The Green Desk

Raising Funds and Resources for Outdoor Learning Environments

How can I raise funds to naturalize our child care center’s outdoor learning environment?

Naturalizing your center’s outdoor learning environment (OLE) by adding trees, shrubs, flowers, grasses and vegetable gardens doesn’t require huge expenditures.  At the community level, fundraising often starts with ‘friend-raising” – knowing your community and making connections to potential resources and funders.  The more your own community knows about your center and what you hope to accomplish, the more successful you will be in the long run.

There are many ways to acquire the resources you need for your OLE.  Some elements may be free, donated or discounted by community businesses, such as plants from local nurseries or construction materials from a landscaping or construction company in your community.  Some items or services may have to be purchased, and you will raise funds for these items.

Using a variety of approaches will reap the greatest rewards. Consider all of these possibilities:

Solicit Donations of Materials
Put your wish-list on your parent bulletin board and ask parents to contribute by making a donation.  Identify local businesses which sell the various needed items (plants, child-size garden tools, seeds, lumber, etc.) and ask them for donated or discounted supplies and materials.
Host a Fundraiser
Many centers create their own fundraisers, such as plant sales, garden parties, cookbooks with healthy recipes and yard sales. Ideally, the fundraiser will reach beyond parents, teachers and staff and into the wider community.
Apply for Grants
Many organizations provide small grants or free materials when you write a specific request via an application.  Most grants are competitive and offered only on certain cycles so be sure and know your funder’s process and deadlines.  At the local level, contact area businesses or local community foundations via their website to learn about their community contributions process.

The National Gardening Association lists over a dozen grant opportunities that support garden projects.  You’ll also find a host of other resources on this website, including curriculum and programming ideas to support children’s gardening.