Schools foundation to roll out campaign ideas

The District 51 Foundation board will meet this month to discuss what to do with the $1,500 in donations it has collected so far and how to increase that amount.

The foundation’s bylaws allow the organization to spend donations on anything involving School District 51, from capital projects to instruction materials. School board member Diann Rice, also a member of the foundation board, said the group’s first investment when more money is collected likely will be in technology.

Announcing specifically where the first few donations will go is a good way to drum up more donations, according to Beth Best, head of the 20-year-old Littleton Public Schools Foundation.

“I think a foundation has to have a stated purpose, and people will be more likely to donate to that. Since we’ve done that, we’ve seen an increase in donations,” Best said.

The Littleton foundation plans to spend about $130,000 in schools in 2011–12, Best said. That amount is largely collected through two annual events: a dinner and auction in the spring and a 5K and 10K run in the fall.

Littleton’s foundation is one of 27 in the state contributing to school districts, according to the National School Foundation Association. Education foundations attached to a particular Colorado school district exist in districts ranging from 989 students in Clear Creek to 85,938 in Jefferson County. Most of the foundations in the state are on the Front Range, and just four are west of the Continental Divide, in Grand Junction, Glenwood Springs, Durango and Aspen.

Having a foundation is key during tough economic times, Best said. After meeting its usual goals for awarding teacher grants and spending money on technology and health-and-wellness projects, Littleton’s foundation used $40,000 this year in leftover funds to help local schools fill gaps in their depleted budgets, Best said.

“I think (foundations are) what school districts are going to need to survive. It’s at least one of the things they’re going to need to survive,” Best said.

The idea for the District 51 Foundation was brought up years ago, but budget cuts prompted the district to speed its pursuit of a foundation, Rice said. The school board adopted bylaws for the District 51 Foundation in the fall and acquired 501(c)(3) nonprofit status this spring.

Donors can contribute to the foundation by writing a check to the district and including a note that the money is for the foundation, Rice said.


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