Public schools in the United States are faced with all kinds of funding challenges. Many are seeking creative ways to harness community support and increase funding availability, especially to fund "non-core" areas such as arts, in-service professional and paraprofessional training, athletics, and capital expenditures.
Over the last 20 years or so, about one-fourth of America's 16,000 school districts have established some form of endowment or private foundation (either district-wide or school-specific) to supplement other school revenue to meet identified needs and expand opportunities for students and teachers.
Rarely have I found a book on a specialized subject as accessible and easy to use as Creating Foundations for American Schools. The book's authors take the reader through the process of conceptualizing, developing, and implementing a public school foundation, often using a plausible question-and-answer format to communicate concepts and steps in an almost conversational way.
The book assumes that the reader is an individual who is interested in starting a public school foundation — a teacher, administrator, PTA or school board member. Two excellent points are made early in the book. First, it doesn't take a lot of money to make a real impact in a school district — $10 or $20 per student can translate into some very useful, innovative, and change-provoking projects. Second, it's not necessary to "front-load" a school foundation with lots of money in order to generate a trickle of grant awards. The enthusiasm of the anticipated reader is matched and bolstered by the authors' enthusiasm for the subject.
Creating Foundations for American Schools also addresses the issue of existing foundations that have lost momentum or otherwise failed to meet expectations. One of the real keys to success is building and maintaining interest and momentum behind the foundation and its mission. The importance of coordinating foundation activities with alumni associations and other school-based fundraising is discussed as well.
The appendices include a wealth of forms, checklists, sample letters, etc., to use in the foundation-building process, and Appendix E — an annual survey of state laws governing charitable solicitation, complete with contact information for each state's regulators — was a pleasant surprise.
This is a well-executed book on a timely subject that deserves to be used — and not just put on the shelf — wherever public school foundations are in place or contemplated.
For citations to additional literature on this topic, refer to Literature of the Nonprofit Sector Online, using the subject headings "Education" or "Education finance."