Getting Your Principal’s Support for Your Big Tech Purchase
Teachers, does this sound familiar?
You spend hours scouring the internet for inspiration and information. Eventually, you find a service or a product that is exactly what you’re looking for to help boost success in your classroom.
You inquire. You meet with the representative. You get the quote
And your heart sinks.
High-quality EdTech products for your classroom can be expensive. And they are not feasible if you’re paying out of pocket.
And so many teachers are.
If you get a quote that is miles beyond your own (or your department’s) budget, don’t settle for good enough or a cheaper version you can afford. Get exactly what you and your students need and deserve.
But how do you approach your principal or administrators to get financial support for your EdTech purchase? Let’s walk through it.
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 on recess duty. Or – if you’re lucky enough to have a principal with an open-door policy – duck into their office 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:
- Explain why this product/service will 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. Your principal may have knowledge about whether a company’s products have been approved or denied before. Just say, “Have you heard anything about [company]?”
Provide a price range but NOT the full cost. There’s nothing wrong with saying something like: “The cost is kind of high, but maybe with some grants and financial assistance, it’s feasible.” Or “It’s a few thousand dollars, but since it serves every student in the school/department/district, it may be worth it.”
If they say it sounds interesting, then tell them you want to do a little extra research. Set up a follow-up meeting with enough time for you to gather what you need.
Prepare to fully win them over
Depending on the cost and application of the product you’re “selling” to your principal, reserve 20 minutes to an hour to prepare for your scheduled meeting.
Generally, the more the product costs, the more benefit it needs to provide to the school and its students. Come with the following four items thought out and researched:
Know What Specific Problem It Solves?
Be very clear about how the product or service will solve a specific problem your school or classroom is facing. 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)?
Find Others Who Are Interested
This is probably the most work-intensive step. The more students the product serves and the more support you have from colleagues, the higher your chances for success – especially for EdTech products and services that cost more than a few hundred dollars.
You could talk to coworkers who might also benefit. There’s also nothing wrong with reaching out to department and grade-level chairs.
Think like your principal. They know a key challenge is getting teachers to use EdTech once it’s purchased.
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 companies 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 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
Finding funding is hard to do if you don’t know the budget you’re working with. 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 grants and fundraising opportunities are available, you stand a better chance of getting your principal’s support.
Check out our Make Your Case letter template to format a funding request letter.
Grants are going to be your best funding source because they don’t need to be paid back. But they usually require an application and adherence to specific requirements.
For more information, 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 chair, or your grade-level representative 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.
Ask Questions to Keep the Discussion Going
Once you’re in your meeting, use it as an opportunity to get your principal a little more on board. Lead with curiosity and ask a lot of questions that keep the discussion open.
Once you’ve shared your prepared information and provided details, ask:
- Are you interested in helping me get this program in the building?
- What else would I need to show you to get your support? (This creates a starting point for negotiation instead of setting up a “yes or no” endpoint.)
- 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, fundraising, and grant funding?
- Can you share opportunities that come along for grants, partnerships with other teachers or schools, etc.? (Your principal likely has access to a wealth of information simply because of their position as the head of the school.)
Don’t Sweat It
Finally, remember that, whatever their answer, principals have a lot to consider when it comes to funding major technology purchases 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!
Hillary Gale Decker is a high school English teacher and department chair with over a decade of experience encouraging adult collaboration to help the kids. You can find her on Twitter @HGDwriting.