How Does Your Education Foundation Measure Up?

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1 How Does Your Education Foundation Measure Up? Bill Hoffman

2 Education Foundations have been around for over 30 years; some are well established while others are just starting. Whether your education foundation is established or still developing, a question for board and staff leaders is How does my education foundation measure up? While there are numerous feel good programs, scholarships, grants, etc. being funded by education foundations, just how effective is the impact on the local schools? Here is a way to see how you measure up and some thoughts on improving your scores over time. So, grab a No. 2 pencil and let s see how you do on this quiz. Think about your education foundation over the last couple of years and let s see how you rate. 1. How many paid staff work for your foundation? a. 0 1 point b. 1 part time 2 points c. 1 full time on foundation work 3 points d. 2-3 full time 4 points e. 4 or more full time 5 points 2. Does your Foundation have a website? a. Not yet 1 point b. Only as a section on the district s website 2 points c. Yes, got our website and unique address! 3 points d. Got it and it s linked on the district s home page; it s 4 points updated weekly and can receive donations. e. Got d, & social networks (e.g. Twitter, Facebook) 5 points 3. Does your Foundation put out a newsletter regularly? a. Not yet 1 point b. Have a newsletter, but it s not monthly yet 2 points c. Monthly newsletter going out electronically! 3 points d. We send the newsletter to all district personnel 4 points e. All district personnel plus at least 2,000 community 5 points members, alumni; we re always gathering addresses 4. Do you have a strategic plan with written, measurable goals and time frames? a. No written plan, but some ideas 1 point b. Written plan more than 2 years old 2 points c. Current plan, goals aren t really measurable 3 points d. Curent written plan with measureable goals 4 points e. Annual update on plan in d. 5 points How Does Your Foundation Measure Up? Page 1

3 5. How many board members are owners or decision makers in their business? a. Less than 50% of board are from business 1 point b. More than 50% are business, not ¼ decision makers 2 points c. At least ¼ are decision makers in their business 3 points d. At least ½ are decision makers in their business 4 points e. At least ¾ are decision makers in their business 5 points 6. Do you have a committee organization structure in place for your foundation? a. Not yet. 1 point b. We have committees to review applications only 2 points c. Board members are our committees & they raise funds. 3 points d. Board members are joined by other volunteers on committees that help us raise funds. 4 points e. We have fund raising goals for each of our committees and review progress at board meetings. 5 points 7. How well is payroll deduction going for employees of the district? a. Actually, we don t have payroll deduction yet 1 point b. Well, district employees can dedicate United Way deductions to us, but we don t have our own program 2 points c. We have an annual campaign for our payroll deduction 3 points d. Have 5% of district employees are in our program 4 points e. More than 5% give us at least $3 a paycheck 5 points 8. Now let s look at some numbers. Take the number of students in your district and how much revenue your foundation brought in last year. Let s do some comparisons. a. $ s raised is less than or equal to 10 times # students 1 point b. $ s raised is less than or equal to 15 times # students 2 points c. $ s raised is less than or equal to 20 times # students 3 points d. $ s raised is less than or equal to 30 times # students 4 points e. $ s raised is less than or equal to 40 times # students 5 points 9. Use that same number of students in the district and your balance sheet. Look at your net assets unrestricted and total. a. Total assets are less than # students 1 point b. Total assets are equal to # students 2 points c. Total assets are 5 times # students 3 points d. Total assets are 10 times # students; unrestricted assets are at least equal to # students 4 points e. Total assets are 10 times # students; unrestricted assets are at least 5 times # students 5 points How Does Your Foundation Measure Up? Page 2

4 10. Does your Foundation have an endowment or Legacy Society? a. Not yet 1 point b. Yes, but the total is less than # FTE s 2 points c. Yes, and the total is 2 times the #FTE s 3 points d. Yes, and the total is 10 times the # FTE s and we have an active plan to grow this. 4 points e. Yes, and the total is 15 times the # FTE s, we are working out plan to grow it and that includes actively seeking 5 points planned gifts. EXTRA CREDIT (3 points for each yes answer on the 3 questions below) Do your foundation leaders attend LEF seminars, leadership academies, or conferences? Are you systematically engaging the community in the schools in ways that are not designed to directly bring in resources, but to improve the quality of schools and student achievement? Y = 3 Y = 3 Does your programming evolve each year in response to new educational needs in the community and schools? ADD THEM UP; let s see how you did points This indicates a foundation early in its development. Read more below to see some best practices to implement points You ve got a few things going. If you re a foundation less than 3 years old, you just need to keep working the best practices below points Are you growing or holding your own? If you re on the way up, great; if not, time to implement some new strategies points Pretty good! You ve got most areas covered. See below for possible areas to kick it up a notch in points Congratulations & Gold Star you re at the top of your game! You should be having a significant impact in your community. How Does Your Foundation Measure Up? Page 3

5 NOW LET S BREAK DOWN EACH QUESTION 1. How many paid staff work for your foundation? Virtually every education foundation starts out with someone at the school district working part time (or in major commitments to the foundation, full time) to develop a foundation. The fact that a district makes the commitment to put resources into bringing in private support is outstanding! There are people, businesses, and private foundations that want to help teachers and schools, but they need to be asked and shown the value their gift will bring. Having a person with split responsibilities (at the district and the foundation) limits how much the foundation can do and grow. The most successful foundations have someone waking up each morning thinking about how they can best bring in private resources. Ideally the district will continue to pay for this position and gets a return on investment (ROI) for the costs of the foundation. This ROI should be in the form of support that exceeds the district s outlay (with the extent increasing over time as the foundation matures and brings in more resources). The initial position, typically an Executive Director, not only needs to organize and lead the foundation, but will serve primarily as a development officer, bringing in resources. At some point, additional functions will need to be hired (e.g. additional development positions, administrative help, communications, etc.). How long should the district support the foundation? Why stop if there s an ROI? While the district may continue to support the primary position and, perhaps some of the administrative (and financial) functions, as the foundation grows and adds positions, those should be supported by the funds being raised by the foundation. 2. Does your Foundation have a website? Every education foundation that wants to be taken seriously by the public, alumni, and donors needs to have a stand-alone website with a unique URL (web address). One of the first things that a prospective donor will do in researching an organization they may want to support is to check out their web presence. Is the site professional; is it current; does it provide information on programming; does it have staff profiles and contact information; is the board information available? Ideally, the website is stand alone, but there should be a link to the foundation s website prominent on the school district s home page. This will give a quick link to potential supporters who may not know of the foundation, but have gone to the district s site to research them. The next step in the foundation s virtual presence could be with social media. Facebook is probably the most valuable, with Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube following behind. But a note of warning don t just sign up for these to have an account. Just like your website, they need to be kept updated, current, and interesting. That takes time; quite a bit of time. But maintaining the social media is a great opportunity for volunteers or interns to help out under the direction of the executive director or development director. How Does Your Foundation Measure Up? Page 4

6 3. Does your Foundation put out a newsletter regularly? A constant challenge of any non-profit is to keep top of mind to its constituents. These may be donors, but also volunteers, board members, committee members, alumni, donors, etc. Even if the foundation is doing wonderful things, people need to be constantly reminded of that since they are being bombarded by information from all sources. The more often you communicate, the more likely that it will be at a time when the reader is thinking that it may be a time to give a gift. A monthly electronic newsletter is just the ticket to get this done. There are many resources to put out very professional electronic newsletters that don t require a computer degree or excessive effort. Check out Constant Contacts or icontact as a couple of options. They (and other services) will walk you through the setup of a newsletter. Now that you have a way to do it, there are 2 key features to hit a home run. First, you need to have interesting content. What are you going to talk about? Talk about things that are interesting to your readers; don t focus on what you want to brag about. Focus the newsletter on the readers and they ll take the time to read it. Secondly, you need to get the newsletter out to as many folks as possible. Building your list will take time, but without the effort it will never happen. A few strategies to help: talk to the district and see if it can be sent to all employees of the district; work with alumni associations or organizations that publish alumni directories and get it to alumni; make sure to have a newsletter sign up link on your website home page and in each newsletter (in case someone had it forwarded to them); collect addresses at your events; and ask each person (prospect) you meet with if they would like to get your newsletter. Put the effort in and your readership will blossom. 4. Do you have a strategic plan with written, measurable goals and time frames? As the old saying goes, If you don t know where you re going, how will you know when you arrived? No matter how large or small, new or established, every education foundation should have a written strategic plan. This is the blueprint which everyone uses to build on. It should be developed by the board and executive director with input from stakeholders (e.g. district leadership, school board, supporters, and volunteers). It used to be that strategic plans were for five years. With the speed of change in the world today, it s more important to have one or two year plans (with specifics) and a larger vision of the direction of the organization over a five or so year period. The strategic plan should have measurable goals and be the template for the executive director s goals as well as other staff. Ideally volunteer committees (including board members) would be organized around major initiatives in the plan in order to assist with those goals. This also keeps the strategic plan alive, by revisiting progress on the initiatives and goals at each board meeting (with the committees reporting out to the full board and garnering any additional help to be successful). How Does Your Foundation Measure Up? Page 5

7 5. How many board members are owners or decision makers in their business? As you can see from the question and the scoring, #5 shows a prejudice towards having decision making business leaders on your board. Many education foundations get a significant amount of their support from the business sector. These are the organizations that will most benefit from a well-educated workforce; they also want great schools for their employees children to attend. To the extent (and that is not 100%) that your board is made up of business representatives, it pays to have high level folks. A major responsibility of board members is to be able to pick up the phone and make connections to help the foundation. These are the folks who either have wealth or know the people who do and are comfortable opening the door for the executive director. Certainly they should have a passion for the mission of the foundation and the time to support it. When it comes time to commit their organization s resources to help (which may be volunteers as well as things or funding), if the board member is a decision maker in the company, it s a done deal. 6. Do you have a committee organization structure in place for your foundation? A major factor in the success of any non-profit is how many warm introductions they can get with prospects which may lead to support. Certainly that s a major function of the board of directors, but there is a limitation to how large the board can be and still be functional in its governance responsibilities. An excellent way to engage more community volunteers in a truly meaningful way is through work on committees. After developing your strategic plan, you will likely need to raise resources to accomplish the goals. There are folks in the community who would like to help. And if they volunteered on a committee (led by a board member) whose purpose is to bring that goal to fruition, and if they are meaningfully engaged, then they can be huge assets. Meaningful engagement can take many forms, but essentially, they ll need to own the goal and understand that successfully completing it will be done by the teamwork of the committee members and staff. Expanding the education foundation s network with more volunteers who are serving on committees means that many more doors can be opened to introduce new prospects to the foundation. Committee membership can also be a great precursor to full board membership; a way for the volunteer and the organization to try each other out before joining the board. Also, if you have a volunteer who is interested in helping the foundation, but there may not be a slot on the board, this is a great opportunity to be involved. 7. How well is payroll deduction going for employees of the district? One of the primary sources of funding for any nonprofit is its annual fund, or the amount which comes in to support the organization each year from hundreds (or thousands) of supporters. For an education foundation, the first natural group of supporters is the folks who have already committed to improving education in their community employees of the school district. The school district probably already participates in an annual United Way campaign. They should also offer their employees the opportunity to direct funding to the education foundation which is going back to help their organization the schools. How Does Your Foundation Measure Up? Page 6

8 It s important to structure the payroll deduction campaign properly, thinking through how much will be asked from each paycheck, is the deduction amount on-going each year until stopped, what will the funds be used for (and how this is communicated), etc. And after setting up the payroll deduction program, it will take an annual campaign to sign up employees all across the district. That should start with the superintendent and district leadership, then principals and all faculty and support staff. The message should be that we re proud of what we do and support the foundation s help in doing it! 8. Ratio of funds raised annually to number of student in the district. your schools. After having all your systems, plans, volunteers, staff, etc. in place it s time to see how effective the foundation is. The bottom line is how much support is brought in each year. The first benchmark, which is still widely used, is the one set by McCormick et. al in their book, Creating Foundations for American Schools. In it they say that if you can raise $20 per student, you will have a major impact on young people. If you can raise an additional $20 per student for innovative programs, you can literally change education in This is an excellent benchmark and the reason for the scoring on question #8. Some of the support which you bring in may be things as opposed to just funds, so make sure your accounting system is recording in-kind donations (e.g. books, materials, supplies & technology). With all that tallied, you can track the success of your foundation as a function of the size of your district, using this ratio. 9. Use that same number of students in your district and pull out your balance sheet. Look at your net assets unrestricted and total. Now we re admittedly getting into some advanced stuff. As your foundation grows, there should be plans and contingencies made for its long term success. That includes building up assets so you can have sustainable programming. This can be done through multi-year pledges, grants received which extend beyond one fiscal year, planned gifts (more on that in #10), and savings. Building the organization s assets, while still providing funds for programming, also sends the message to prospective donors that the foundation is a vibrant, growing organization which will be good stewards for their support. As donors become more savvy, they will also be researching your foundation with instruments like Guidestar and Charity Navigator. These organizations websites report on how well you are doing and this includes if your revenue and assets are growing or shrinking. As executive director, you should watch the trends and talk with your board about the need to strengthen the organization for its own sustainability as well as to attract donors. One of the key factors in strengthening your balance sheet is to build your unrestricted assets (those which are not designated by the donor and can be used at the discretion of the board or executive director). Unrestricted assets allow the flexibility to add needed programming, support existing programming which may not be getting restricted donations, and for the operation of the foundation. If you don t keep your eye on the unrestricted assets, you can get in trouble during tight times. How Does Your Foundation Measure Up? Page 7

9 10. Does your Foundation have an endowment or Legacy Society? Here s even more advanced stuff have you built an endowment? Endowments can take as many forms as donors wish them to. (In an ideal world the endowment is unrestricted and has the same advantages of building up your unrestricted net assets, but that s a rare occurrence.) Often endowments will be started with donors wishing to support a particular program which they have a strong passion for and want it to continue beyond their time (and their ability to support it). While an endowment can be started without planned gifts or a Legacy Society, it s these deferred gifts that will make an endowment take off. While planned giving can be complicated, it doesn t need to be. The most common planned gift is a bequest, which is pretty straightforward. This means you don t have to be an expert in planned giving to start a Legacy Society (although having some estate planners who volunteer on a committee is an excellent idea). But it does mean that you should have stock bequest language ready should someone call up and say they are considering a gift for the foundation in their will. (Here s where you can get some of that free legal advice from your volunteer estate planner.) You should even put that on your website along with information on your Legacy Society. After establishing the infrastructure to accept and invest endowment funds, you ll want to advertise that. That is, if you receive a bequest, play it up in your monthly newsletter. You don t have to use names (unless the donor s family agrees to), but the fact that you have received a bequest sends a message that you re professional, have the ability to accept them, and the reader should consider it. EXTRA CREDIT: Do your foundation leaders attend LEF seminars, leadership academies, or conferences? Continuous professional development is critical to the success of any organization s leaders. Learning what is new, what your colleagues are doing, what s working and not working, and strategies that may be pushing the limits are all important to keep you and your organization fresh. There are regional, statewide and national consortia and associations dedicated to education foundation leaders which provide many opportunities for professional development. Are you systematically engaging the community in the schools in ways that are not designed to directly bring in resources, but to improve the quality of schools and student achievement? There is certainly value in bringing in resources targeted to the needs of the schools and district and raising awareness that private support is needed to augment public funding of schools (especially in austere times). Extra credit goes to those education foundations which are also using the connections they ve developed in the community to raise awareness of issues such as the need to increase graduation rates, college preparedness, test results, reading levels, etc. There is power in individuals and organizations who are already committing their resources (supporting your foundation) to commit their time and reputations to highlight areas the public should be aware of regarding the local schools. Again, this is definitely advanced stuff and praise worthy. How Does Your Foundation Measure Up? Page 8

10 Does your programming evolve each year in response to new educational needs in the community and schools? If you ve had the same mini-grants or scholarship programs for years, you have to ask yourself if you re responding to the current needs of the district and your donors. There are a few advantages of updating your programming. District and school challenges change and require different types of support. Mixing up the programming adds some sparkle to programs that may have lost their luster (no matter how worthwhile). New and existing donors are more likely to be inspired by programming developed in response to a pressing challenge. Some of the best meetings you ll have with supporters are those describing how you have this new program in response to a request from the district which will solve their needs. About Bill Hoffman and Associates, LLC Bill Hoffman has over 30 years expertise in various aspects of the non-profit sector having worked at all levels of non-profit organizations including serving as chief executive of a $6M education foundation for 9 years. He and his firm have written and presented on topics ranging from board development to community and volunteer engagement, organizational development and performance, and best practices in national, regional, and state publications and symposia. Bill Hoffman & Associates provides services in the following areas: Strategic Plan Development & Implementation Board Development & Training Program Design & Management; Systems Development and Implementation Executive Coaching and Leader Development Interim Leadership Organizational Performance Audit Contact Bill at How Does Your Foundation Measure Up? Page 9

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