Basin Electric recently gave $20,000 to the Bismarck Public Schools Foundation to kickstart the Foundation’s “innovation grant” program, which will begin this fall. This is the first donation toward the program that will be given over two years and require the Foundation to obtain matching funds.
The Bismarck Public Schools Foundation assists staff with funding to support equipment and projects that are unable to be funded through the normal school operating budget. In the past, the Foundation awarded several “mini grants” to teachers for these projects. The grants were given twice a year and ranged from $200-$5,000. The program was successful, but the Foundation’s board of directors struggled with how to judge the large range of projects – especially when application requests were nearly 10 times the available funds.
Because of this, teachers began creating Go Fund Me pages to solicit funds for their projects. Recent policy changes no longer allow this, so a different approach was necessary.
Kayla Effertz Kleven, the Foundation’s executive director says that the innovation grant program was created as a result of this dilemma. Grants under $1,000 will still be given through a new grant program called #Donate4Impact that will allow online donations. These projects will be featured on the Foundation’s website.
Larger projects costing $1,000 or more will be considered through the innovation grant program, which puts emphasis on new and pilot ideas never tried before. “We wanted to encourage teachers to try new and innovative ideas,” Effertz Kleven says. “We expect a majority of these projects to be technology, science, and engineering related, but any project over $1,000 can apply for funds through the program.
“It will be incredible to see how the money given will be used to broaden our kids’ opportunities and expand their learning environments,” says Jen Holen, Basin Electric’s community engagement administrator. “The day I presented the check, I was able to see in action the type of project the innovation grant program will fund, and it was amazing.” The project used equipment to set up an obstacle course in an elementary school gym then had the students measure their heart rates, tying in to their science curriculum.
“Basin Electric’s generous donation will go a long way in helping us fund great projects that will further our students’ education and push their boundaries,” Effertz Kleven says. “I can’t wait to see what out-of-the box endeavors we will be able to financially support a result of this contribution.”