Given the funding shortages for public education this year and the foreseeable future, schools are going to have to be more proactive and creative in finding monies to pay for the wealth of activities, courses and materials beyond the basic academic subjects.
Even the staunchest advocates of back-to-basics education would readily acknowledge that a rich educational experience should include a wide range of extracurricular activities. Such resources, however, are not financed through traditional school district funding even in normal financial times, much less the cash-strapped times in which public schools now find themselves. School districts do not receive enough funding for band instruments, computer equipment, library books, field trips, clubs, athletic teams and a myriad of other resources that make the educational experience meaningful for our children.
This is not news to PTAs, booster clubs and student organizations that sell magazines and wrapping paper, wash cars, run marathons and conduct other efforts to try to pay for these educational amenities. However, the cost of these resources exceed many times over the revenues raised through this level of fundraising.
Parents have their hands full ferrying students to and from extracurricular activities and manning the various off-campus fundraising events. In today's troubled times, we must remember the traditional door-to-door solicitations raise safety issues for students as well.
So, can we as a community use other methods to reach school supporters?
Fortunately, current technology offers at least one effective tool schools and other nonprofit organizations can use to raise money: the Internet. Properly organized and structured, Internet-based fundraising can draw thousands of dollars to schools with just the click of a mouse.
Roughly, 60 percent of all Americans today use the Internet for research, shopping, information, and entertainment. In just a few short years, the World Wide Web has come to play an important role in our workday and personal lives. This is especially the case for students, since there is so many learning and educational resources available on the Web. The same now applies for parents, teachers, administrators, business partners, and other stakeholders interested in getting additional resources to our school sites.
A San Diego-based company, Kintera, which specializes in helping nonprofit organizations use the Internet for fundraising and marketing, suggests that schools think differently about ways to generate dollars on the Internet. Here are just a few suggestions:
The "Help Emmitt" program enlists participants to start their own fundraising "teams" by signing up at www.HelpEmmitt.org Web site at no charge and then enlist family and friends to take part by sending personalized e-mails from their own customized Web sites.
These are just some ideas now being used to augment funding using technology to stimulate sources of revenue. Doubtless, there will be other creative uses of the Internet, featuring non-traditional strategies and tools to fund the traditional programs and resources that have always and will continue to make for a quality education.
Online fundraising for our schools is clear proof that technology is becoming increasingly pervasive in our society. In this case, technology extends well beyond the direct teaching and learning experiences taking place in our classrooms to provide the resources to make those experiences possible in our classrooms.
Are our communities ready to use the Internet as a model for change? Try it. You might like it.
Hovenic, Ed.D, is president and chief executive officer of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Foundation and executive director of the foundation's Business Roundtable for Education. Her e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.