Planetarium Funding Guide

So you want to buy a Planetarium...

These are ideas to help you fund your very own Digitarium system and/or Digitalis portable dome.

If your institution's budget alone cannot cover the cost...

1) Take advantage of our lease to own program and spread the cost of a system over multiple budget years. Only available to U.S. customers.

2) Purchase a Digitarium system and Digitalis dome with another organization and arrange use times between you. If you work for a school, ask your superintendent if you can buy one to be shared among all the schools in your district.

3) Look for a funder, either a sponsor or grant provider. See more about this below.

Recommended reading before soliciting funding

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grant Writing, by Waddy Thompson.
This is a thorough yet easy to use book that walks you through the steps of researching, preparing, submitting, and following up on a grant proposal. It comes with a CD-ROM with links to helpful websites as well as other tools.

http://www.philanthropynw.org/s_pnw/sec.asp?CID=7290&DID=16471
This website offers an overview of the types of foundations and a summary of how to go about preparing, writing, and following up on a grant request. If you don't have time to read The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grant Writing, then at the very least read Philanthropy Northwest's information! Their site also includes funding sources for institutions based in the Pacific Northwest.

Plan for finding funders

1) Start locally. Who is most invested in your community? The people who live and do business there. Research which local businesses and/or individuals have contributed money or goods to institutions like yours or for equipment like the Digitarium system, then aim your sponsorship proposal at those businesses or individuals. You may need to solicit several smaller donations to come up with the entire amount.

Before you ask for money, think about the following:
How will you thank your sponsors? Be creative!  The more you offer, the more you're likely to get.
Will the donation be tax-deductible? (Your district superintendent or science center CFO should be able to answer that.) 

Some thank you ideas:
Hold a thank you night, where employees, family, and friends of the sponsor can enjoy snacks and a short planetarium show. No money to buy snacks? Ask your teachers, students, PTSA, employees, etc., to bake cookies or buy beverages, or solicit donations for these items from a local supermarket or bakery.
Write an article about the gift for the local newspaper explaining how the projector will benefit people in your community.
Display a thank you sign outside your fixed dome, or apply the sponsor's name to the exterior of your portable dome.

Recognize the contribution on your website, school reader board, newsletter, marketing materials, etc.

Boeing's Global Corporate Citizenship program provides grants in some areas (worldwide). Learn more at:

http://www.boeing.com/companyoffices/aboutus/community/network.html

2) No good candidates in your town or city? Move up to the state level. Here are some resources for state opportunities:

http://www.schoolgrants.org/Grants/grant-index.htm
This is an excellent resource for finding grant opportunities at state and federal levels, and it also provides tips for writing grants.

http://www.statelocalgov.net
This site gives state and local sources.

http://www.mcf.org/mcf/links/regional.htm
The Regional Association of Grantmakers.

3) Struck out at the state level? Here are some resources for locating national (USA) grants:

Time Sensitive: New NASA Funding Opportunity--2013 Competitive Program for Science Museums, Planetariums and NASA Visitor Centers Plus Other Opportunities.

http://csr.honda.com/community/honda-foundations/honda-foundations-american-honda-foundation/

American Honda Foundation

http://www.google.com/edu/rise/index.html

Google Roots in Science and Engineering grants; award amounts range from $5,000 to $25,000.

http://www.donorschoose.org
Matches teachers looking for project funding with donors.

http://www.ludwick.org/
Ludwick Family Foundation funds non-profit public charities anywhere in the US, such as science centers, children's museums, etc. However, they DO NOT FUND projects for K-12 schools or colleges.

http://www.foundationcenter.org
A database of funders and their interests.

http://www.govspot.com/categories/grants.htm

http://www.firstgov.gov/Business/Nonprofit.shtml

http://www.nsf.gov/funding/
The National Science Foundation.

http://www.ed.gov/
The U.S. Department of Education. Grants and contracts information is found in the “Funding” section.

What your potential funders will want to know

1) How will the purchase of a Digitarium system help your school/school district/institution?

You will need to include some numbers, such as:
The total number of teachers and students who will have access to the Digitarium system. If the funder provides grants only to institutions working with underserved populations, you will need to break the numbers down for them.
How often and for how long at a time a class and/or teacher will have access to the system.
For science centers/museums: the average attendance to your fixed planetarium or the average number served by your outreach programs.

You will also need to include measurable benefits gained by the use of the system. Some ideas:

  • Improved scientific literacy through accurate representation of the night sky. This includes annual motion, phases of the moon, ability to simulate the sky from anywhere on Earth, and more. See projection system flier or our website for specifics.
  • Increased interest in and enjoyment of science.
  • Common misconceptions challenged or eradicated, such as the reasons for the seasons, the cause of moon phases, and the predictions of astrology.
  • Many abstract astronomical concepts rendered more concrete, thus improving understanding.
  • More flexibility than portable analog systems such as Starlab. See projection system flier or our website for specifics.
  • See separate document detailing the National Science Education Standards addressed by each lesson plan.

Many foundations require a one sentence summary of the benefits to be gained by their granting you the money you request. One possible response:


The Digitarium system will improve scientific literacy, promote interest in and enjoyment of science, and allow students to better understand abstract astronomical concepts.


2) How will the purchase of a Digitarium planetarium system benefit the larger community? Include plans for community events, outreach to other schools and/or school districts with the system, etc.

3) How will you know if the Digitarium system is meeting your goals?

Long term: Over multi-year use, compare science test scores.

Short term: Ask students to take a short quiz one week before and one week after use of the projector. Questions would need to be tailored for different ages; here are ideas for questions. Outreach programs could create specific quizzes based on what lesson each class was going to receive. The pre- and post-use questions would be exactly the same, in order to accurately gauge the impact of the Digitarium system.

4) Who will be responsible for the equipment? For example:
Who will be in charge of maintaining the Digitarium system and/or Digitalis dome?
If you will be sharing the system across a school district or with another institution, who will schedule use of the equipment?
Who will be responsible for transporting the equipment from one location to the next?
Where will money for consumable supplies such as lamps or batteries come from?

5) Will there be any earned income from the purchase of the equipment? If so, what is the estimated annual income? This applies more to science centers and museums who might charge a fee for admittance to a planetarium show.

6) Many potential funders will request biographies of key personnel, as well as a short history of your institution. This would include information such as: date founded, substantial attendance or enrollment changes, mission statement or educational philosophy, etc.

For more help or information on writing a funding proposal, contact:
Karrie Berglund
Director of Education
Digitalis Education Solutions, Inc.
karrie AT digitaliseducation.com
(360) 616-8915 x301