Sunday, October 14

The Money Mom: Community building as a funding plan

Tis the season for fall festivals, and my kids and I spent a few happy hours this weekend eating cotton candy and seeing old friends, watching rock band karaoke, and seeing if we still fit on the elementary school monkey bars. The parents did a fantastic job running the lollipop toss and cupcake decorating booths, painting faces, and manning a hamburger grill. Fall festivals don’t make all that much money compared with the effort parents put in to organize them; that's why some people call this type of fundraiser a “community-builder.”

Community-builders may not meet all a school's financial needs, but they make people feel closer, proud to be part of the school community. Actually, a bake sale or fall fest can be just as important as a big grant: the money a PTA earns can be spent entirely according to how parents perceive the weak spots, whereas grants usually must be spent on whatever the funder dictates.

Smaller pots of money can be useful to schools in different ways from larger pots. With $100 from a bake sale you can buy a “writing center” with a nice collection of crayons and markers and paper. With $10,000 from a fall fest you can run a teacher grant program in a medium-sized school, helping teachers buy whatever they dream will improve the classroom: an area rug, books on tape, a grow light and plants, biographies, bright colored posters, printer ink, a digital camera to document class projects. This is found money, a treasure whose value is magnified for the effort that went into getting it.

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