Fairburn Elementary: A Collaborative Community Effort to Overcome Financial Challenges

Funding for public schools has historically been a debated subject, and in the current economic atmosphere, improvements in the financial situation of public schools seem unlikely. As many as 40 states cope with budget shortfalls, which threaten America’s 14,000 school districts. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 allocated an $814 billion stimulus package for public K-12 schools, leaving the responsibility for how to distribute funds in the hands of each state.  In most cases, funding was used to save the jobs of teachers and other school employees. However, funds are drying up, and most state budgets have not created a revenue stream to replace this emergency bail out. The result is the further deterioration of an already crippled system in which services and jobs are at stake and thus, the quality of education as a whole. (Article references below)

Overcoming the Challenges

One community witnessed this debacle and decided to take matters into their own hands rather than wait for government funding to save the day. Fairburn Avenue Elementary School is located in a culturally and economically diverse community in Los Angeles. They recently faced losing their library and gym teacher. The students, parents, and teachers banded together for a successful walk-a-thon fundraiser and were able to avoid the loss!

Here’s their story…

Kelly & Emma at the Walk for Education 2011

Fairburn Elementary has not only a P.T.A. organization, but a specific committee for fundraising as well. Kelly Aluise is one of the coordinators of the group and she, along with Mei Lani Poindexter and Carrie Haber, organized the second annual walk-a-thon in partnership with DoJiggy.
“Our active supporters tend to be a small community of the same parents. Using a fundraising website this year really helped generate a greater pool of support,” she states. “The thing that REALLY helped was creating the increased potential for soliciting donors through an online presence. The kids were able to reach out to friends and family from all over the world! It really created a lot of excitement and motivation.”

In addition to online fundraising, some Fairburn students even got creative by manifesting small enterprise ideas to bolster their fundraising activity. For instance, creating baked goods or craft items to sell with the proceeds going to their personal pledge page as a donation. Although there were many incentives for individual and class efforts in fundraising, the committee decided to concentrate on the quantity of donations raised by each student rather than a mere dollar amount.

Another successful tactic that Fairburn implemented was to show 4th and 5th graders how to manage their personal fundraising page as part of a computer lab. Although the school cannot allow the students to create their fundraising page in class for liability reasons, the instructive support was integral in motivating the students to take responsibility for their own fundraising efforts. Communication between the fundraising committee and the parents was an important benefit, fostered by the easy email management system embedded in the walk-a-thon software system.  Often schools face security concerns regarding students putting their names and photos on a website. Through the open communication channels, the committee addressed this by suggesting using initials rather than full last names, and photos of a pet or favorite character of the child rather than a personal photo. The response was very positive.

Fairburn also had community support from small and corporate local businesses. Donations from places like Whole Foods, as well as volunteer support from parents and teachers meant that the event had no cost. Through these tactics and DoJiggy online fundraising software, Fairburn raised over $20,000, increased participation significantly, and saved their library and sports program!

Summary

Fairburn Elementary has proven by example that economic crisis and restricted funding for public schools does not mean families have to accept sub-standard educational environments for their children. In addition to raising more than $20,000 from the annual walk-a-thon, Fairburn has a pledge drive that this year generated over $230,000 and boasted 98% participation from the families. They also have an online auction that raised $70,000 as well as student events such as the Spring Fling and Valentine’s Day Dance.

Learn more about how you can participate in Fairburn Elementary School’s Fundraising initiatives at http://www.fairburnschool.org/.  Visit http://www.DoJiggy.com, for information about utilizing online fundraising software to manage your walk-a-thon, charity auction or other fundraising event.

References:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/06/education-budget-cuts_n_845620.html

http://articles.cnn.com/2011-02-17/us/education.funding.crisis_1_teachers-unions-budget-funding-public-education?_s=PM:US

http://www.publiceducation.org/pdf/Publications/Public_Engagement/Taking_Responsibility.pdf