The Beginning: Forming the Board
In the spring of 1995, the Laramie County School District #1 Superintendent and the Community Relations Director were tasked by the District’s Trustees to establish a foundation.
The Superintendent collected background information on existing foundations, began legal documentation, and began developing new funding sources. The Community Relations Director attended a comprehensive foundation seminar at the National School Public Relations Association’s annual convention in July 1995. This workshop provided numerous resources, including research lists, methodology, low-cost fundraising, a variety of strategic plans (according to community type), examples of mission statements, and ideas on how to recruit a board of directors.
The first step was organizing an advisory meeting, to which prospective foundation directors, fundraisers, and local interested community members were invited.
The focus during the first year was mainly on organizational activities, and finding administrative funding (approximately $3,000, including $2,000 from Zonta International).
Next Steps: Securing Funding
An advisory board was established for the foundation, made up of school district staff (Community Relations Director, for public relations; Federal Programs Coordinator, for grant writing; District Business Manager, for financial discretion; and two trustees). The lack of funds to hire an executive director/fundraiser resulted in the majority of the administrative tasks being done by the district community relations office until a district employee became a board member and shared responsibilities.
The Community Relations Office provided the foundation with fundraising materials, and the board hosted a workshop directed by a member of the Boulder Schools Foundation. Brochures, logo, letterhead, flyers, posters, payroll deduction slips, envelope inserts, and reception programs were then created (these were produced at low cost due to the district donation of personnel time, and in-district copy shop production).
Reaching Out for Local Sponsors
CB Potts Family Restaurant & Sports Club was recruited as a supporter of the foundation, as they were vocal about being involved in schools district-wide. Their preferred customer marketing plan was incorporated as a fundraising vehicle for the foundation: CB Potts provided preferred customer discount cards to the district’s 1,700 employees; each time the cards were used, $1 was donated to the foundation. To raise awareness of the program, Potts placed advertising in the district publication. $1,950 was raised for the foundation (the program is now defunct).
With the support of the local service club, Zonta International, a fundraising event was held in March 1996 to establish and fund a mini-grant program. “Look What Cheyenne Schools Can Do!” was an evening of entertainment, featuring school district graduates, with recognition of more than 5 generations of successful alumni. All proceeds above cost were donated to the foundation. $5,000 was raised.
Creating Grants + the Walk/Run
In November 1996, 26 grants were awarded by the then 17-member committee, to “enrich, enhance, and encourage excellence in education beyond the capacity of the local school district budget.” The next year, 33 grants were awarded as a result of a newly added letter campaign to businesses and individuals, and the first ever “Excellence in Education 5k Walk/Run.”
In October 1997, the Walk/Run was held in conjunction with the education fair, “Education Celebration.” It was a success, with nearly 500 participants (including students). $3,000 was raised, which was quite a feat for a first-time effort in a small community. The Walk/Run is held each year in the fall after school starts.
Additional fundraising is underway with a voluntary school district employee payroll deduction system, as well as a Chick-fil-A night, through which the foundation gets a kick-back from food sales that evening.