I know the hours you spend scouring the internet for inspiration and information, and occasionally you find a service or a product that is exactly what you’re looking for.
You inquire. You meet with the sales person. You get the quote
And your heart sinks.
High-quality EdTech products can be expensive and are not feasible if a teacher is paying out of their own pocket.
And so many of us are.
So if you get a quote that is miles beyond your own (or your department’s) ability to afford, don’t settle for good enough or a cheaper version you can afford. Get exactly what you and your students need. But how do you approach your principal to get their financial support?
Talk to your principal FIRST.
It seems counterintuitive, but before preparing to talk to your principal, you need to…talk to your principal.
Too many teachers waste time looking into programs and companies that the school simply can’t fund. Run the idea by your principal on the fly to make sure it’s even feasible.
You can catch them while they’re in the breakroom, on lunch or parking duty, or – if you’re lucky enough to have a principal with an open-door policy – duck into their office for a moment during your conference period. A quick 2-3 minute chat is all you need.
Be honest. Tell them you want to run this idea by them before you spend time bringing all the pieces together.
Need an outline for your rundown? Start with this, and keep it short and sweet:
- Why will this product/service be helpful? Keep it to one or two sentences: “You know how we’ve been trying to find a program that….” or “I’ve been looking for a way to [solve a specific problem], and I found a product that…”
- Include the company name. Often, principals will have knowledge about whether this company’s products have been approved or denied before. Just say, “Have you heard anything about [company] and their services?”
- Describe a price range if you can find it, but NOT the full cost. There’s nothing wrong with saying something like:
- “It’s kind of high up there, but I think it solves that major issue we’ve been talking about.”
- “The cost is kind of high, but maybe with some grants and financial assistance it’s feasible.”
- “It’s a few thousand dollars, but since it serves every student in the school, it may be worth it.” Or “…serves the entire special ed department…” or something similar.
If they say it sounds interesting, then tell them you want to do a little extra research to make sure it actually suits your needs. Set up a meeting with enough time for you to gather what you need.
Come prepared for principal support
Depending on the cost and application of the product you’re “selling” to your principal, reserve twenty minutes to an hour preparing for your scheduled meeting.
Generally, the more the product costs, the more benefit it needs to provide to the school and its students. Come prepared to your scheduled meeting with the following four items thought out and researched:
What specific problem does it solve?
Be very clear about how the product or service will solve a specific problem. Does it help to address:
- an often-overlooked standard (or set of standards)?
- a school-wide goal?
- a department struggle?
- a district directive?
- a specific initiative (like 21st-century learning, MTSS, PBIS, or STEM programming)?
Is anyone else interested?
This is probably the most work-intensive step. The more students the product serves, the higher your chances for success – especially for products and services that cost more than a few hundred dollars.
You could talk to coworkers who you know might also benefit. There’s also nothing wrong with reaching out to department and grade-level chairs.
Remember, think like your principal: they know the challenge is getting teachers on board to actually use these products once they’re purchased, so see if anyone else is really excited about the product.
If someone else is as excited about it as you are, you could even invite them to your meeting with the principal.
Price is not always the most important consideration, but we know that it’s usually pretty high on the list. Look to see if there are any organizations doing something similar for a lower cost, then compare with your initial find.
If you find a really good option at a lower cost, you may need to take a few steps backward to put that option on the table.
More often, though, you’ll find that other options come with trade-offs. Figure out what those trade-offs are and be ready to list a few.
Seek out funding assistance
This is hard to do if you don’t know the budget you’re working with. However, the higher the cost, the more likely additional financial resources are going to be needed.
Don’t secure funding until your principal gives you the go-ahead. However, if you know what’s available, you stand a better chance of getting your principal’s support.
Grants are going to be your best funding sources because they don’t need to be paid back. But they usually require an application and adherence to specific requirements. For more, view our SAM Labs’ grant writing guide.
The best way to look for grants is to start close to home, then start spiraling out.
At your school, you might ask your PTA, your principal, your department or grade-level chair to see if grants for this kind of project are available.
Then move out to your district, diocese, or school board (depending on your school’s hierarchy). Many keep lists of grants that are updated on a regular basis.
Finally, check your state education department’s website and professional organizations like ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) or the Council for Exceptional Children. They often maintain lists of grants that they offer as well as other grantors in the same field.
What to ask you principal to get their support
Once you’re in your meeting, use it as an opportunity to get your principal a little more on board.
- Share your prepared info and find out: Is your principal interested in helping you get this program in the building?
- Ask them: What would you need to show them to get their support? This creates a starting point for negotiation instead of setting up a “yes or no” endpoint.
- Find out: Are there any school funds for projects like this? Is there a line item in the budget this falls under? Could you split the cost between the school’s budget and grant funding?
- Then see: Can they alert you to opportunities that come their way (for grants, partnerships with other teachers or schools, etc.)? Your principal has access to a wealth of information simply because of their position as the head of the school.
Finally, remember that, whatever their answer, principals have a lot to consider when it comes to funding programs and products in their schools.
If you take these steps, then you are giving your principal the best opportunity to say yes. If they still can’t support your request, it’s usually nothing personal. Thank them for their time, and accept their decision with professionalism and grace.
But if they give you the “yes” you’re looking for, then feel free to cheer all day long!