Economic Slump Equals More Demand for Fundraisers

By Michael Perlman, Ideaology Partners

A friend called over the weekend with an urgent request.  Her friend, a principal at a struggling K-8 charter school, wondered if I could connect them to someone who could do an emergency fundraiser to keep the school from closing its doors.

You too may get some big and bold requests for fundraisers in the coming year.

In September of this year, schools will lose $100 billion in federal funding that was provided as part of the $814 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed in 2009, according to a recent article in The Huffington Post.  The bulk went to save the jobs of teachers and other school employees, as state and local revenue dried up during the prolonged economic downturn.

With the loss of stimulus funding and other state budget challenges, schools are anticipating severe cuts across the board. According to a March report from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, at least 21 states have proposed cutting spending on K-12 education for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.  That's in addition to at least 34 states that already have made cuts since the recession began.

Obvious cuts – such as programs in art, music, and physical education, as well as extracurricular and sports programaren’t enough to stem the shortage of state and federal funds: 

·         Texas is facing an estimated $27 billion, two-year budget shortfall that could cost as many as 65,000 school employees their jobs


·         Over the past two years, California has cut general fund spending for K-12 schools by more than $9 billion; the recession has cost the jobs of 30,000 teachers and 10,000 support staff


·         In Detroit, the school district has been told by the state to shutter half of its schools to close a $347 million deficit, leading the state to raise the ceiling for class sizes to 62 students


·         Philadelphia faces a $629 million deficit and will have to eliminate 3,800 teaches and end full-day kindergarten, among other reductions, just to make ends meet


·         Florida legislators approved a budget that will cut education spending by about $540 per student; the Florida Education Association is estimating about 20,000 teacher layoffs, increased class sizes, older text books and fewer course offerings as a result

With few options available at the local level, many parent groups and schools are relying on fundraising to bridge the gap so that they can keep everything from extracurricular programs, class offerings and even teachers and teacher’s aides. One ambitious community in Washington state mounted a district-wide, full-year fundraising campaign to raise $550,000 using every method possible, succeeding in raising $338,000 so far.

This demand for our services should bolster the fundraising industry. But it also means that we have to bring our “A” game to every fundraiser. And perhaps look for ways to extend beyond the normal school-wide fundraiser to help raise more money and help parent groups close bigger and bigger gaps.

Michael Perlman is Director of Operations for Ideaology Partners, a company devoted to bringing new ideas to fundraising.  He previously headed operations for the K-8 division of Varsity Gold and has nearly 10 years of experience in the fundraising industry.

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