Monday November 19, 2012

Fundraising.

Just the mere word brings a whole lot of emotions.

Pressure: When is the deadline? What is the item that is being sold? What sort of gifts do they win if they get to what amount, and what is the amount? What sort of disappointment is there if we don’t reach that goal?

Annoyance: What are the kids supposed to do? To whom should they try to sell? What role should I play in this, and how much should I help them?

Happiness: The kids are learning that nothing in life is free, and that they have to work for it. They are excited about doing their part.

Enthusiasm: Where are they going? What are they doing with this money?

I have also watched some friends pour their heart and soul - and much of their own personal time - into leading the various fundraisers. One friend spent nearly an entire school year hawking water bottles for the winter sports program. Through many different appeals, the full amount needed for January and February’s activities was finally reached - just before school got out and next year’s fundraising needed to begin.

Fundraising. Like I said, there are lots of feelings wrapped around this word.

Around five years ago, my friend Ellen Capy and I were discussing the good that the fundraising does, and agreed that it was really important for kids’ overall development. We two former Midwesterners particularly liked the Vermont tradition of "winter sports programs."

Throughout our school district, the winter sports programs are slightly different. Some have just older elementary kids participate for more weeks. Some send all kids, but for less time. Some have it some years and not others. Some focus on only outdoor - "true winter" - activities. Some include a few indoor options.

The main idea remains the same: Expose the children to a sport that will encourage them to be active and fit - and hopefully enjoy doing it outside.

By the way, the biggest "bang for your buck" out of the winter sports is downhill skiing and snowboarding. Mount Snow offers a fantastic deal for schools, charging only about $40 for five weeks of lifts, rentals and lessons. (If kids were to do this on their own, it could easily cost around $800.)

The way the winter sports programs are paid for also varies. But nearly all of us in the district are paying for the activities through fundraising, with it being outside of the actual budget.

Ellen and I did some quick calculations, and realized that about $15,000 would cover the three Brattleboro town elementary schools.

Now, $15,000 is a huge number ... and a small number. It’s one whopping donation from one person. It’s two donations of $7,500. It’s 15 donations of $1,000 each. It’s 375 parents paying $40 each.

Or, I noted, it’s about what seems to roll into a nonprofit’s budget that I work with: about $12,500 was coming in from interest each year on an investment of about $300,000.

Suddenly, Ellen and I had a new mission: Create the Brattleboro School Endowment.

In the past few years, the Brattleboro School Endowment has passed its first steps:

-- Creating a board that represents the three schools (thank you to Jonathan Secrest, Deb Cook, Mark Truhan and Tracey John for all stepping up to the task);

-- Getting approval from the town school board;

-- Creating the appropriate legal documents (thank you Jonathan Secrest)

-- Securing an investment advisor (thank you Prentice Smith)

-- Finding web designer and web host (thank you Iris Lines)

-- Finding an accountant (thank you Pieciak & Company)

Now, we come to the harder part, the part that I, at least, didn’t really think through that well: Once you create an endowment, it has to be funded.

Like I said, this term "fundraising" evokes a lot of different feelings.

Our hope for the endowment is to receive larger gifts through bequests, or outright donations. At the same time, we also want people to know we’re here - and EVERY donation counts!

So, this fall, we have two events:

Bruegger’s will host a fundraiser at its Canal Street location all weekend after Thanksgiving. For every purchase that has a coupon accompanying it, the Brattleboro School Endowment gets 15 percent of the sale. Easy - and good for a local businesses, too!

The second is the BIG Holiday Toy Sale on December 1st, to be held at Academy School. For $20, anyone can buy space to sell your toys. Clear out some space in your house - get money for yourself and help out the endowment, all in one fell swoop.

Remember, the Bruegger’s fundraiser requires that you take in the coupon - which is on the website: www.brattleboroschoolendowment.org. It will run on Friday, Nov. 23; Saturday, Nov. 24; and Sunday, Nov. 25.

Fundraising. Sigh.

It’s the word that never seems to go away!

Jill Stahl Tyler is a parent to three children involved in the local schools. She firmly believes in all education, and currently sits on the board for the Brattleboro School Endowment and the Brattleboro Town School Board (elementary schools).