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VOL. 37 | NO. 41 | Friday, October 11, 2013

Fundraising is indispensable tool for schools

By Hollie Deese

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No school is immune to lack of funds. Public, magnet, charter, private and parochial schools need extra cash.

Any money that comes in, either through government funding or tuition payments, must be spread very thinly to cover operational budgets.

That leaves it up to the schools to find additional sources of revenue to fund extras like library books, computers and technology upgrades, or even pay for necessities such as ink and paper for the copy machines.

“We are not a Title I school, so for every student in Metro, the principal gets $50 per student, per year,” says Sue Clark, principal at the Spanish immersion Glendale Elementary School. “And then out of that about $14 goes to a library book. Then art, music, and PE get a cut out of that.

“Some of the time you get down to the nitty-gritty, and the principal gets about $36 per year, per student. And that is to pay for all those extras. Really, most people use that money to pay for paper.”

Title I schools are considered at greater risk due to poverty. The federally funded Title I, Part A Program is to help local school districts improve teaching and learning for those students in order to meet the state’s performance standards. Tennessee must give priority to those districts that have schools that are determined to be “persistently lowest achieving,” and that demonstrate the greatest need for funding through the No Child Left Behind Act.

Metro Nashville Public Schools has a policy that “fundraising in school shall serve to provide goods and services that supplement the educational, curricular and extra-curricular objectives of the school.”

Depending on fundraising for your operational budget? Not allowed.

The PTO advantage

Clark is lucky in that her Parent Teacher Organization supplies the school’s paper so she is able to buy the extras needed, like teaching games, materials and supplies.

And just how can the PTO afford all that paper? Fundraising, of course.

Leslie Feray, a parent volunteer at Ellis Middle School in Hendersonville, says the school depends on two big fundraisers to fund its annual budget – selling City Saver books in the fall and hosting the Cougar Classic soccer tournament in the spring that takes advantage of the school’s unique domed gym.

“We put together a budget each year that has some things that are always the same, but then we also sit down with the principal each spring and summer and figure out some things that are specific for the year that we want to do,” she says. “I would say close to half of our budget, if not more of our investment last year, was in technology. Our district provides some, but not nearly enough.”

A look at the Ellis PTO’s budget for July 2013-June 2014 shows how much of an impact the organization has on the advancement of the school. The PTO’s total income through those two fundraising events, plus indirect income from Box Tops, Kroger and Publix, is $92,225 this year.

“This year, technology is our biggest line item in our budget,” Feray says. “In the spring we have our eyes on a new gym floor.”

Service, not sales at USN

Some schools simply stay away from selling merchandise all together.

“We do very little of that - almost none,” says Anne Westfall, director of development at the University School of Nashville. “Kids in clubs are allowed to do fundraisers like a bake sale, or they can have a car wash, or they can sell their services. But they don’t sell popcorn or cookie dough or things like that. No product.”

Not only does the private school want to avoid parents being inundated with sales, the school also doesn’t want an outside company getting most of the profits. Plus, the hope is the kids will respect the hard work that comes with earning money.

“The kids are going to learn a lot more if they put in the hard work as opposed to carrying around an order form,” Westfall says.

While USN students don’t sell items door-to-door, an annual fall used book sale recently made $14,000 for the school, with unsold books going to other organizations in the community.

Evening classes for adults held at the school earns money for scholarships, and the schools best-known event, the upcoming annual art show, Artclectic, supports an endowment fund for innovative teaching.

“Independent schools like ours have to raise dollars every year to help meet the operating budget,” Westfall says. “The portion that tuition doesn’t cover is made up through philanthropic contributions.”

There’s no denying that fundraising is a necessary evil for schools, but it can also bring a stronger sense of community throughout as well.

Next fall USN anticipates some of their biggest fundraising efforts ever as the school celebrates its 100th year.

“All of those fundraisers are really important each year in order to create community, and during the Centennial there will be significant opportunities for celebration,” Westfall says.

“And we will have a couple of new features to bring people back to the school.”