Notes from our Making Connections Conference 2017
Fundraising and equity:
Strategies for more inclusive school fundraising
Christine Corso: Researcher and Project Coordinator, People for Education
Jacqui Strachan: Communications and Engagement Director, People for Education
Moderator: Mike Gill, lead writer, Fees and fundraising chapter, 2017 Annual Report on Schools
Fundraising is deeply entrenched in Ontario’s education system. According to People for Education’s annual report on Ontario’s schools, the vast majority of schools participate in some kind of fundraising, and for many parents, it can be a great way to get involved at their school. However, fundraising raises issues about equity, both between and within schools, and provincial guidelines appear to allow for vast ranges in fundraising from zero dollars in some schools, to hundreds of thousands in others. This session will look at the latest data on school fundraising and explore strategies that school councils can use to both tame the fundraising beast and help to ensure that no family feels excluded by fundraising activities.
Notes from the session:
- Fundraising is where People for Education started – out of concern when a principal asked parents to fundraise for math textbooks.
- Speaks to the history of People for Ed and how fundraising issues began to take hold
- Now, we have fundraising guidelines—meant to complement, NOT replace, funding for education
- Fundraising is not a bad thing – we know many schools fundraise.
- Our annual school survey findings show that 98% of elementary schools and 85% of secondary schools engage in fundraising
- What are we fundraising for? And what is the utility of fundraising in a system where we have publicly funded schools?
- The money raised is used for a range of things, including technology (iPads, etc), sports equipment, programs like Scientists in Schools, etc.
- Survey results raised concerns about equity – not just in the difference in amounts raised between schools, but what that money was used for. Principals in higher SES schools report spending on ‘extras’, while principals in some lower SES schools report that they are can’t raise enough to support much-needed nutrition programs for students.
- Ontario has fundraising guidelines that restrict what fundraising can pay for, but 48% of elementary schools and 10% of secondary schools are still fundraising for learning resources
- In a 2013 report, People for Education found a relationship between the amounts schools fundraised and average family incomes. Schools with higher family incomes raised more money.
- Our 2017 survey results found that the fundraising gap between the top and bottom is widening:
- In 2008, for every dollar raised by the bottom 10%, the top 10% raised $25
- In 2017, the top 10% is now raising $49 for every dollar raised by the lowest 10%
- Questions regarding what does the term ‘funding’ encompass?
- In the survey, no distinction between funds for resources, funds for charities etc. The challenge for P4E is to get principals to complete survey with minimal time commitment; there is a trade off in how much information we can ask them to provide
- Q: Administrators are asked, not school councils?
- We used to ask school councils to complete surveys with principal’s help, but found that the majority of questions were easier for principals to answer
- Comment: We need ministry to dig into this issue deeper
- Comment: Fundraising for charity is usually more well-received than funds for classroom
- Christine: Schools in more affluent areas are providing more enrichment opportunities.
- Jacqui: higher income families often have more enrichment opportunities outside of the classroom, as well as the enrichment opportunities provided through greater fundraising in school – further exacerbates equity issues
- Most of this audience is involved with a school council
- School councils can feel cliquey – it may be a further barrier for lower income parents to participate if the school council focuses too much on fundraising
- How can we avoid making school councils all about fundraising?
- Under Regulation 612, the purpose of school council is to “improve student achievement ”
- There is no rule against fundraising, but it is not identified as one of the roles for school councils in the regulations.
- For some people, fundraising is a great way to get involved, nothing inherently wrong with it, but it is a problem if that is all the school council is doing:
- Can discourage parent involvement – people may not be interested in fundraising
- May be especially problematic for low-income parents – they may feel they have nothing to contribute
- What to talk about at school council meetings, other than fundraising?
- Talk about school improvement plan
- EQAO results – what they mean and don’t mean
- Principal can seek advice when choosing between programs for students
- Talk about special visitors, field trips
- Invite a teacher to talk about what they do in their classroom – parents love to learn more about what their kids are learning
- School safety issues
- School yard improvements, greening programs, eco programs
- Community issues – graffiti, school crossings, etc.
- School day schedule (start time, balanced day, literacy blocks, etc)
- How do you get out of fundraising trap?
- Establish fundraising committee, so council meetings are not focused on planning fundraising activities
- Fundraising committee does the planning and reports to school council
- Have a fundraising policy that sets out:
- the number of fundraising events/activities per year
- the types of fundraising activities that are and are not permitted
- how the funds will be allocated, and how funding requests are to be made
- how to address equity issues (make sure no one is left out)
- Establish a fundraising goal for the year. When you get there, STOP!
- Survey parents to find out what kind of fundraising they prefer
- Addressing equity issues:
- Make community building a focus of your fundraising activities – plan fun events that engage the whole community, as opposed to selling things like magazine subscriptions
- It is better to host an event/activity, so fundraising is combined with community building
- parents who may not be able or willing to sell stuff can still participate in the event or volunteer to help
- Ensure that there is a wide range of activities/events – make sure that some are free and accessible to everyone
- If you do decide to sell something, do not offer individual incentive prizes – make the rewards school-wide (eg. An extended recess for everyone, or staff will do something funny if the fundraising goal is met)
Q: Do you have to incorporate fundraising policy into by-laws?
- You could have a general fundraising policy
- Parents complain about being nickeled and dimed, so use the policy to limit the amount of fundraising
- Give parents heads up, so they know what to expect over the year
- We had one fundraising dance the whole year, and let the parents know that this is it- all parents raised so much money and it lasted
- School Councils have forgotten regulation 612
- Fundraising is not parent engagement
- Parent engagement is families engaging in learning
- We are getting away from what our mandate is