Thursday, May 6, 2021

My First Grant-Funded Project


I'm excited to share a little grant project I've been working on that I'm rather proud of. It's nothing on a grand scale, not terribly innovative or particularly amazing, but I hope it will make a small difference for the kids in the community we serve.

The grant is just a small grant from our Friends organization, but I'm proud of it for a couple of reasons, (1) it's the first ever grant of any kind I've applied for as a librarian, and (2) I literally had only 4 hours to come up with an idea and put an application together due to a breakdown in communication meaning I didn't get the initial call for proposals sent out the month before.

Thankfully, I already had the beginnings of an idea in the back of my mind, since there was no time for brainstorming. While virtual programming has only had marginal success with our community, take-and-make kits have proven to be hugely popular. We give out at least a couple hundred or more each month; some are branch-specific, developed by me or the programming assistant; some are system-wide and developed by the central youth services staff at the main library. I found that the centralized kits often required that the recipient have access to basic arts and crafts supplies at home, such as scissors, glue, tape, crayons/marker, etc.; an assumption I wasn't comfortable making.

The community we serve has suffered from economic hardship for quite some time, which has been made significantly worse by the pandemic. Many families are living at or below the poverty level, unemployment is high, transportation is often a challenge, and food insecurity is a problem for some. On top of this, many families are avoiding crowded public places as much as possible due to the pandemic. Knowing all of this, I was not comfortable assuming everyone had kid-safe scissors, glue, and other arts and craft supplies at home, or the ability to get them. But, it was not practical to supply these things in every kit, every time they were needed, and becoming increasingly challenging to plan around it.

So my idea was to create a one-time essential supply kit to give out to those who needed it, that would contain things that were needed to do arts and crafts, but impractical to include in each individual kit. I quickly got the general info on the grant program and discussed my idea with a couple of co-workers and a library school friend who all thought it was a good idea and would meet a definite need. So, I quickly drew up a list of essential supplies, researched prices, and came up with a proposed budget, asking for $500 that I calculated would make about 50-70 kits. 

I also did some quick research to find articles that linked arts and crafts to literacy, other areas of development, and STEM, as well as some population statistics showing the diversity of our community, and the high number of children living in poverty in the immediate vicinity of our branch to help support my proposal. I ended up getting the application submitted with at least half an hour to spare! I was a little frustrated to find out the next day that I could have actually submitted two proposals, but there really wouldn't have been time anyway. My co-worker also managed to get a proposal submitted, and I was thrilled to find out a month later that both of our grants were funded at $500 each.

After making adjustments for price changes, unit quantities, the addition of a pencil box to put the supplies in, and kicking in an additional $25 from our programming budget,I was able to purchase enough to make 60 kits containing the following:

grant funding for arts and crafts
The purchasing was slightly complicated because of the unit quantities and trying to get just the right amount for the best price, and I was really nervous waiting to see if everything would actually fit in the boxes I ordered! To my great relief, everything fit perfectly, though I did have to take the markers out of their boxes. I made inserts with the library logo that would show on top, and a short note to caregivers on the inside. The note just mentioned the purpose of the kit, the FOL sponsorship, and how arts and crafts help all areas of development. I ended with a reminder that it's all about the process, not the final product. 

If you're wondering why I didn't buy generic brands to bring costs down even more, I really wanted the kids to have quality products, and in my experience when it comes to crayons, markers, and glue it is worth paying a little more for the name brands as the difference in quality is noticeable. Plus, I remember as a kid how much kids do pay attention to brands, and it can feel very "othering" to only have generic brand stuff; I still remember being teased for my Sears catalog jeans.

I assembled the kits earlier this week with the help of a volunteer, and now they are ready to give out! I'm really pleased with how they turned out, though I wish I could have done them way back earlier in the pandemic when the take-home craft kits were first becoming a thing, but I wasn't in a position to at the time. I really hope I can get them to those who need them, and not just those who like free stuff, but as long as they are used by kids I feel like it's a win! 

We will be sending out at least 2-3 different kits every week during the summer, so I'm sure these supplies will come in handy, and it gives us a little more freedom and range in designing and executing take-home kits if we don't have to worry about whether they have things like glue, scissors, and markers at home. I expect we will start phasing the take-home kits out in the fall and begin to return to in-person programs, but they've been so popular I'm sure we will still do some occasionally, and hopefully having arts and craft supplies at home will spark creativity.

Now to start thinking on ideas for proposals for the next round of grants.....What would *you* do if you had an extra $500 in your budget for kids' programming?

1 comment:

  1. This is a great idea to distribute a one-time goody bag of basic art supplies for home! I may borrow it for my library.