Education Foundations

Education Foundations

Foundations help fill funding gap 

Kentucky School Advocate
February 2019

By Brenna R. Kelly
Staff writer
The Foundation for Daviess County Public Schools held a black-tie fundraiser in July 2018 to honor Houston Hogg, an alumnus who was one of the first African-Americans to play football at UK. The sold-out event raised more than $40,000.
There’s never enough money for everything schools and districts want to provide for their students and teachers, and as budgets become tighter many Kentucky public school districts are finding help from education foundations.
 
The Foundation for Daviess County Public Schools held a black-tie fundraiser in July 2018 to honor
Houston Hogg, an alumnus who was one of the first African-Americans to play football at the
University of Kentucky. The sold-out event raised more than $40,000. (Photo provided by the
Foundation for Daviess County Public Schools) 

“It’s an incredible asset to the school district,” said Matt Robbins, superintendent of Daviess County Schools where the Foundation for Daviess County Public Schools provides teacher grants, summer learning programs, helps students become the first in their family to go to college and more. “Without question there are many things that would not have been achievable otherwise. We know that it’s had an impact on students’ lives.” 

A recent Kentucky School Boards Association survey of district finance officers showed that at least 47 of the 173 Kentucky schools districts have affiliated non-profit associations. And many more districts have considered or are considering forming one. 

Across the U.S., there are more than 6,500 school foundations in 14,500 school districts, according to the National School Foundation Association, which has 13 Kentucky public education foundations as members. 

And those numbers are increasing. School foundations are one of the fastest growing types of nonprofit organizations, according to Nonprofit Quarterly. 

In KSBA’s survey, several districts said they have considered or are considering forming one. Some, such as Shelby County and Marion County, have recently launched foundations. 

The Shelby County Education Foundation, which formed last year with a $20,000 donation from Citizens Union Bank, plans to fund scholarships, teacher needs and offer more opportunities for students. 

In Marion County, two board of education members created the Marion County Education Foundation, which launched last fall and will give out grants to teachers this spring. 

Board member Carrie Truitt, who has a background in non-profit fundraising, consulted with 10 school districts as she and fellow school board member Kaelin Reed, an attorney, worked to launch the foundation.

“We didn’t want to make any mistakes that someone had made before,” said Truitt, who is the foundation’s chairwoman. “We wanted to hit the ground running without having to experience any pitfalls.” 

They created sponsorship packages, presented them to the business community and signed several sponsors to four-year deals, she said. That enabled the foundation to fund grants for teachers who want to do something innovative in their classroom. 

When the first grants are awarded this spring, the foundation plans to make it a celebration in the classroom, something Truitt learned from Elizabethtown Independent’s foundation. 

“They had balloons and foundation board members, and we’re offering our sponsors the opportunity to come and visit the winning classrooms also,” she said. Truitt hopes the celebrations will help parents and the wider community learn about the foundation. 

Eventually the grants, which are competitive and screened by the district and a committee, will take the place or supplement the funds teachers had been getting from crowdfunding websites, she said. 

The foundation’s bylaws purposely required two school board members and the superintendent to make sure the foundation’s goals are aligned with the district’s, Truitt said.  

“The purpose of education foundations is to support the district, not directly and not in the way that taxpayers do, but indirectly,” she said. 
The Daviess County foundation used a donation from Specialty Foods Group to convert an old school bus into an Exploration Station which the foundation takes to neighborhoods to provide programs to combat the summer slide.
While the Shelby and Marion foundations are just getting started, many foundations such as the Foundation for Daviess County Public Schools have been helping schools and their students for years. 

Vickie Quisenberry has served as the foundation’s unpaid executive director for the last six years as the foundation has grown. 

This school year the foundation’s Giving Tuesday Campaign, which raised money for the district’s Family Resource and Youth Service Centers during the holidays, brought in $35,000, Quisenberry said. The goal was $25,000. 

“We’re starting to roll the snowball in the right direction,” she said. 

In addition to supporting the FRYSCs, the foundation awards teachers grants, funds summer learning programs and several other opportunities for students. 
 
The Daviess County foundation used a donation from Specialty Foods Group to convert an old school bus into an
Exploration Station which the foundation takes to neighborhoods to provide programs to combat the summer slide.
(Photo provided by the Foundation for Daviess County Public Schools)

The foundation converted an old school bus to create an Exploration Station now used for summer learning, virtual reality and other programs. Another program called Kids on Campus takes students who would be the first in their family to go to college on college visits. 

The foundation receives donations from the business community and from family foundations, accepts donations online and receives contributions from district employees who opt into a payroll deduction. The foundation also applies for grants from local community organizations. 

This past summer, the foundation held its biggest and highest grossing fundraiser, a black-tie event to honor alumnus Houston Hogg, one of the first African-American football players at the University of Kentucky. 

The Black and Blue Dinner was part of Hogg’s 50th class reunion and included a screening of a documentary about Hogg, and teammates Wilbur Hackett, Nate Northington and Greg Page. 

“It was one of those things where you have to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves,” Quisenberry said. 

The event netted more than $40,000 and was something that the district would never have been able to do on its own, Robbins said. 

In order to continue to grow the foundation, Robbins hopes the foundation will eventually be able to hire a full-time, paid executive director. 

“We know to go to the next level, that’s something we need,” he said. 

Even if district’s education foundation can’t be as large or active as Daviess, Robbins believes just having a 501 c(3) dedicated to supporting the district can be a big help. 

“That allows a private citizen or corporation to donate and often times they ask for that tax letter,” he said. “Even though it should be straight forward that they can give to us directly as a school district, the district doesn’t have the legal entity established for tax purposes.”
 
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