Multiple sources of funding help secure the long-term viability of a math circle, especially those with a broader scope and larger budget. Therefore it is advisable to conduct a thorough search for possible sources of support. Ask parents, guest speakers, and colleagues for likely prospects. The math department or host institution itself is a good place to start; they may have ideas for further contacts in addition to being able to provide partial funding for the circle. A good source for corporate and foundation prospects is the Foundation Center - visit a Foundation Center library in some major cities for free, or visit http://foundationcenter.org/ to search for a fee. Also check to see whether large corporations in the area have an education foundation; many do. Seek out prospects that fund science or mathematics education. Call the person listed and discuss the project with a program officer, if possible. Make a note of the board of directors for good prospects, and share this list of names with parents and others interested in the circle. If someone knows a director, ask for their support in writing the proposal and in making initial contact.
Most prospective funding organizations will provide clear guidelines regarding the sorts of projects they wish to fund and what elements should be included in a proposal. Don't hesitate to apply for a grant even if it does not seem perfectly suited, but remember to emphasize those aspects of the math circle which are most closely aligned with the foundation's purposes and goals. When drafting a proposal, give some details about the history and accomplishments of the institution hosting the circle. The organizers should describe their own background and particular interest in math and math circles. Outline the problem being addressed, such as bright kids who are not challenged in school or students who enjoy math but don't have a social group for support and growth. Segue into the proposed solution - a math circle - and the intended outcome. When predicting the positive impact that the math circle will have, remember to be persuasive without promising to conduct evaluations which will disrupt the event. A sample proposal is included in the appendices. There is also a section of this website with sample Successful Proposals.
Acknowledge contributions with a letter of thanks promptly - within 48 hours of receipt is best. It is important for many donors that the letter be dated and that the amount of the gift be stated in the letter. One is required to mention whether the donor has received any goods or services in exchange for the contribution. Since they usually have not, make a statement to the effect that "We acknowledge that you have received no goods or services in exchange for this gift." (Basic recognition or gifts of thanks do not count as goods or services.) Become acquainted with the funder and their requirements or feelings concerning recognition. Many foundations and corporations will be quite clear on this matter; expectations can range from the display of logos on printed materials and website in a specified font to strict anonymity. Others would rather cooperate with the one soliciting the grant to develop a plan. Some individual donors may be very difficult to read; err on the side of more recognition if forced to guess. Means for recognizing donors might include banners in the classroom with the sponsor's name, publicity in the media that mentions the sponsor (always with their permission), and mention on printed materials, especially handouts for students. With multiple donors, list them according to gift size. Thus a \$10,000 gift should be recognized approximately ten times more prominently than a \$1,000 gift. But also take into account the actual level of generosity: a $1,000 gift from a donor for whom this amount represents a real stretch should receive relatively more recognition.
Individuals and organizations giving away money like to be kept appraised on how it is being used. The best time to begin work on a great grant report is the week the grant is awarded, not the week the report is due. If the funder does not make clear their expectations, ask them at the time the gift is made. Offer to provide an annual report and inquire whether they would like more frequent updates. Offer to provide specific data such as the number of meetings, their location, a list of speakers and topics, the size and composition of the average audience, and so on. Review the now funded proposal outlining what the math circle has promised to accomplish and set up a system for measuring the extent to which these goals are met. Pictures and anecdotal information - "A teacher reported that her student was talking about last night's math circle session excitedly to all of her friends!" - are very useful. Be sure to submit the report when promised. A supplementary sample grant report accompanies this handbook.
Check out the NAMC Math Circle Grants
Next: Countdown to a Math Circle