It’s that time of year again! Our first official invitation emails went out yesterday , signaling that registration for the 18th National Forum on Character Education is now open! (If you haven’t received yours yet, let us know and we’ll make sure you’re in our system.)

We’ve already begun to hear about excited attendees and speakers who are low on funds for the conference. It certainly is a great expense, when you add up the registration fees, hotel costs, flights, and any other expenses that come to mind. We know what it’s like, being a nonprofit ourselves in these challenging time. Know that we are constantly working to find funding opportunities for you. Our Director of Resource Development is as we speak trying to secure funds we can reserve for scholarship money for our wonderful attendees out there, and we will be sure to let you know as soon as funds do become available throughout this registration cycle.

In the meantime, what options are out there for finding funding on your own? Many schools have pulled travel and conference funding as budgets are being slashed across the nation. One of our breakout session speakers initially applied after confirming that funds were available to travel, but has since heard that none of those funds will actually be available. So it becomes vitally important to explore all possible options to find other sources.

Here are some ideas that can help get that process started, many of which have been successful endeavors by previous conference attendees.

Within the Community
Has your school built a relationship with any of the organizations in the surrounding community? Local businesses and groups like the Rotary Club are great candidates to ask for help. They often are interested in helping their local schools and by showing them what you will get out of this conference that will make you a better school leader who can have a bigger impact on the kids, you can show them how important this conference really is.

The best way to pitch your story is often to find out what aspects of the conference are most important to you, personally. By highlighting the pieces that you are most passionate about, those business leaders and community members will see your eagerness and your motivation to get as much as you possibly can out of this conference. Offer to share your insights with them when you get back—maybe they’ll be able to learn something, too!

We at CEP are currently working to get more specific details about the conference online. For example, we are working on getting the schedule of breakout sessions finalized and highlighting descriptions of a variety of sessions that showcase the types of topics our speakers will be covering this year. Right now, you can check out our keynote speakers and events taking place before the official start of the Forum. Keep checking back on the website for more and more details to be posted.

Within the School
What about sources within the school community itself? While there may be no funding available from the school itself, often the students and their parents are invested in the school and see just how enriching character development is for the whole community.

It might be possible to raise money within the school community. You could turn it into something fun for the kids to get involved in, for example by offering some sort of fun prize if enough money is raise. We have a great story from Sullivan Primary School last year, which we hope to post more details on separately, where each classroom raised money and the class that raised the most got to pick which teachers and school leaders were able to come to the conference using that funding.

Parents can be helpful in multiple ways. If your parents are involved and engaged in your community, they may contribute individually, or a request through the PTA could garner some cash for your endeavor. Alternatively, parents may be willing to donate frequent flyer miles. Often families may accrue these miles without ever quite using them up, or perhaps multiple parents could donate enough for you to collect enough points to receive a free flight. Often the flight can be the most expensive part, so this is a great way to remove that cost from the equation.

CEP Funding
As we mentioned above, CEP is actively searching out ways to fund scholarships that can help lower your registration costs. It is still early in the cycle for this, so we don’t have any to offer just yet. As soon as these funds become available, however, we will be sure to post the exciting news to our website, Facebook, and Twitter pages. So be sure to keep a lookout for those notices. (If you haven’t yet added us to your social media network, be sure to do so and you’ll automatically receive these updates!)

We do offer a volunteer rate for participants that are interested in helping CEP during the Forum. We have a number of openings for volunteers. Your responsibilities would include facilitating two breakout sessions to ensure that everything goes smoothly and to collect feedback at the end. The rate is $250 and you would need to send an email to Farrell Harding and Rebecca Sipos (see their emails on this page) explaining why you would like to volunteer.

Other Ideas?
What suggestions do you have for other attendees? Do you have any stories of what has worked for you in the past? Post your ideas, obstacles, or questions below and we’ll generate a discussion to ensure everyone can make it to the conference!