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SCHOOL FUNDRAISING GOES CORPORATE

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by Barbra Williams Cosentino, R.N., C.S.W.

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Your school has just finished another year of bake sales, spaghetti fundraising dinners, candy sales and perhaps a door-to-door canvassing effort which garnered some money from the local bank and donations from a few shopkeepers in the community. Several generous parents have donated money; others have gotten their employers to make small matching grants. You've even managed to get some gently used computers from one of your Parent Association members who works for a large technical firm.

Now what? You need software, new materials for the science lab, new audio-visual equipment. There just isn't enough money, and your fundraising efforts bring in only small amounts of cash and donations-in-kind. How do you parlay this small-time fundraising into the megabucks necessary to significantly help make your school a technology-rich, "learning space of tomorrow"? How do you "go national" to land a serious, multi-year grant from a corporation or foundation?

Finding corporate sources

"The impact and availability of dollars to fund school technology programs are far reaching and profound," claim the sponsors of a recent strategic conference for K-12 school leaders held in San Diego. Entitled 'Grants & Funding for School Technology: Proven Strategies for Capturing Your Piece of the $30 Billion Pie', the conference brought together PTA presidents and school leaders, fundraising superstars from around the country, and grant administrators from the nation's most important foundations and corporations. Conference speakers reiterated the pervading theme, delineated in the conference brochure, which stated, "While 'who you know' is vital to successful fundraising, what you do with who you know is essential, too... Today's savvy grant seeker recognizes the need to collaborate, to capitalize on already developed partnerships and to build productive relationships with them."

Related information can be found in the recently published book, "How to Give Your Child an Excellent Public School Education", written by Susan Mansell, a New York City mom who has been both a PTA president and the head of the Technology Committee at P.S. 75 in Manhattan. Mansell suggests making a list of corporations in your area, then writing to the directors of corporate support to request their annual report, contribution policies and programs, and a list of whom they funded last year. Studying the corporation's mission statement should give fundseekers some useful information; proposals for funding should be worded to reflect the philosophy and goals of that particular corporation and should tap into their areas of interest and expertise, such as media for Time Warner or computer software for Microsoft.

Mansell also suggests surveying the parent body of your school to find out if any parents are employed by corporations who have matching grant programs. Her book includes a list of companies which give to public schools, such as Readers Digest Association, Sony Electronics and the Prudential Insurance Company, and lists numerous resources for schools seeking corporate support.

The Internet provides easy access to the Websites of numerous private foundations, large corporations and other sources of funds for public education. The Carnegie Newsline (www.carnegie.org/newsline/html) lists educational grants, such as $24,700 awarded recently by the United Way of America to "improve the quality and financial stability of the 'Success By Six' early childhood program." Another resource is The Foundation Center, at http://fdn.center.org/html. Although these grants and corporate donations are not necessarily given to individual school districts, the policies and programs implemented with the funds trickle down to the community level and ultimately the schools benefit from them.

Which corporations offer funding?

Which corporations provide supplemental funds to public schools? One is the Gap Foundation, whose two major focus areas for donations include Youth & Business and their HIV/AIDS Prevention & Education programs. The former utilizes classroom training and hands-on experience to help low-income young people redefine their futures through exposure to the world of business. The latter programs, many of which are classroom-based, focus on preventing the spread of HIV among under-served and at-risk 14- to 21-year-olds.

Chevron provides funds for K-12 school reform, parental involvement initiatives, and community collaboration, along with free curriculum materials and teacher training. Nearly 50 percent of their annual $19 million in contributions goes to educational institutions and programming to support educational excellence. Chevron also funds programs for at-risk students who need intensive, accelerated instruction to compete with their more advantaged peers.

Pfizer's Education Initiative, now in its sixth year, promotes high-quality, innovative science and math education, and reaches some 21,000 students, mostly of middle school age, worldwide, as well as more than 500 science and math teachers. Pfizer has also funded more than 10 new state-of-the-art science labs at schools around the country, including Rice High School in Harlem.

Several U.S. corporations, including Dunkin Donuts, Duracell and Sunoco, participate in A+ America Technology for Schools, which allows parents to earn points which their children's public or private K-12 schools can then redeem for computers and hardware. IBM and Hewlett Packard are major corporate donors which provide funds to support and strengthen math, science and technology educational programming. Last year alone, Hewlett Packard gave $64.8 million in cash and equipment to nonprofit and educational institutions worldwide; 67 percent of this was allocated for programs involved in improving the educational system.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN QUEENS

Here in Queens, many educational institutions have benefited from the largesse of corporate donations. P.S. 99 in Kew Gardens is only one of numerous schools in Queens participating in General Mills' Boxtops for Education program, which was developed in 1996. In this program, students and their families collect boxtops from General Mills products and send them to the company, which then sends a check to the principal (who may use the funds to purchase needed equipment or to fund additional school programs).

Schools in District 29 in southeast Queens have received special grants from Bell Atlantic to fund science projects and for the purchase of equipment for science/technology labs.

When a flood wiped out the music department of I.S. 59 in Springfield Gardens, Time Warner/VH 1, in conjunction with the Save the Music Campaign, made a generous donation to replace all the instruments that were damaged. (A nationwide survey of schools by The Instrumentalist, a music-industry trade journal, found that half of all money for school music programs comes from outside fundraising; corporations are helping to ease the financial burden by getting involved in school arts education programs, donating materials, sponsoring educational performances and awarding grants and scholarships).

P.S. 144 in Forest Hills, whose annual Global Walk is one of their most successful fundraisers, received a $6,000 matching grant from Sy Sims, the clothing magnate. The school, also known as the Global Magnet School of Telecommunications, is one of several in Queens which participates in the AT&T Learning Points program, in which parents earn points for every long distance call they make. These points can then be used to select computers, accessories, software and other needed technology equipment. Recently, the Parents Association at P.S. 144 was able to purchase two printers and computer hardware with money earned from this program. Susan Bahaloul, the school's interim acting principal, says: "We are so grateful for the money we receive from corporations which sponsor programs such as this one. Their funding enables us to enrich our children's education by purchasing technologically sophisticated equipment that we might otherwise not be able to afford."

In the coming year, the U.S. Department of Education will dole out nearly $800 million in grants for school technology through programs like Technology Innovation Challenge Grants and 21st Century Community Learning Centers. Although Federal funding is critically important, it is only one available funding source for programs supporting educational excellence and technological learning.

A checklist for fundraising planningSchools fundraising expert Susan Mansell, former PTA president at P.S. 75 and currently head of the school's Technology Committee, offers some thoughts:

Parent groups must choose which types of fund-raisers they want to concentrate on. These choices are based on such factors as: the time of year, the income level of the school population, and the amount of money that is needed. The following questionnaire is useful for parent organizations when they are deciding what fund-raisers to put on in any given year. These questions will help the PTA make appropriate choices and can prove invaluable to the success or failure of overall fund-raising for the year.

1. How much money does the school need to raise this year?

2. How many volunteers are available and what kind of help can they provide?

3. What kinds of fund-raisers have been successful in the past at the school?

4. How many fund-raisers can the school realistically support in one year?

5. Should there be many little fund-raisers or one large one for this school year?

6. What is the best time of year to schedule each fund-raiser?

7. Are there enough people willing to be in charge of each event?

8. Are the parents willing to experiment with a new type of fund-raiser or do they prefer sticking with known successful methods?

9. Does the school want to involve the outside community in raising money for the school?

10. Is there a committee for writing grant proposals?Excerpted with permission from "How To Give Your Child An Excellent Public School Education", by Susan Mansell (Citadel Press, $12.95).


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