What to do when you lose support from your school?

Hey everyone,
Team 263 Sachem Aftershock is in a bit of trouble now. Tomorrow, 5/21, is our school districts budget vote and will decide the future of our robotics team. If it does not pass, we will lose all funding and support from the school and potentially our build area/robotics room. We are facing the same conditions we faced back in 2005 when the team lost funding from the school and couldn’t compete in the 2006 season.

We are hoping that the budget passes, but if it doesn’t, what have other teams done when they lost support from the school and/or their build area?

You should explain to your school why FIRST is important to you and show them your achievments but if thats useless try to work with another team to work with them. New York its an area with a lot of teams. Good luck preserving your team :smiley:

1902 and 1501 both formed as 4-H clubs after they lost the ability to work with their local schools and have made it work for nearly a decade now. Those numbers weren’t the numbers the schools used, but the people transferred over (and that’s what counts, isn’t it?). Look up your county extension agent to start the dialogue sooner rather than later.

Several Canadian teams became community-based teams after a big teacher’s union strike this year. Different rules up there, but it’s been done.

If you do lose the money, don’t automatically assume you’re dead in the water. Some teams make it happen without direct money from the school, but keep the use of a space on campus (to say nothing of field trip status for regionals, which can be significant time out of school). Every team has their own situation, but I’d definitely suggest trying to find a way within the schools before cutting bait.

I want to echo Billfred’s suggestion. Our team lost funding from our school a number of years ago. We struggled for a couple of years then contacted 4-H. While we haven’t received a lot of money that way, we are able to get more sponsors because some of them will not give money directly to a school but will to a 4-H club. I can honestly say we are much better off because the team is now in control of our finances and are not at the whim of the school or district.

We have been able to hold onto our build space in the school though. If you do lose the funding, try to hold onto the build space. If they don’t have to provide funding, the school may be willing to let you keep the space. I know I’d have a bigger problem finding replacement space than replacement funding.

Good luck.

Ivan

Our team doesn’t receive any funding from the school. We are able to use a shop in the school to work. Keep your head up, and look for sponsors. you’ll find a way

Our team is thriving with over 100 active members, is based out of a school and receives virtually no money from the district. 95% of our funding is from private sources - we have about 200 donors.

Some places you can look for funding if the distict cuts you off:

*ASB funding, in most states, is separate from school funding. Make sure you are an official ASB club and you will have every right to request money from the school’s ASB. This also means that if you have a faculty advisor s/he would be eligible for whatever pay is associated with running a club.

  • Establishing a booster club will allow you to raise money largely outside the juristiction of the school district. This money can be used to do almost anything with few strings attached.

  • The school’s PTA may just be a source of funding.

  • Many districts have a non-profit foundation that specifically gives funding to educational endeavors that supplement and enhance district curriculum, but are not actually part of the curriculum.

  • Have your club members write letters requesting funds to family, friends and acquaintances. We do this - and enclose a formal letter describing the club and provinding our non-profit number. We get a response from about 1/3 such letters, most for about $25. However, we occassionally get donations of $100, $200, or $500. Local, familiy -owned businesses can be very generous. (Your kids’ orthodontists, for instance!). Aunts, uncles and grandparents thrilled to see the kids participate in a constructive activity that can lead to a great future can be very generious.

  • Arrange to bring your robot to science fairs, local engineering firms, rotaries, etc. can lead to sponsorships. I have also heard of groups standing in front of their local groceries wtih videos of competitions (selling light bulbs!!!), etc. doing well.

The fact is that what we are doing is very favorable in the eyes of the community - once people learn what we are doing.

As a coach of a rookie team that never gained funding from our local district, I can only offer a limited view.

The task to secure funding seemed daunting at first, but after we started the process, it became obvious that our local industry and organizations were more than willing to help in our funding. In our initial push we were able to gain support from our local Lions Clubs, Rotories, etc. We found niches in local events that would pay for our services (such as parking duties, etc).

We also requested a meeting from our local industries and showcased what FIRST can do for it’s local school district and the graduates from the FIRST Robotics team.

We wrote grants for NASA, and a few local enterprises, and before long we had enough funding To fund our first two years. Once the local industries understood the scope and sequence, they were hooked. Not only did they invest in the program, they invested personel. In a short time we had the backing of our industry in terms of money and mentors.

Case in point, if our district supported us, we would have been able to fund a robotics team - with limitations of a $6500 fee and the obligatory coaching salary.

But since we had to go out on our own, we gained support from our local base - and every time we were mentioned in our local paper, so were our sponsors. By the time we reached regionals, we had over 15 sponsors that dedicated $500 or more, and that netted over $21,000 for our first year.

Thanks, but we’ve already done this and what our school district is giving right now is very generous. If the budget does not pass, all afterschool clubs and district wide teams such as marching band, cheerleading and our dance team get eliminated along with the robotics team and only varsity sports stay(all middle school and JV sports are eliminated).

Thanks, but we’ve already done this and what our school district is giving right now is very generous. If the budget does not pass, all afterschool clubs and district wide teams such as marching band, cheerleading and our dance team get eliminated along with the robotics team and only varsity sports stay(all middle school and JV sports are eliminated).

We’re planning on using this summer to gain more sponsors and we have one very last resort measure in place. We see ourselves that we can sustain ourselves without the school, but we don’t want to lose our build space and have no place to go and lose access to all of our tools.

Thanks for the suggestions. Anymore are welcome and I will post the verdict of the budget when it is released.

Fund-raise like nobodies business between now and kickoff and you should easily have enough to field a robot at one or two regional events.

In 2010 team 95 worked out of a classroom and fielded a robot made with minimal machining support (5 or 10 parts total, I think). It was the best robot we could buy and assemble from McMaster and AndyMark! It wound up mid-pack at CT.

Do not give up hope if the school cannot/does not financially support your team. This is exactly the contingency situation that our homework was for this year: diversify your sponsor base!

Even if you lose funding and build space from the school, there are many other sources of funding, and many other places you can build a robot! Here in MN, we’ve had robots built in garages and barn’s in the past (and yes, we did have to wear gloves to keep our finders from freezing to the frame!)… I’m sure you can convince someone to donate a space to you - a local business, an empty warehouse, a parent, anyone really works. Just make sure you work with the school to make it happen. Obviously it’s a less than desirable situation for everyone involved… let your administrators know that you know they were put in a tough situation, and that you’re trying to find the best way to keep the team alive while still meeting any rules they have for extracurriculars.

Our team receives no to minimal funding from our school district depending on the year and we do not use any of their facilities. We currently work out of the basement of a church with a band saw and drill press we acquired over the years from saving money (and actually received an old one the school shop class no longer wanted). For any extensive work (example this year we designed our shooter for sheet metal) we must outsource it to sponsors if possible. (It is for these reasons, I am continually amazed at what the team accomplishes - you might never known we made it in the basement of a church with basically hand tools)

I won’t say that we are completely cut off from the school, but we certainly do not rely on them in any way for our team’s sustainability.

We do several concessions for various events over the course of the year, brat sales, and above all donation solicitations to local community groups and businesses. We work very hard for the money we have.

Even though we have had 4 different homes in the last 7 years, we have made it work. I am sure you will too! I have found that FIRST members/mentors are like dandelions - very resilient and will grow roots almost anywhere.

That’s not quite true. If the budget doesn’t pass the third Tuesday of May, then the district has the option of submitting a revised budget to the district, or may choose to immediately adopt a contingency budget. If the revised budget doesn’t pass, then they’ll go to contingency – so if it doesn’t pass today, the team can help get out the vote for the second go-round.

Furthermore, contingency budgets do not have to include the raze-and-burn of extracurricular activities–indeed, extracurricular activities are specifically called out as an authorized contingent expense under the law. There are a few requirements, but they aren’t as dire as some administrators and board members claim them to be. See here for more details.

You should also work on your school to get robotics recognized as a varsity sport. Challenge those in charge to some up with a definition of “sport” that really makes sense in an educational setting. Commitment? Invested time? Competition? FIRST has as much of that as any traditional sport. We just replace extreme physical exertion and skill with education and thinking. While it may be too late for that to help with this budget, it might help with issues further down the road.

Hello! I’m Samantha A.I’m the co-captain of CRT 306.We understand exactly what you guys are going through. Last night was our districts board meeting at which we did a presentation to try and keep them from getting rid of us as well. I can’t give too much advice, I’m only a sophomore as it is, however I do have a little advice for how we’ve handled our situation.

-No matter what happens, don’t be negative about it. There are always ways around it.

-Get in contact with a local 4H chapter or Boy Scouts of America chapter in your area. At the very least you can have the non-profit standing and maintain a team.

-Lastly, rally as much support as you can.

I’m sure others have beat me to most of these points but just know you are not alone in what you’re going through. Please keep us updated on what happens and know 306 is supporting you guys all the way! :slight_smile:

If I were in your position, and the budget did not pass, I honestly would start fundraising ASAP. Become a club outside of school, become your own non-profit. Get a 503 code. Go get some corporate sponsors. Telling people around your area and possible sponsors that you just lost over half your income will encourage people to help you. Work in a parent’s garage. Teams like 772 have lost support of teachers and are still one of the top teams. It’s not impossible, it just requires a lot of passion and dedication… which I am positive your team has.

And in the worst case scenario you can move down to a cheaper program, possibly FTC.

Really? That’s good to know, thanks for this.

We have been filed as a non-profit organization years ago(around 2008) according to our oldest mentor so we have to check up on that, and we are technically separate from our school money wise as the district has no control over how we spend money as that is handled by our booster club. We have some corporate sponsors but none that give the amount of money our school district gives us.

You’re welcome.

The trick is (a) convincing your school board that you’re too important to cut even in a contingency budget and (b) convincing your community of the same.

Please keep in mind that the legislation governing such things is state-specific, and I only know what I’m talking about when it comes to New York.

we receive exceptional support from our school and school district, but the only direct funding is through a stipend to the teacher.

We have a great build space and tools within the school. Some were given to us, but we maintain them, buy spare parts, and buy our hand tools.

You can run a team with community and corporate support. Each student on our team gets $250 in community sponsorship. We make presentations to businesses and organizations to get their support.

You can make it happen. It will be easier if they let you stay in the school, but you can make it happen.

here is a presentation we did at the 2010 Championships about sponsors -
http://www.chiefdelphi.com/media/papers/2380

I have worked with teams where corporate sponsorship and community support are the backbone of the organizations. It is not only possible to function without major financial input from the school, I would almost say it’s preferable. It encourages your team members to go out into the community to drum up awareness and support instead of taking a check from the school board and moving on. In my time raising money for 422 as a student through grants, presentations to corporations, and petitions to booster organizations that work in parallel through the school, we were able to significantly increase our budget over a span of the two years I worked with the marketing division and in turn allowed the team to diversify its activities and greatly improve on outreach activities, which in turn can result in even more funding, higher goals, and more cool stuff to do.

Don’t get me wrong, you never want to turn down money, and some long tenured and well known teams receive a lot of financial support from both their school district and community sponsors (11, IIRC), and it is important to fight to keep what you have or at least reach a compromise to continue allowing use of an in-school facility. But also realize this could open a door for your team to continue and maybe even thrive.