When it comes to finding money for innovative school programs and equipment, many districts get help from non-profit education foundations. About 80 percent of respondents to a recentSchool Board Notes survey said their districts have such volunteer groups, and more than 60 percent reported their education foundations have been operating for five years or more.
Most education foundations are community-based volunteer groups. They raise money through a variety of ways, by holding functions such as golf outings, 5K races or “casino nights;” or seek donations including, in an increasing number of districts, using online sources like PayPal or Facebook. Then, they award grants to fund projects that the regular school budget would not cover.
Many education foundations raise funds through fundraisers such as benefit auctions, “Tricky Trays” or luncheons, some seek donations from businesses, school district alumni or other community-minded individuals; and some have started using a “PayPal” or similar online donation. How does your Education Foundation raise funds?
“I think they are a fantastic tool and a great way to fund items that the administration won’t, although several items initially funded have become a standard in the district,” wrote one survey respondent.
Altogether, there were 66 responses to the NJSBA survey. While a few respondents said their education foundations were created as a result of budget cuts or reduced state aid, or even following the impact of Hurricane Sandy, many others said the groups were founded because community members saw a growing need.
The amount of dollars they raise varies. While a handful of respondents said their foundations bring in $100,000 or more each year, the largest number, about 42 percent, said their foundations bring in $10,000 or less. Nearly 28 percent said their foundations raise between $25,000 and $49,999 per year.
Most education foundations raise funding to support school programs, and award grants to educators or others to fund these programs. Approximately what is the level of funding that is provided to the district, per year, by your district education foundation?
Funding for Projects, Programs Where does the money go? To a wide variety of projects and programs. Respondents reported that their various ed foundations support the purchase of computers, lab equipment and 3D printers; fund teacher grants for specific items, such as hydroponic gardening supplies; and pay for innovative summer theater programs. Some donate toward outdoor playground equipment. And, at least one respondent said the education foundation funded weekend backpack food programs for needy students.
A few respondents to the School Board Notes survey posed questions such as, what should the superintendent’s role be in an education foundation. Some also noted that their districts had had education foundations that folded, possibly because of too much competition with other community fundraising groups.
But most of the readers surveyed found the groups to be positive.
“They are an amazing partner for us,” wrote one respondent.
“A great idea if developed for the right reasons,” said another.