Speech, Love and Grants

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Every speech and debate competition comes with a price tag. For starters, consider all the pencils, paper, rubber bands, envelopes, food, time and effort a hosting school puts into one tournament, not to mention leaving on all the lights in the school for a weekend. You may not know this, but each student entered in a speech tournament costs the team money, and teams throughout the country struggle each year to find ways to pay for their tournament attendance. But there are resources available for teams seeking financial assistance. Looking for grants is a good place to start.

The Lincoln Financial Group, which sponsors the National Forensics League, offers grants to speech and debate programs with financial needs. The grants consist of free school membership and five free student memberships. Look them up and contact their director of finance to see if you or your school qualifies for a grant. There are also several federal grant programs that might be able to offer some assistance, such as students.gov, studentaid.ed.gov and grants.gov. Another site, Adventures In Education, will walk you through getting a grant as well as the different types of federal grants that are available, though the site is probably more helpful for students seeking financial aid for college.

Always make sure to go to your student union or student council and request the funds or at least ask if there are any funds available. Then look for local organizations and alumni associations in your area; they may be able to help contribute some financial assistance or at least get you on the right track to securing a loan or grant. Many of them probably experienced the same financial issues with their own organizations when they were in school, so you’ll be able to talk to people who overcame similar challenges. Many schools simply have each student pay his or her own way.

When I was competing, I knew students who had to pay at least some of their entry fees for every tournament -- I want to say it was about $20 per event to enter, and then there were parents who volunteered to provide transportation and judging, et cetera. Most speech and debate teams also hold regular fundraisers each year, including car washes, programs like cookie dough sales and chocolate sales, and big performances at the end of the year. Performances are especially successful because you’re able to show off exactly what it is you’re working on, and therefore what it is they’re supporting.

This is a great way to get others in your community involved with speech and debate, which means more judges, more opportunities for financial assistance, and more interest in the activity you love.

Thank you for this insightful, and highly informative article. 

I wonder if deals can be struck with the local Office Max, or similar store, to help cut costs for supplies a team might need...it's an idea.

Anony's picture

Excellent ideas.  I wonder if you could also set up a special fund for the children who are not able to raise the money but want to participate?  Perhaps ask donors if a certain percent, say like 5, could automatically be deposited in this separate account.  I wouldn't want anyone to miss out simply due to financial hardship.

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