Many events can be done with little or no money. But having some funding can allow a community to do more, such as inviting a speaker or workshop facilitator, buying books for a book group, or paying for participants’ time spent doing professional development or curriculum development.
If you need money:
Where can you look for it?
Once you have money:
Where will you keep your funds?
How can you spend it? How much do things cost?
Who will decide how funds are spent?
Models of finding funding
Individual institutions sometimes have funds to bring in a speaker or workshop facilitator. This can be a department, a school or division, a STEM center, a Teaching and Learning center, or an individual initiative from the dean. Institutions that are part of a larger (e.g., state) system sometimes have access to similar funding opportunities from that system.
Our NSF project has provided funding for several communities.
In general, be creative and open in thinking about how to fund your events. For example, could you co-sponsor an even with another COMMIT? Another institution, department, or organization in your region?
Another model, used by the Michigan Chapter of the Association for Math Teacher Educators (MI-AMTE), is to solicit departmental contributions at each annual conference. These range from $50 to $500 and contributors are listed in the program and thanked in the opening slides. This contributes to their organizations overall budget in a substantial way, and allows them to offer things like subsidized conference fees for graduate students and VITAL faculty.
Models of holding funds
Professional Organization as Partner: The MD-DC-VA COMMIT received a grant from Mathematics Learning by Inquiry in 2018. This money is being held by the MAA section; when we need to spend it, we make a request to the section treasurer. The advantage of this is that the money is not tied to any individual in the COMMIT community.
Leaders’ institutions. Other communities (AMiIBL, UNYIBL) have funds that are held at the institutions of one or more leaders in the community. An advantage is that there is institutional support for bookkeeping. A disadvantage is that leadership transitions could be harder.
Form a non-profit. One possibility is to form a non-profit corporation and register it in one of the states in your region. This requires setting up a structure with a board and bylaws, and filing paperwork with the state and with the IRS. As of January 2020, none of the COMMIT communities have done this, but here are some details provided for us by a similar organization, the Michigan Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (MI-AMTE):
MI-AMTE did the initial application in June 2016, and pays $20 per year to the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Different states have different rules about what is required.
MI-AMTE applied for tax exemption in 2017. The treasurer files a 990-N e-postcard each year to maintain tax exempt status.
MI-AMTE has a checking account and credit card.
MI-AMTE is paying an annual fee for the website hosted by Square Space ($20)
MI-AMTE is paying an annual fee to Square Space to collect membership dues, conference registration, and donations. ($216)
In addition, there is a fee for each transaction on Square Space (30 cents per transaction plus 2.9% of the amount collected)
The treasurer submits a treasurer report at each board meeting. (See Example)
Note that forming a non-profit may lead to other insurance or legal expenses, as your institution may no longer provide coverage for you for your events; this varies greatly by institution.
Funding for one event. If your event is held at a hotel which is providing conference room space and catering, the hotel may be able to collect a registration fee for the event.
For a workshop facilitator from outside the region, we typically budget $500-1000 for travel (flight/miles, hotel, and food) and a $500-1000 stipend per facilitator for a 1-2 day workshop.
For a coaching / mentoring collaboration that lasts for a semester and involves multiple meetings and discussions, we have been awarding $250-$500 minigrants. We have also given small grants to folks for organizing and/or participating in peer collaborations. Check the events list and contact the organizers for more details.
While we strongly believe that labor should be compensated; conversely, you can think quite creatively about local organizing costs.
Cutting Costs Example: When AMiIBL was planning a conference in June 2020, their initial plans were for an in-person conference, which can come with extra costs. Here are some ways they planned to minimize or eliminate those costs*:
They were planning the workshop as a satellite event to the national Mastery Grading Conference. This was not a close enough connection, however, to defray use/rental costs at the host institution. However, they invited a faculty member from the local institution who had attended a summer workshop to serve as a "site host" organizing role for the conference, and that allowed us to decrease the site costs to zero due to his affiliations.
Since we had very limited funds, we decided to schedule a 2-hour lunch break (in a nice, urban, pedestrian-friendly district) and provide a list of restaurant suggestions. This was free, which was far cheaper than a catered lunch.
*ultimately, those costs were eliminated altogether due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Charging a Registration Fee Example: A small registration fee can go a long way towards paying for food. For example, in the MD-DC-VA November 2017 workshop, a $20 fee for a workshop that ran from Friday afternoon through Saturday paid for breakfast and lunch on Saturday; attendees were invited to a “no-host” dinner at a local restaurant on Friday evening.
When the leadership of your region changes hands, how will existing funds be transferred or accessed?
Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
People at different kinds of institutions may find value in different kinds of financial support, or need different kinds of financial support to be able to participate fully in the community. Be sure to listen to your members and potential members for ideas you may not have thought of.
How will you ensure that financial resources are being used equitably?