Philanthropy is a good thing! But, where is the ‘giving’ targeted and to whom is all or most ‘giving’ dollars benefitting? Why give when the funds don’t reach those locations, causes or populations most in need of support via supplemental resources!
Do the altruistic ‘givers’ actually enrich the historically marginalized communities, where families are struggling and schools are statistically under-resourced? When people decide that they will donate their time and money to education, what we want to hear is they seek to satisfy unmet needs and fill performance gaps. That should be altruism in its most pure form that can effect wide-reaching change.
Every year, individuals and companies in the United States donate hundreds of billions of dollars to good causes. Donations to charity reached an estimated $390 billion, according to a report released by Giving USA, a 2.7 percent increase on 2015 when individuals, estates, foundations and corporations donated an estimated $379.89 billion.
Broken down by sector, religion received the largest share of money by far in 2016- $122.94 billion or 32 percent of total philanthropic giving. The second highest recipient was education, taking in about $59.77 billion.
Where do the billions of education dollars land? Certainly not in the classrooms of the poorest students, the poorest school districts, the underperforming or ‘failing’ schools. These are the schools whose budgets are already insufficient to equip, support or deliver quality 21st Century education to learners.
There is a marked difference between ‘spare’ change and real change!
With decreases in public education funding via taxpayer dollars, many school districts will need private dollars to compensate for any deficiencies. Particularly in low-income community schools, private giving and philanthropy must shift into focus to supplement public funding.
Foundations that give and donate to education tend to give in areas which align with their organizational goals. Although areas like STEM will be in high demand as future careers, money doesn’t always reach school districts and programs most in need to support its learners’ future prospects for career success.
Lower income communities tend to be scantly resourced. Its schools enroll largely black and brown ‘at-risk’ students who are also likely underperforming in their learning environments. If the squeaky wheel gets the oil, we must actively engage and gain insight into their [real, not presumed] needs to address and meet them. That’s what 21st Century educators are tasked with- addressing the comprehensive needs of your learners and their families. We use a cross-systems, collaborative approach to help meet basic needs, build on strengths and facilitate academic achievement.
Education reform highlights college and career readiness, equity and inclusion. The neediest groups are where we must transform ‘spare change’ into real change when philanthropic giving is not reaching those populations. Funding from outside organizations will perpetuate the realities of the “haves and the have-nots” when the annually tax-exempt charitable donations supplement already adequately-resourced school communities.
The computers from IBM, the calculators from Texas Instruments, the library resources, uniformly updated textbooks, futuristic campus designs and so forth MUST make it into the long-forgotten ‘hoods’ of America. This is where our ‘gaps’ and disparities exist.
We’re talking about public, not private school funding. Educational giving needs to be targeted with a long term, sustainable goal in mind, and with a sense of immediacy. Giving can create positive change, contribute to sustainable reforms and spark innovation or it can work to sustain the already present inequities. The aim is to level the playing field, rather than contributing to the status quo. That’s real change.
Foundations and organizations usually give by designating where their dollars should go. Compare a middle income school and a low income community school. Both are public school entities, but upon first glance, there is a noticable difference between environment, culture and climate, classroom design, instructional strategies, the resources.
In one school, there are computers, smartboards, and whiteboards in practically every classroom; one smart device for each student. In the other, books and instructional materials are scarce, classrooms designs resemble the past[not futuristic], and technology is rarely seen. Inequities abound, yet both are public schools!
In poorer schools, educators can’t guarantee 100% high school graduation, or college and career readiness. Music and art programs are being eliminated from budget considerations; health and physical education equipment is limited; after-school and team sports activities are absent. Research informs us that these are contributors toward student wellness and increased academic performance.
With this knowledge, it behooves educators, families, communities to request those private philanthropic dollars. Learn how to write and present grant proposals. Engage business giving to invest in and support your school community.
Do not neglect to support and advocate for families. When parents do well, their children fare better and will likely perform better in school. If necessary, schools may need to employ a full time grant writer, fundraiser and family advocate to help facilitate quality 21st Century learning experiences. If education is a true equalizer, then we can turn ‘spare’ change into real change!
Here are a few places to start your search for charitable donations and grant funding:
- Annenberg Foundation
- Bill and Melinda Foundation
- The NEA Foundation
- American Honda Foundation
- General Mills Home Town Helper
- Dollar General
- Do Something
- International Reading Association
- National Science Teachers Association
- Teaching Tolerance
- Hearst Foundation
- Center for Nonprofit Excellence
There are hundreds more places to look. So, don’t stop here! Be more determined than ever to ensure that ALL students receive the best, most future-focused, quality laden learning experiences at your school. Level the playing field and ask that organizational spare change be used to facilitate real positive change. Every child deserves it! Our futures depend on it!