Dr. Stan Levenson
     

The School Administrator

December 2001


Focus
Moving a School District Into Big-Time Fund Raising
By Stan Levenson

Fund raising is a billion dollar business in America, but the public schools have been slow to jump on the bandwagon. If public schools are to compete for needed dollars with private schools, colleges, universities and nonprofit organizations, superintendents and their staffs must aggressively apply the fund-raising strategies used so effectively by these other organizations.

Forget about bake sales, candy sales and car washes. To yield maximum results, begin your big-time fund-raising effort by using the following techniques:

• Form a local education foundation on a districtwide or individual school basis. The foundation should be a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that is tax exempt. Local education foundations broaden the school constituency, keep the community informed and facilitate the acquisition of grants and gifts.

• Devote the necessary resources to make your fund-raising effort successful. Employ full-time, qualified staff as needed, or start by hiring part-time consultants. Some of the staff positions might include grant writers, corporate and foundation specialists and specialists in individual giving. Identify influential community leaders, including your town's mayor, local members of Congress, corporate sponsors, business leaders, wealthy residents, alumni, friends and parents. Nurture these people and make them part of the fund-raising effort.

• Become familiar with fund-raising publications, including The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Education Grants Alert and Planned Giving Today. Access the Web site and become familiar with the services of the Foundation Center in New York City (www.fdncenter.org).

• Attend or host training classes and workshops on fund raising. Learn how to write a case statement that details your district's needs and priorities. Use the case statement as a basis for obtaining grants and gifts.

• Alert the local media about your fund-raising efforts. They can reach a broad audience faster and more efficiently than you can. The superintendent should become involved to the same extent presidents of colleges and universities do in their fund-raising campaigns.

Soliciting Individuals

There are three good reasons to apply for corporate and foundation funding at this time: Corporations and foundations are interested in forming partnerships and providing grants to public schools; most corporate and foundation funding agencies require an application of just one to 10 pages, which is far less burdensome than what the state and federal governments require; and most corporations and foundations fund more than once a year, providing opportunities to re-apply or go elsewhere with your application if you are turned down or have missed a deadline.

Individual solicitation of major gifts from entrepreneurs, business leaders and community members can become a significant source of external funding for the schools. Many people in communities across America are interested in making a gift to their local schools or alma maters. Once you learn the techniques of asking for the gift, you will be on your way to raising major dollars.

Three types of gifts can be solicited from individual constituents. These are annual campaign gifts, capital campaign gifts and planned giving gifts.

Annual campaigns are ongoing, yearly appeals that provide supplementary support. New donors are solicited each year and previous donors are courted to increase their contribution from year to year. Fund-raising approaches used in annual campaigns include phonathons, telethons, direct mail solicitations, e-mail solicitations, Web-based solicitations, auctions and public service announcements.

Capital campaigns have loftier goals than annual campaigns, and gift requests are set far higher. Time frames in capital campaigns are generally spread out beyond a given year, such as a three-year campaign to raise $5 million for a new gymnasium or a five-year campaign to establish a $20 million endowment fund. Capital campaigns make for good public relations in a community because the goals are tangible and the results are highly visible. Because capital campaigns require sophisticated planning and expertise, you should secure professional help to implement such a plan.

Planned giving refers to the process of making a charitable gift of cash or non-cash. The non-cash gift usually requires considerable planning in light of the donor's overall estate plan. Gifts of stock, bonds, shares in mutual funds, a home or farm property, vacant land, vacation or rental property, commercial property, life insurance and other non-cash gifts can be made to the schools.

Because of the size and potential impact of such gifts, a donor should be advised to consult with an attorney or tax professional before completing the process. Additionally, the school district should consult with their legal advisers concerning implementation of a planned giving program and develop policies to receive such gifts.

With superintendents providing leadership and direction, public school districts can indeed move into big-time fund raising. Opportunities to bring in significant amounts of grants and gifts are out there for the asking.

Stan Levenson, a fund-raising consultant, can be reached via E-mail: stanleylev@aol.com.
He is the author of How to Get Grants and Gifts for the Public Schools, published by Allyn & Bacon.

 

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