Finding the Money for Social Emotional Learning

CASEL diagram


Effective social emotional learning (SEL) requires a thorough understanding of the student population’s needs, training to integrate SEL into everyday lessons, and the instructional resources. But although educators and education advocates acknowledge the importance of SEL, the funding has lagged behind. In the edWebinar, “Funding Social Emotional Learning: Where’s the Money?” Dr. Rita Oates, President of Oates Associates, explained that money can be found for SEL, but teachers need to be ready to tackle the world of grants. While employing a professional grant writer can be advantageous, Dr. Oates offered advice for those who will be overseeing the process or who plan to go after the funding themselves.

First, Dr. Oates said that grant writing is like writing a piece of fiction—teachers are being asked to talk about their vision of the future. They should familiarize themselves with the different tenets of SEL and projects that have already worked. One potential resource is Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), which features definitions of SEL, research, and best practices. Research on SEL is especially helpful as grant applicants will need to prove the efficacy of their approach. In addition, educators should assess the social-emotional needs of their target kids. Having an assessment will validate requests to potential funders.

After educators have assembled the background information, they need to look at the variety of funding options. There are several opportunities available from the federal government, such as IDEA (special education); Title I, Part A (the largest single grant through the federal government to school districts); and Title II, Part A (supporting effective instruction). Most of the federal funds are awarded to local education agencies and require a concentrated effort from constituents across the school district.

Local groups that can fund SEL programs


For individual school or even class-level grants, educators can look to several local sources. For example, service clubs like the Lions, Rotary International, and the Jaycees may have compatible funding programs. Local businesses and foundations, chambers of commerce, and the arm of a professional society within the school’s zip code are also worth contacting. Similarly, educators should look into community foundations where money from different donors is pooled to make an impact on the local population. With a well-written ask, schools may be surprised how eager these groups are to support area students.

Finally, educators should investigate crowd-funding sites like The key for this option is to line up a few donors, even at small amounts, before posting the project. Dr. Oates commented that success breeds success on these sites; donors are more likely to contribute if they see others have supported it.

Before pursuing any option, educators should talk to their principal and the district development office to make sure they are not in conflict with other grant requests. More important, they should not limit themselves to a single funding source.

“Don’t think that you have to get all the money from one source. People love to back a winner,” said Dr. Oates. “So, if you’ve already gotten some money from somebody, if you want to do a school-wide social emotional learning program, the first place that you might look is to go to the PTA. If the PTA can give $100, other people will give money for this as well. Think about where are all of the places that people care about this and how the community comes together.”

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This article was modified and published by eSchool News.

About the Presenter

Dr. Rita Oates, President of Oates Associates, has helped schools win grants from $500 to $1.9 million. As EdTech director in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the nation’s fourth largest district, Dr. Oates initiated innovative uses of technology, partly funded with more than $10 million in grants. Dr. Oates has also been the external evaluator on several collaborative federal grants. While director of the EdTech graduate program at Barry University, she taught a three-credit grant-writing course. She has presented grant-writing workshops at conferences such as FETC, TCEA, for university faculty, and is presenting at METIS 2018 (in Mississippi). Dr. Oates has presented several other webinars for edWeb’s Education Funding community and has written more than a dozen books on educational technology. She earned undergraduate degrees from the University of Kansas, and a master’s and PhD from Indiana University. Follow her on Twitter @ritaoates.

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