Education Up Front

June 19, 2002

July 10, 2002

July 17, 2002

Funding school programs via the Internet

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:

  • Web shopping sites: Online portals take a portion of every purchase made on selected Web sites and donate it automatically to a specific school or organizational group. Sites such as or can generate modest but consistent returns and help increase public awareness for a particular school, program or cause.

  • Home-grown Web sites: In New York, education leaders are building their own Internet Web portals, much the same way commercial firms do, to earn revenue from advertising and sponsorship programs. Keep in mind Web site development is a complex task; learning to create Web sites can be part of the educational process but schools should not try to build e-commerce sites themselves anymore than they should try to build the school buses which they use to transport students.

  • Fundraising software: There are various fundraising software programs to assist schools and other organizations in raising dollars for various needs. However, there is a concern with ensuring security and privacy when collecting funds online if proper security measures have not been taken. Schools and other entities not confident with online security and privacy should use a professional organization to collect the donations on their behalf.

  • Application Service Provider: An ASP is a third party that manages and distributes software-based services and solutions via the Internet. Outsourcing to an ASP is an economical way to provide parents and students with access to fundraising technology and support. An ASP also provides easy access to school notes, homework assignments, updates, and general news about the school. An increasing number of school districts are using ASPs as an alternative to buying and owning systems and software and are finding very positive results in terms of being able to streamline operations and reduce costs.

  • National online fundraising drives: National Football League superstar Emmitt Smith has launched "Help Emmitt Help Kids," the first national online initiative to raise money for schools, sports teams and youth groups. "Help Emmitt Help Kids" uses the Internet to assist K-12 schools and other youth organizations to raise funds for classroom supplies, computer equipment, library reference books, sports uniforms and other needs.

    The "Help Emmitt" program enlists participants to start their own fundraising "teams" by signing up at 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

  • June 19, 2002

    July 10, 2002

    July 17, 2002