Everyone knows the importance of school fundraisers. Like many teachers will tell you, schools are underfunded, and there is simply no way the money disbursed to schools can be enough to help students learn the way they are supposed to. Without the necessary resources to support student learning, the students’ ability to compete for jobs and achieve independence is placed in serious jeopardy.
Parents, teachers, and community members have to chip in to help fundraise for school supplies, electronic devices, playground equipment, books, and other school projects. This is far from an ideal situation, but it is the reality we have to face. Some schools are fortunate enough to be able to rely on donations from parents while others must find external sources for their fundraising efforts.
As a superintendent, it is part of your job to ensure equitable opportunities for all students regardless of economic status. In this post, we’ll explore some common fundraising challenges and how superintendents and other stakeholders can address them.
The issue of schools in poorer backgrounds
Schools from less privileged backgrounds are disadvantaged in many ways. While the parents and other well-wishers can fundraise to help cover some of the school expenses, the amounts raised are usually never enough. Additionally, the money raised is mostly used to purchase items that parents in other schools can easily provide, e.g., food and health services. Granted, schools in more impoverished communities receive more funds and grants from their boards and government. However, there are usually limits on how fundraised dollars and grants can be spent.
How can this issue be addressed? Allowing schools to use the money raised by donors and fundraisers on school enhancements can go a long way toward bridging the gaps in a way that makes sense for each school’s needs.
Some parents may feel detached
One benefit of fundraising is that it helps all students in the school, not necessarily those whose parents contributed. However, parents who lack the time, skills, or resources to contribute may be disengaged. They may feel what they can offer, for instance, volunteering, is not appreciated by the school. Children of such parents are usually unable to afford things like school trips, extra-curricular activities, and/or student activity fees. They may suffer from the stigmatization of having to rely on the school to cover such expenses.
Solution? School districts can have parents involved in the process of deciding how fundraising dollars should be spent to ensure an equitable distribution of resources in schools.
Lack of systemized crowdfunding platforms
We may not want to accept it, but school fundraisers are part of our reality. However, parents and other donors would like the convenience of being able to donate online. Sadly, not all schools have this capability with their fundraising efforts. Without a system in place, fundraising becomes the Wild West, and people usually have no idea where their money is going. Additionally, several fundraising platforms have sometimes run campaigns that posed legal and reputational issues for the school/school district despite going through the necessary screening process.
How can this be solved? By introducing a district-approved system and platform that safeguards everyone involved. A set of guidelines and systems supported by the district should be rolled out and integrated with principal/district approval to ensure that it is first approved by the principal and school district before a teacher initiates a fundraising campaign. Fundraised dollars should also be linked with the school's bookkeeping system as well as the donor database. This would make it easier to track and report every fundraising campaign.
Lack of a supportive environment for school fundraising
Fundraising comes with its set of financial record challenges because it deals with huge amounts of money and valuable items. In some instances, money raised through crowdfunding campaigns is not properly recorded or deposited, which goes against the recordkeeping compliance laws.
The easiest way to solve this would be to ban crowdfunding sites. However, this would overlook the multiple benefits of fundraising for schools. Therefore, school districts must be on top of their crowdfunding procedures, guidelines, and policies. This involves carefully scrutinizing all crowdfunding platforms and only working with those that allow the district to oversee the fundraising process. The platforms should have built-in tools for parents, teachers, clubs, and organizations, among others. This would allow the district to track the donations, equitably distribute the funds, and enable easier donor management.
These tools are some of the many reasons why many school districts choose to work with LeanStream.
Teachers should be barred from fundraising on behalf of the school or the teacher’s classroom where there are potentially significant legal and reputational ramifications for the school and school district.
School districts should formulate policies that require donations to be considered school/district property and be paid directly to the school and not any representative. Donations should never go to an individual employee to preempt financial record challenges. A school or district-level platform can help ensure the funds are distributed in a way that complies with any applicable laws and policies.
Fundraising for schools continues to rise in popularity as parents, teachers, and well-wishers pool resources to help their schools meet the financial deficit occasioned by an underfunded education sector. However, complex issues may arise that pose legal and reputational challenges for the school and school districts involved. This is exactly why superintendents and policymakers need to put measures in place that address these specific issues and concerns.
Districts need to be updated on the ever-changing legal landscape and best practices. Additionally, they should be looking out for new legislation, which will inevitably be enacted moving forward as fundraising becomes a major source of school funding. This will safeguard everyone involved and ensure the funds raised go to their intended purpose.