Funding an Author Visit—There’s Money Available!

I LOVE speaking at schools and leading writing workshops. By now, I’ve visited enough campuses to see a wide disparity in demographics. I’ve been to inner city elementary schools with metal detectors and bars on the windows, and I’ve been to schools with sparkling courtyard gardens and laptops for every child. Whether a school is wealthy or economically-disadvantaged, every student deserves a strong foundation of literacy. If you’re reading this, you already know that reading is the foundation for education and citizenship, and it is a gateway to empathic connections. You know that writing is not only an art and a way to share ideas and use imagination, but a critical communication tool. As the printed word increasingly competes with large and small screens, the intrinsic and pragmatic value of an author visit increases exponentially. Meeting a “real live” author allows students to peek behind the wizard’s curtain—to humanize the process of story creation (fiction and nonfiction), and to glimpse at the creative potential of curiosity. Many authors, like me, incorporate concrete curriculum connections to support classroom instruction.

But how do you pay for an author visit when budgets at the school and district level are squeezed? Hopefully, the below list will help.

Grassroots Fundraising:
Find a creative way to raise the money. Get the students involved so that they feel invested.
Car washes
Product sales
Coin campaigns (Think of the bonus math connection!)
A $2 donation from every student
Corporate Event Sponsors—You know the drill.

Grants (Where a Texas organization is mentioned, insert your own equivalent):
* Check your state and local arts commissions, such as the Texas Commission on the Arts and organizations within specific communities like Impact Austin.
* National Endowment of the Arts
* Search your state’s library association. For example, The Texas Library Association sponsors grants for public libraries & disaster relief.
* The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
* Search Grant Watch by state (ie: Texas Grant Watch), and other cooperative sites that help educators find grants, like GetEdFunding and Grants for Teachers, and ProLiteracyScholasticJunior Library Guild, etc. There are many more out there!
* Check out regional writing organizations that offer grants for schools
* $1,000 grants.
* Crayola Creative Leadership Grants—$2500 plus products
* The Writer’s League of Texas’ Project Wise facilitates one-hour author visits at no cost to participating Austin-area schools, and is funded by the City of Austin Cultural Arts Division.
SCBWI’s Amber Brown Grant, and the Maureen Hayes Author/Illustrator Grant by ALSC and ALA, funded by Simon and Schuster.
* The Texas Book Festival has grants available through their Reading Rock Stars Program (and they provide a book for each child)
* The remarkable nonprofit organization First Book (They also provide a book for each child.)
* Check corporate philanthropy options like Dell Computers, HEB, TargetWells Fargo, Exxon/Mobil, Walmart, Dollar General, Barnes & Noble, etc.
* Donors Choose
* Voya Unsung Heroes by Scholarship America—Each year, they give $2,000 to 50 schools to support education
* Innovative Reading Grant from AASL, sponsored by Capstone
 * Worlds of Words grants —$1,000 for literacy communities to explore the use of global literature and world languages to build intercultural understanding
* The Maureen Hayes Author/Illustrator Award from AASL and funded by Simon & Shuster—$4,000 school visit grant
* Be aware that some large corporations reward employee volunteers by making a donation in the employee’s name. One of my school visits was paid for by a company on behalf of an employee volunteer.
*If, after all your efforts, you’re still short on budget, ask your preferred author if they will discount their honorarium. Authors are flexible.

Do you need free books to upgrade your library collection? Check out these options:
National Education Association
The Laura Bush Foundation
The Library of Congress Surplus Book Program

For information about my school visits and writing workshops, email

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