Did you know that many funding sources are available for families who would like to attend educational conventions and conferences such as biennial conventions? Have you been wondering where/how to start? 

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 such as the WSA’s.  

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.

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
  • Area women’s and men’s clubs
  • PTA
  • Teachers’ organizations
  • Business associations
  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Church groups
  • The Urban League
  • University alumni groups with which you or your network may be connected

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 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.  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: (perhaps list some of the sessions and what you hope to learn from them and how you will apply them to your child’s care and education).

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.

Funding is never a sure thing, but armed with the right tools, you will have a much better chance for success!