them to make the direct purchases of equipment. They could be the sponsor of the 3-D printer in your makerspace: “The Dremel 3D40 printer brought to you by Nick’s Science Shop.” A business is more likely to help with a specific item than just write a check, and your efforts to recognize their contribution will go a long way.

Long-term Funding Support for Your Space

Once you have been able to raise the initial funds to support your space, it’s important to meet with your administration and work out a long-term budget. You’ll need to make regular purchases of supplies and new tools to keep the makerspace functional, and having an independent budget will allow your makerspace to remain flexible. Share your successes with your community and your administrators to show the value of your makerspace and why it should be funded by your school and/or district.

Building a makerspace from scratch can be a daunting task, but it is an amazing experience that brings a learning community together to explore learning in fun and engaging ways. Instead of spending time trying to replicate the various spaces you see online, make your space meet the needs of your students and staff, and you will find it packed and messy on a regular basis.

If you have any other tips or questions on starting a makerspace, do not hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter @thenerdyteacher, or check out my book, Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces for more help.


Nicholas Provenzano

Nicholas Provenzano

Technology Coordinator and Makerspace Director at University Liggett School in Michigan
Known as The Nerdy Teacher, Nicholas is the Technology Coordinator and Makerspace Director at University Liggett School in Michigan, and is also a prolific author, speaker and consultant. He writes on his website, TheNerdyTeacher.com, Edutopia.org, and many other prominent educational websites. Nicholas has been featured on CNN.com, Education Week, The New York Times, and other media outlets and is the author of the best-selling book, Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces. In 2013, he was awarded the Technology Teacher of the Year by MACUL and ISTE. He is also a Google Certified Innovator, Raspberry Pi Certified Educator and a TEDEd Innovative Educator. Nicholas is sharing plenty of nerdy things on the Ideas and Inspiration site, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @thenerdyteacher.