Funding an assistive listening system in your school
Assistive listening technology can provide a better learning experience for all students, whether they have hearing loss or not
Untreated hearing loss can have lasting effects on students’ academic achievement, social relationships, and self-esteem. The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) reports that even mild hearing loss can cause a child to miss as much as 50 percent of classroom discussion. Without appropriate management and support, children with mild to moderate hearing loss achieve one to four grade levels lower, on average, than students with typical hearing, according to American Speech Language Hearing Association.
The CDC reports that nearly 15 percent of children ages 6 to 19 have low- or high-frequency hearing loss of at least 16-decibel hearing level in one or both ears. Noise-induced hearing loss also is on the rise among young people. This is largely attributed to listening to music through earbuds at high volume. And hearing loss isn’t just affecting students. Nearly 48 million American adults have hearing loss. Assistive listening technology can help everyone in school environments, with and without hearing loss, hear more clearly.
An assistive listening system (ALS) is a wireless system with a transmitter and one or more receivers that send audio – from a teacher’s microphone, TV, or other sound sources – directly to headphones, hearing aids, or cochlear implants without amplifying ambient noise. Assistive listening systems provide a vastly improved experience for those with hearing loss.
Assistive listening systems can also help solve frustrating but common sound issues caused by distance, ambient noise, or poor room acoustics, which can challenge comprehension–even for those without hearing loss.
The relatively low cost of adding this technology makes it easy to provide a reliable, high-quality assistive listening system. ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance requires a minimum quantity of assistive listening equipment based on seating capacity, so a classroom with a seating capacity of 50 or less can provide a fully compliant, top-tier assistive listening system for under $1,000. Even a school with a 500-seat space, such as an auditorium, can purchase an assistive listening system for under $3,700.
Securing Funding for an Assistive Listening System
Below is a short primer on how nonprofits, including schools, might find funding for an assistive listening system.
The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) encourages banks to make services and loans available to their local communities. In this spirit, many banks also form a special department to respond to this requirement. The CRA Officer of the bank often handles the community giving program, whether a nonprofit asks for sponsorship or a grant.
Regardless of an organization’s mission, there is almost always a national and local professional association affiliated with what the nonprofit does. If their goals are similar, those associations have a vested interest in each others success.
Many professional associations give small grants to their constituent organizations, while others only fundraise for themselves and use the funds for their programs. If organizations have similar missions, it’s worth looking over their website to see whom they are partnering with to identify potential funders.
Smaller nonprofit organizations may find that local, grassroots fundraising is the best approach. Establish a special fundraising project or campaign, such as “School Theater 2024 Listening Upgrade,” and briefly explain the project and dollar goal. Enlist the help of donors, volunteers, and friends.
Create a membership program or direct mail letter. Appeal to local businesses for sponsorship. Add a donation page to your website or consider creating a crowdfunding campaign.
Track your campaign’s success, keep donors apprised of your progress, and endeavor to turn those special project contributors into an ongoing donor base.
It is common for many nonprofits to maintain a list of potential funders from whom to request funds. This target list may include individuals, businesses, or local civic services organizations such as the Kiwanis, Rotary, or Lions Clubs. Soliciting specific funding sources requires a deliberate approach. Request an in-person meeting and be prepared with a concise proposal that includes an explanation of the particular need, the benefits of the solution, and the cost.
The strength of your relationship with a business or funder is directly proportional to your chances of receiving financial assistance. Use your networking skills. Before contacting a potential funder, ask your board, staff, and key volunteers if they have a personal connection with them.
Many nonprofits seek the bulk of their funding from grants. Typically, grants are awarded from three primary types of funders:
- Government (local, state, and federal)
- Private and public foundations
- Businesses and corporations
Grants often provide significant supportive funds. Billions of dollars are available annually through grants. And grants are competitive–other organizations are seeking that funding too. Some grant applications involve completing a simple form, but most often, the grant application process is involved and time-consuming. Identifying grant sources, determining eligibility, and writing the grant proposal is not a simple endeavor. Some nonprofits have a staff member or department dedicated to grant research and application.
A great starting point to learn about navigating the grant process is the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Grants.gov. The website provides a common forum for federal agencies to post funding opportunities and grant seekers to find and apply for them. Grants.gov also offers an extensive learning center with how-to blogs and video training resources. Many state and local governments offer similar websites, some with referrals to private foundation funders.
Grassroots fundraising, targeted funding, and grants–regardless of how an organization raises financing for an assistive listening project, it is always important to follow up.In the spirit of cultivating long-time donors, send a handwritten note of thanks to any funder who helps toward your ALS goal. Let them know how the new system is benefiting your school and helping all students participate fully and engage.