Playworks’ financial model relies on three primary sources: earned income from school fees (for both the direct service program and training services), AmeriCorps, and private philanthropy including foundations, corporations and individuals.
Earned income provides Playworks’ first source of funding. Because Playworks answers a real and pressing need that principals have clearly identified, we are able to charge for the service and ensure buy-in on the part of our clients. Earned income provides 41% of income required for each school program.
Since 2005 Playworks has increased the number of schools served from 65 to 300. Each of these schools pays $25,500 providing a financial engine for expansion. Schools typically allocate Title I funds, discretionary funds and school climate funds to cover their fee. This earned income strategy has proven to be effective in all parts of the country, from large districts to small.
In addition, Playworks has annually expanded its relationship with the Corporation for National Service. Playworks has been a partner with AmeriCorps since 2006, including both state and federal contracts. In 2010-12, Playworks has 162 AmeriCorps members and is receiving more than $2 million toward their stipends. By 2015 we project these numbers to increase to 400 members and $5 million.
Playworks requires $22 million over the next five years to fuel growth through both direct service programs and training and technical assistance services.
Specifically, by 2015, Playworks will:
- EXPAND- from the current 23 cities in 18 states and the District of Columbia to 27 cities in 23 states and DC providing direct service to 700 low-income elementary schools.
- TRAIN– teachers, staff and parents at 1,000 additional schools each year using Playworks fee-for-service training products.
- SUSTAIN - $20 million annually in city-based fundraising sources to ensure that each city is financially sustainable, including covering its share of national operations costs.
Playworks’ expansion strategy leverages three major assets to achieve national scale:
- Increasing demand from principals who are under pressure to deliver academic gains which rely significantly on positive school climate.
- Earned income fuels growth as expansion over the past five years has proven.
- National infrastructure is effectively in place thanks to investment by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
This strategic approach reflects more than a decade of successful expansion and a careful analysis of the market for Playworks’ service. Based on the relative success and limitations of similar social innovation efforts that have attempted to go to scale, Playworks and its national Board of Directors have concluded that a careful and phased growth approach that begins with establishing direct service operations across the country, followed closely by expansion of the training and technical assistance business that leverages the reputation and results of the direct service operations offers the most promising opportunity for Playworks to build a movement that will ultimately reach every child.
Our goal: to position play and recess as a core strategy for improving learning in schools.