What it takes to have a successful foundation
Kentucky School Advocate
By Brenna R. Kelly
Some education foundations thrive and some flounder. What’s the difference? Superintendents, board members and foundation leaders all have the same answer – people.
“It is a tremendous amount of work, so you’re best served if you can find some people that have the skills, talent and ability, as well as time,” said Daviess County Superintendent Matt Robbins, who serves on his district’s foundation board.
Marion County school board member Carrie Truitt, who consulted with 10 school district foundations while launching Marion’s foundation, said she learned that a motivated leader is vital to a foundation’s success.
“It’s important to have a driver, someone to keep it moving forward,” she said. “It’s really all about the people who are behind it and making it happen, you have to have a good mission and good focus, but if you don’t have people to drive that focus forward, then chances are it’s going to falter.”
Especially when starting from scratch, someone has to make the foundation their mission, she said.
“You have to have somebody who is willing to put this on their plate,” said Truitt, who is in her third year on the school board. “Everybody’s plates are incredibly full and when you are starting a foundation there’s no way you’re going to have enough money to have a staff.”
Having a non-profit professional lead an education foundation would be ideal, though few can afford that expense, said Vickie Quisenberry, executive director of the Foundation for Daviess County Public Schools.
“I’m just a parent with a passion for helping kids,” she said. “There’s a reason there are non-profit professionals, there are a lot of things I wish I had known when I first got started.”
Quisenberry also advised new foundations to identify the skill sets needed on the board, such as a CPA, an attorney and someone in public relations, then go out and recruit those people. Also, look for leaders, she said.
“Warm bodies just don’t cut it anymore,” Quisenberry said. “You’ve got to have a strong, solid board made up of people who can make a difference.”
Quisenberry, Robbins and Truitt also recommend that the superintendent endorse the foundation’s efforts and be included on the board along with one or two school board members.
“You want to make sure the foundation is working in lockstep with the district,” Robbins said, “and the things they are going after fit the goals, mission and objectives of the school district.”
Serving on a foundation board is also a good opportunity for someone who can’t be a school board member because of a family member’s employment with the district.
“It’s another way to engage members of your community,” he said. “A lot of people may not want to be school board members, but this gives them an opportunity to engage in a different way and still be advocates in the community for the school district.”