5 ways to identify and win esports funding
Not sure how to make the numbers work within your esports budget? Let SHI help!

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As scholastic esports programs grow in popularity to become a larger part of a school’s curriculum, they also require significant investments of time and money to implement. Complicating matters is the fact that school budgets are tight, and other priorities put the squeeze on emerging programs like esports.

Fortunately, a wide variety of esports funding sources are available. For example, states are beginning to provide esports-specific funding, such as a recent $5 million commitment in North Carolina. As you navigate the complexities of grants and other funding opportunities, SHI can help you determine which ones are most relevant to your school and understand how to successfully apply for them.

Never walk alone

To maximize fundraising effectiveness, consider the power of partnerships. Instead of competing for funding opportunities, we encourage regional schools and agencies to link up for grant opportunities. There are many instances where eligibility for grants is specific to one agency type – embracing partnerships can facilitate program development across a region.

As a longtime proponent of esports programs, SHI values our role in shaping the skills, career opportunities, and personal character of student participants. We understand the direct correlation between successful programs and obtaining the necessary financial support to sustain them. Our grants team offers a complimentary, in-depth funding assessment to simplify the process for identifying and securing critical esports funding from multiple sources, and to help your organization develop a strategic plan.

SHI’s approach incorporates five strategies to augment limited budget dollars and support the financial well-being of a growing esports presence.

  1. Realistically identify and address all esports costs

The quest for outside funding begins with knowing exactly what equipment acquisitions and budget amounts are required to support your school’s esports program – which can incorporate:

  • Software titles and the associated licenses
  • Connectivity, including networking, wireless access points, switches, and routers
  • Firewalls and other security infrastructure
  • Building out the virtual esports arena
  • IT expertise
  • Professional training
  • Curriculum development

Leveraging external expertise in esports program development and deployment is a prudent and ultimately cost-saving alternative to going it alone, strengthening your prospects for success.

  1. Tie government grant applications to STEAM benefits

It’s critical to accentuate the link between scholastic esports and the disciplines associated with Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) – as well as Career and Technical Education (CTE) and workforce training. There are many state, federal, and foundation grant programs that would be beneficial, but few are esports-specific. Instead, they award dollars to projects that emphasize STEAM, CTE, and workforce development.

In other words, a grant may fund end-user devices, software licenses, or networking – but only if you can demonstrate advanced skill development and learning outcomes associated with these three focus areas. For instance, the high-performance computers needed for esports can also be used for AutoCAD, Autodesk, virtual reality content creation, and remote learning.

One strategy is to emphasize multiple purposes:

  • A computer lab for STEAM subjects that can also host esports action.
  • CTE and workforce development for associated disciplines.
  • Distance learning capabilities enabled by a new network. 
  1. Leverage flexible foundation grant funding programs

Many local organizations offer support for programs that make a difference in their communities, presenting schools with an opportunity to make their case for esports as a skill-building endeavor worth funding.

Private community-based foundations have the added advantage of not requiring the same STEAM connection as state and federal grants, simplifying the application process.

  1. Pursue E-Rate funding for networking equipment to benefit esports

The Schools and Libraries Universal Service Support program delivers funding through four programs including E-Rate, which helps institutions connect students and library patrons to broadband. Applicants can receive support for eligible hardware, such as wireless access points, firewalls, switches, and routers that also benefit esports. This funding also accounts for installation and activation. E-Rate enables schools and libraries to reallocate funds dedicated to network improvements to other initiatives.

  1. Create and maintain an ongoing funding plan

Effective funding development isn’t a one-off effort; continued success calls for ongoing attention to the next funding opportunity, the next application, and the next renewal date.

Grant funding is cyclical and must be planned for in advance to create a program that addresses current and long-term requirements. It means being constantly aware of how other esports programs are generating financial support, and maintaining key network relationships to form mutually beneficial alliances.

Simplify your esports funding process with the right advisor

SHI can help you identify and obtain your most relevant scholastic esports funding sources while avoiding potential dead ends, and assist you in implementing the most effective grant application techniques.

Contact your SHI Account Executive or email us at grants@SHI.com for a free evaluation of your current funding environment. We’ll match your organization to the right funding programs and help you create a winning application methodology as you advance your fundraising efforts to the next level.