Local Education Foundations: Unrealized Fundraising Potential

Sections of this topic

    There’s a phenomenon in our communities public or local education foundations (PEFs or LEFs) that have been created/designed with political agendas the politics of education, and the politics of inclusion.

    People in communities all over the country, espousing one educational philosophy or another, are working to influence their school boards and local political structures to improve/change their public education systems; but, because of a narrow focus, they are missing out on a major opportunity.

    Many of these EFs, have been highly effective in sensitizing Boards of Educations and Public School Administrators to the different components and needs of the various segments of their constituencies — ethnic, religious, national origin and linguistic. And, of course, the way change is encouraged is through vocal exhortations directed at local and state political figures.

    This method of social activism has resulted in modifying courses of study, adding new subjects and subject material, and increasing mutual awareness and respect among diverse segments of our communities.

    It is, however, not my intention to comment upon or evaluate the performance of these organizations, but to suggest a way that they could have a greater impact on the quality of education in their communities.

    Many of these EFs, no matter what they are called, are non-profit corporations that are eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions, but are not raising anywhere near the dollars that can be raised.

    As examples of what can be done, there are a number of public high schools in New York City whose alumni bodies have created foundations that raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for everything from textbook replacement to construction of robotics laboratories and computerized language learning centers.

    To be successful in the fundraising process, and the above examples didn’t happen with book sales, cakes sales, dinners or other special events, takes a different focus than for the social activism — not that they are mutually exclusive.

    To get corporations to fund reading programs, to get foundations to fund college preparation courses, to get wealthy individuals to support equipment purchase, to get senior citizens to bequeath their homes to those EFs — to get anyone to give major bucks to supplement public education, you need Board Members who are networked into those (potential) constituencies.

    You need leaders who are committed to the fundraising process, and who are willing to take the time to plan for and execute (individual, corporate and foundation) major gift solicitations — who are willing to give of their own resources and get others to do the same.

    Only through such a program, with such committed people, can major gifts be secured for public schools. Only through networking, through personal connections, can this happen.

    Don’t assume that just anyone can successfully ask for the big gifts. As with all skills/talents, not everyone is good at everything.

    For your organization to be effective, it must have a cadre of volunteers who can help advance the fundraising agenda. They must be trained in the workings of a non-profit corporation and its fundraising procedures. They must understand their roles and responsibilities. And, they must passionately believe in the mission of the corporation.

    Have a comment or a question about starting, evaluating or expanding your fundraising program? With over 30 years of counseling in major gifts, capital campaigns, bequest programs and the planning studies to precede these three, I’ll be pleased to answer your questions. Contact me at AskHank@Major-Capital-Giving.com


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