How do Nonprofit Organizations get Funding?

Aside from our Brighter Future Initiative and partner communities in Uganda and India, one aspect of our work we’re often asked about is how we achieve funding for our projects. The answer isn’t simple, with success requiring the constant effort of diverse minds from across our team.

The Walking School Bus (TWSB) funding model can be broken down into three separate categories:

(1) The expedition fundraising behind our projects,
(2) General donations and product sales, and
(3) Government grants and Private Foundation applications.

Read on for details on how we source funding and maximize impact in each of these areas!

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1. Expedition Fundraising and Financial Model

The success of our projects relies on creating meaningful connections between researchers, volunteers, teachers, and students in our partner-communities across India, Uganda and the UNHCR  Refugee Settlements. To aid this process, TWSB offers a schedule of research expeditions across the year, giving volunteers the opportunity to become involved in a whole spectrum of activities to enhance their research and academic portfolios. These range from community outreach and collecting data, to implementing our digital curriculum, to helping construct our curriculum, transportation, and nutrition infrastructure.

By combining the efforts of our team with the focus and motivation of expedition researchers, we’re able to ensure direct and relevant funding for our projects. The fundraising model we have established allows us to keep the cost of expeditions low to cover accommodation and costs of the team on the ground, and allows for each Expeditioner to introduce TWSB to their existing network to support project work in the field. This model also has the advantage of aligning funding with geographic and timescale considerations, creating opportunities to partner with socially conscious brands and research organizations.

All of which highlights the importance of funding projects through multiple avenues - giving your nonprofit organization the best chance of being able to make use of funding, as and when it may arise.

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2. Donations, Product Sales and Merchandising

Like many nonprofit organizations, TWSB not only aims to provide value for the communities we support abroad, but also for the students and volunteers who work with us at home. Finding that talent means investing in brand outreach and awareness. While developing a public profile might not be a number one priority during the early stages of starting a nonprofit, a well-functioning storefront is useful for maintaining visibility over time, as well as sourcing funding.

Alongside more traditional products such as backpacks and tech t-shirts, developing a storefront also creates the opportunity for innovations and collaborations with partner communities. We’re proud to offer Mala Kumar’s STEM storybook, How to solve a Problem like Himani (Pratham Books), which was beautifully illustrated by students at Himalayan Public School during a 2018 TWSB India expedition.

Beyond a storefront capacity, getting involved in local fundraisers is a fulfilling way of developing a social community. Whether self-initiated like our co-hosted Auction4Access night, or part of a wider event such as the BMO Vancouver Marathon, a schedule of fundraisers gives nonprofits brand visibility, a source of revenue, and positive social experiences. Right now, TWSB is taking part in the Great Canadian Giving Campaign, raising funding to enhance access to education at the Bidbidi refugee settlement.

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3. Funding From Government grants and Private Foundations

When it comes to our ongoing efforts to source funding, a significant portion of our work goes into securing grants from government and private institutions. Grant writing is perhaps the most-discussed area of nonprofit funding, not without good reason. With an average success rate of 10%, organizations are constantly on the lookout for ways to optimize their application process and maintain team motivation.

Persistence in applying for grants is crucial to winning funding. This is where a collaborative strategy can help. Today’s app and software ecosystems make sharing grant writing responsibilities between individuals a painless process, at the same adding significant value to the finished project. Having multiple pairs of eyes on proposal copy can help with everything from spotting grammar and style issues, to ensuring your document incorporates a diverse and inclusive perspective.


Interested in how we use our funding to further projects across India and Uganda? Follow the TWSB Blog and Facebook page for the latest updates. If you’re not currently subscribed to our newsletter, there’s no better time to sign up here!