Financial Resources for Attending Convention
Did you know that many funding sources are available for families who would like to attend educational conventions and conferences such as ours in Phoenix this year from July 8-11? Have you been wondering where/how to start? Now is the time to start planning!
One possible funding source for parents is through your local State Special Education Departments. Every year, an amount of money is allocated in the IDEIA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act) budget to support parent involvement. This money can be used as stipends to attend conventions that provide education, as ours do.
The first step is knowing how to approach them. First, check your state’s website (some may have an electronic application). If not, write an email or letter to your local director of special education (for those school districts that do not have one, write to the superintendent) asking them to sponsor your attendance as a parent to the convention using the designated IDEIA funds. Explain why attendance at the convention will benefit you and your child and mention that you are a member of the Williams Syndrome Association. Include an overall statement explaining how attending will give you access to medical and educational professionals who will be providing invaluable information not offered anywhere else. Print our materials describing convention: williams-syndrome.org/convention if the application allows you to attach files or send additional information. Our programming is not quite finalized for 2020 yet, but you can use 2018 as a model. Check your state's deadlines.
In addition to school districts, there are many other sources for funding within your community (especially when you know people personally). Possible resources include:
- Regional Centers
- Developmental Disability Councils
- Local clubs such as Lions, Elks, Rotary, and Kiwanis
- YMCA, YWCA
- Area women’s and men’s clubs
- Teachers’ organizations
- Business associations
- Chambers of Commerce
- Church groups
- The Urban League
- University alumni groups with which you or your network may be connected
- Need-based scholarships from the WSA to our members.
When you approach a local group yourself or ask a representative of a group to champion your cause, you’ll need to prepare a "proposal." Below are samples of statements to include:
1. A summary statement: I am asking for your financial assistance to provide travel and convention funding so that I may attend the 2020 National Convention on Williams syndrome, hosted by the Williams Syndrome Association.
2. Why it will be beneficial: More than 50 educational sessions will be provided over four days on topics ranging from medical issues and education strategies to housing and financial planning. The sessions will be conducted by medical and education professionals who provide valuable information on this rare condition. It is also a time for families to come together and learn and network with one another.
3. A statement of your goals in attending the conference: These will be personal and depend on the age of your child or dependent with Williams syndrome, but can range from gaining knowledge about physical or musical therapy to learning about the latest cardiovascular research or plans to live independently.
4. A detailed budget: "Our plane tickets will cost $_____. Registration for the convention will be $_____, as I plan to pre-register in order to benefit from the lower registration cost. My hotel bill will be $_____ per night. Taxi or Uber/Lyft fare from the airport (round trip) will be $_____." If possible, don't ask them to cover ALL costs. Funders like to know you are providing some of the funding yourself or from other sources. Though our prices are not set yet for 2020, the estimate is two adults for sessions will be $500, and a child/adult will be $250 for their programs per. This does not include transportation, hotel or food other than hotel breakfast.
All information on our conventions and conferences can be found by clicking here. More detail and registration will be emailed, so make sure you are a member of the WSA to receive our communications. The WSA also offers need-based scholarships, and the application can be found here.
Funding is never a sure thing, but armed with the right tools, you will have a much better chance for success! Starting to to make a plan now will help. We hope to see you in Phoenix!