Administrator Magazine: Budget/Finance
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4 Innovative Ways to Generate Money for Your District

Sometimes, a school just happens to be in the right place at the right time. Vernon Hills High School was built in 1999 in a beautiful business park in Illinois that is home to corporations including CDW, American Hotel, and Rust-Oleum. CDW, a computer and technology company, gave $80,000 for scoreboards. Rust-Oleum approached the school and asked to contribute $100,000 for the right to have the company's name on the school's athletic field for 20 years.

And the perks don't stop with those two. "We are so fortunate to be in this area," says VHHS Principal Ellen Cwick. "American Hotel Corporation allows us the use of 29 of their acres-at a dollar a year-until they build on it. These companies and our Career Advisory Council meet four times a year to discuss a number of topics, including setting up internships. We are able to have a gorgeous facility, and we're proud of the partnerships we have."

The school district of Newburyport, Massachusetts, is the beneficiary of the nonprofit Newburyport Education Foundation (NEF), a small group that has been chartered to offset the financial pressures from rising operating costs, technology needs, and special education. Its goal is to raise funds for district programs that might not get money from the federal government.

NEF's Make Your Mark program raises funds through the granting of naming rights of classrooms, offices, and other areas of the high school. Opportunities range in price from $3,000 to $100,000 and are noted by a handsome plaque prominently displayed outside the room.

According to NEF executive director Christin Walth, other communities are initiating similar projects. She adds that while many small school districts move into a regional district, Newburyport is able to retain its independence to pursue a variety of quality programs. Supplementing the foundation's efforts is the Newburyport Education Business Coalition, Inc., a grant program for educators that is supported by local businesses to strengthen the relationship between them and schools in the community.

Three banks in the area have made generous donations, including a pledge of $10,000 a year for 10 years for science and technology initiatives.

New York City-based not-for-profit web site DonorsChoose matches needs with resources that public schools may not be able to provide. Teachers submit project proposals for materials or even for experiences that enable students to learn. Needs are fulfilled as interested individuals, referred to as citizen philanthropists, select projects to fund.

Typical proposals run from $200 to institute Magical Math Centers to $1,100 for a project titled Cooking Across the Curriculum. As of March 2006, more than $5.8 million has been donated to 342,402 students in need.

The Department of Education in New York City sought an initiative to engage alumni of public schools who want to give back to their alma maters. The department, which could not easily handle donations of less than about $100,000 and did not want to turn down smaller gifts, will launch a co-branded web site this September with DonorsChoose, which is able to funnel smaller donations to designated recipients.

As the first nonprofit in this area to use e-procurement technology, DonorsChoose acquires products and services and delivers them. Two goals are met: The teacher is not burdened with the task, and complete accountability can be established.

Now operating in areas as diverse as North and South Carolina, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and New York, the organization plans to serve every U.S. public school with support from expansion funders and corporate sponsors.  


In a more traditional giving structure, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation (MSDF), which is based in Austin, Texas, has committed a $2 million grant over four years to the University of Chicago Center for Urban School Improvement (USI). The grant is slated to create and provide professional development and other supports to a network of 12 elementary schools and nine partnership schools on the South Side of Chicago. Other funders include the Gates Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation.

This support of school leaders is one part of Mayor Richard M. Daley's Renaissance 2010 initiative to close underperforming schools and create 100 new elementary and high schools, two of which are up and running. The immediate goal is five charter schools (PreK-8) and a new charter high school next year.

As well as functioning as leadership coaches to principals and fostering informal networking, USI staff members run summer forums. MSDF, endowed at $1.2 billion, currently has 150 active grants. Among key initiatives of the foundation is New Leaders for New Schools, with a focus on partnering with new educational leaders in Chicago; Oakland, California; and New York.

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