Funding Avenues for K-12 Service Learning


In October, schools and communities nationwide will participate in the National Learn and Serve Challenge to spotlight the value of service learning. Educators can use the challenge to identify and secure resources to launch or expand service learning in their school districts.

Schools and school districts use a variety of resources to support service learning, including federal funding, foundation grants and private fundraising. Ideally, service learning is used as a strategy to deliver mainstream curriculum and a line item in the school district budget would be used to support service learning. When this is not possible, additional resource development may be necessary. According to “Quick Guide: Funding for K-12 Service-Learning Programs,” published by RMC Research Corp. (updated 2008), deciding on the specific fundraising strategy to use depends on how much funding you are looking for and the size and scale of your service-learning program. If you are fundraising for a large school-based initiative, you may want to seek federal or foundation funding. For a single-class service-learning project, you may want to look for local donations or fundraising activities. For sustainability, finding a stable funding source such as a long-term grant or institutional support from community partners is preferable.

Several web portals exist to search for grants that may support service learning. RMC conducted a recent search that yielded more than 100 possibilities. Many of these grants do not specifically list service learning as a topic, but if they list academic achievement or engagement, civic outcomes or character development, there is no reason not to propose a service-learning project.

The following resources may be of help in the search for funding.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy, a trade newspaper with a searchable database of corporate and foundation grants

Corporation for National and Community Service, online grant application and management system

Foundation Center, information about the grant application process and the Philanthropy News Digest, a central storehouse for information on grant programs., resources on funding related to youth leadership and community involvement

Learn and Serve America, applications for Learn and Serve and other grants

National Service-Learning Clearinghouse, a searchable clearinghouse of awards, fellowships, scholarships, grants and funding resources

National Service-Learning Partnership, monthly listing of funding and award opportunities

National Youth Leadership Council, a tip sheet on how to find funding for service-learning programs

State Farm Youth Advisory Board, grants totaling up to $5 million each year to support youth-driven service-learning activities in schools

U.S. Department of Education Forecast of Funding, all programs and competitions under which the department expects to invite applications for new awards

Youth Service America, grant opportunities to support and motivate youth, teachers and service-learning coordinators to plan and implement projects for Global Youth Service Day and ongoing service year round

Shelley Billig is vice president of RMC Research Corporation in Denver, Colo. E-mail: Nelda Brown is executive director of the National Service-Learning -Partnership at the Academy for Educational Development in Washington, D.C.