Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hot topic: How much do school PTAs and foundations raise?

An SF K Files reader asked me to post the following:
Would it be possible to start a topic about PTAs and school foundations? I know it may be controversial to ask this but I'm wondering if anyone has a list of how much money each school's association has raised and how it breaks down per student?


  1. AFY raises $300K/year. You're expected to give a minimum of $350 for their annual fund, plus other fundraisers.

    As the intake is 540, the PTA raises just under $600/parent. Don't know how much of that is grants versus shaking down parents, but I wouldn't expect grants to be a significant fraction, unlike, say, Grattan, who do kick ass with getting grants.

  2. It's important to keep in mind the culture of each school. If a school prides itself on its diversity, included SES diversity, then it probably doesn't raise as much money from the families. Some schools have a long standing culture of talking very directly about dollar amounts expected from each family, while others don't like to use that approach because it may alienate a large section of their population.

  3. Actually, AFY raised $136,000 last year from 63% of their student body.

    I believe Alamo raised around $150k and they have 524 kids and 300 families so $286 per student.

  4. Hearing that the PTA at Alice Fong Yu raises $300k a year makes me sick. Even though I appreciate that what a school's PTA can do for its students is crutial, I think there reaches a point that's kind of obscene. It creates such a strong and entrenched scenario of "have and have not" among the public schools in the same district.

    We applied to schools that raise a lot and schools that don't and if we had wound up at one of the big funded schools I would have pushed that some percentage be given to a "sister school." But then, I am socialistic that way. I am upper middle class and white, but it doesn't feel right to me that some kids get SO much more.

    Maybe some of the bigger funded schools DO help the poorer schools in some way? If so, I'd love to hear some stories about it.

  5. I don't think $300k is right for AFY - it's a very exaggerated number.

    Still, there does seem to be a correlation between an active PTA/high parental involvement and a school's ability to provide for gaps that, a decade ago, would have been considered essential basics (such as a librarian, more science instruction, arts, PE, etc.) so it does make a difference when one is evaluating a school. The amount of $$ a PTA can raise is a good proxy for how involved the parents are.

    I do like the idea of a San Francisco-wide PTA!

  6. "I do like the idea of a San Francisco-wide PTA!"

    Most of the high-scoring suburban district have district-wide fundraising bodies. Is San Francisco just too large a distrcit for this to be feasible?

  7. From my touring notes last year (fall 2008) - folks are welcome to correct or amend. Approx funds raised.

    Clarendon the SCP and JBBP programs fundraise separately but the total amount is approx $400k/year
    Alvarado $235k in 2007 goal $250k in 2008
    Alamo foundation $160/year
    Miraloma ~$140k/year
    Argonne ~$100k/year
    Sunset >$100k/year
    Grattan $90k/year
    Lakeshore $90-100k
    Feinstein $85k/year/year
    McKinley $70-90k/year
    Sloat $50-60k/year
    Starr King $25k in 2008
    Jose Ortega $14k in 2007 probably went up quite a bit last year ?

    Strong correlation between high demand and high $ raised, no doubt.

    We just had dinner with a friend from Palo Alto last week and learned that in Palo Alto (a district that is already fairly resource rich) they fundraise on district wide basis rather than individual schools. It's run through a non-profit Palo Alto Partners in Education.

    Would love to see SFUSD move towards a model like this. Likely to happen? I doubt it.

  8. As a parent at Starr King, on the low end of the list I've just posted, wondering whether the high roller schools pretty much raise the money from the families (either direct appeal, auctions or galas, whatever) or if there are fundraising strategies for raising money from outside the school community. Obviously schools with 50%+ free/reduced lunch are hard pressed to ask for $250 donations per family.

  9. Clarendon Second Community aims to raise about $210,000 this year. We have an amazing treasurer who gives a break down of how much money each fundraiser brings in, how much each "specialist" costs (that is what they call the art, music, PE, Italian teachers). They also break it down to cost per child. It is about $700 per year per child. I appreciate that. I wanted to go here for all the wonderful programs they offer. I am able to pay that much, in fact, I can pay more, and I do so that another family who can't can still enjoy the benefits of our wonderful school.
    Also, keep in mind, underperforming schools get money for certain programs that the high performing schools do not. The PTA is expected to raise the money that the district or state no longer gives us.
    I agree, a shared fund would be much more equitable. I doubt that will happen though.

  10. 11:40 - Where did you end up? Was it a school that does not raise much?

  11. Many (most? all?) high-income suburban districts do have districtwide foundations. Their outreach campaigns are highly visible and they create a culture that makes it clear that it's near-obligatory to support that foundation. Signs at city limits and in downtowns showing the goal and the amount raised are standard, and merchants and restaurants display stickers in their windows announcing their support.

    SFUSD does have a foundation that functions something like that -- the San Francisco School Alliance. Yet they have chosen not to do the high-profile campaign with the ubiquitous community presence that the suburban foundations do. It's a considered decision, but I think it's a mistake -- I see no reason not to use the Orinda or Mill Valley foundations as a model.

    There have also been two additional foundations, the S.F. Education Fund and S.F. School Volunteers, providing support to schools -- the two have recently merged. None of them have run the kind of campaign the suburban foundations do, though.

  12. It is hard to distinguish the total funds raised at a school from the PTA direct appeal to families funds raised. There are grants and so many other things that go into funding school programs. If you are using this number to make a judgment about a school keep in mind the size of the student population at the school so not only total dollars raised but dollars per student. A better sense of the commitment from the community may be volunteer man-hours contributed. Anyone can write a check after all but that does not necessarily build a strong sense of community. One thing that struck me last year during tours was the talk about how the money is spent. At Jose Ortega, for example, they want a new play structure but before they spend their fund raising money on that they are spending it on bringing in tutors and aids to help bring all the students up to proficiency levels in their schoolwork which I thought was pretty great.

  13. People claiming that funds donated specifically to one school should be diverted to another for "equitable" reasons discourages the funds from being donated in the first place.

  14. I think San Carlos has a huge endowment that generate funds for all the schools each year. Something like that doesn't happen overnight (unless the Getty's get involved) but that would be a great goal (vs diverting pta funds from one school to another).

    I think you'll find that PTA money is rarely spent on play structures, ...etc. - those cost a fortune and really take a back seat to tutors, reading specialists, social workers, music programs, art supplies... Grants tend to fund the big ticket items rather than parent contributions.

  15. i would guess it would be easier to raise money for a district-wide PTA fund. i'd think non-parents would be more likely to donate, right large local companies could get more recognition that way. more like a sponsorship.

  16. Would there be parents in any of those schools that would be willing into share the fundraising methods that these schools use? Maybe there's a method to the madness. A method that other, less well-endowed schools can use as well. I refuse to believe it's necessarily a reflection of the student population - until proven wrong.
    Would be great if such methods got posted: auctions, specific grants, car washes, whatever - what revenue do they generate for any of the schools in the city?

  17. "Actually, AFY raised $136,000 last year from 63% of their student body. "

    $300k is what I recall seeing on the parent newsletter. Your figures might just be for their annual fund.

  18. Also, keep in mind, underperforming schools get money for certain programs that the high performing schools do not. The PTA is expected to raise the money that the district or state no longer gives us.

    There is absolutely no comparison between the funding available to Title I schools (not all of which are underperforming, by the way) and unrestricted PTA funds.

    Palo Alto's school district switched over to a pool after serious consideration of the equity issues. It was a brave decision, unpopular with some stakeholders. Many of those stakeholders held similarly untrue and, frankly, self-serving beliefs about school funding.

    If your school has these funds, feel blessed, but don't justify it based on false information.

  19. Would there be parents in any of those schools that would be willing into share the fundraising methods that these schools use?

    The assumption here is that these methods are unknown to poorer schools.

    I teach at school that does not raise money through its PTA. Over the course of my career, I have written over a dozen successful grants. Some of these required hours of (weekend and late night) grant-writing, post-grant analysis, and so on. I feel confident that I write good grants and know many different places to find money or supplies (and I have no shame anymore about requesting donations).

    And I feel belittled when the lack of money at my school is conceived as a teacher access issue.

  20. For those interested in district-wide foundations, you might be interested in the information provided by the Public Education Network (, which is a national association of local education funds (defined here: The San Francisco Education Fund ( is a member. (Note that PEN and its affiliates seem to do more than just raise money - it looks like they have specific ed reform goals they work toward, one of which is "Adequate resources equitably distributed":

  21. Hi teacher @11:26pm

    I am impressed. Is your school in SF or another city? I have no doubt teachers are resourceful, I have worked peripherally on a teacher PD program and find that teachers are incredibly resourceful.

    But, a PTA is here to hopefully help and add to what is given through the state, district, etc.

    As a parent new to the entire school ecosystem, I second @jcvpve in being interested -- truly -- in what other schools are doing. (Note I am not on the fundraising committee at our school, and there are some parents at our school who are leading this effort).

  22. I am 11:26 and my school is in SFUSD.

    I did a lot of graduate work in the social sciences, which gives me a grant-writing edge, but many teachers at my school do the same. There are a number of websites (, the ubiquitous and wonderful, and that are quite well-known.

    I wish our schools were so well-funded that neither parents nor teachers had to raise money, but it seems especially unfair that teachers who work in schools where parents cannot support the school financially must spend extra hours procuring materials. Nor is it equitable.

  23. I'm listening to this discussion intently. While I don't think that requiring PTAs to pool their money is a solution that would work, I'm convinced that a strong school foundation slash civic participation organization could turn the tide on the fundraising inequities between schools.
    Are you willing to be an organizer on this issue? Contact me at and I will figure out a way to connect interested parties.

  24. Rachel, glad you're listening. I worked at a low-income school that didn't get all the district help since it's not a DREAM/STAR school. I did a lot of grant writing through Donors Choose or hit up friends and family and shamelessly phoned for volunteers and free field trip buses out of town.

    Our PTA was lucky to get a few dollars from 40% of the school I'd say. We did have one amazing PTA president who found ways to work with that money and motivate others. One person can make a huge difference! Something more equitable would be wonderful. Glad you're listening.

  25. @Rachel Norton:

    To whom is your comment addressed?

  26. Clarendon JBBP’s Parent Advisory Committee raises about $160k per year. About one third of the funds are raised through the annual fund. Families are asked to contribute $300/per student to the Annual Fund, with a target of something like 50% participation. More than half of the funds come from the three big fundraising events: the auction, the walkathon, and the udon booth at the Cherry Blossom Festival. The remainder is raised through a series of smaller fundraising drives such as eScript, t-shirt sales, See’s candy and gift wrap sales, and the Halloween carnival. JBBP PAC funds a variety of Japanese enrichment programs. In addition, they jointly funds some shared school program costs (PE, Art. Computer Lab and Library) with the Second Community (Clarendon GE) PTA group.

  27. At Stevenson, the PTA raised approximately $55,000 last year. Stevenson has a very active PTA and they are trying mightily this year to do better, but the downturn in the economy has really hurt the parents in that school, many of whom are lower income. So this isn't necessarily a matter of parents not trying; income inequities have really been exacerbated by this terrible downturn in the economy.

  28. For people who say things like "it's not fair that some schools raise more than others, we should have a city wide PTA," let me break the news to you: we don't live in an agrarian commune. All you would accomplish is to bring down the total contributions. And if it's not fair that one school in SF gets more than another, why stop at only a citywide pool of funds? Is it fair that SF has more resources than than Salinas or Ukiah? Why not a statewide PTA fundraising system? Or what about children from poor towns in Missippi, or even Bangladesh? Why is it fair that we exclude them? As a parent who does donate to my SF school, I am helping the public school system, acting locally. If you expect me to do more than that, I'll just give up, this is hard enough as is. The attitude of "if one child can't have it, then no one can" is just ridiculous, part of the whole ridiculous SFUSD lottery mindset that has increased justice/equality of the system, while simultaneously lowering the quality for everyone.

  29. Samizdat, I don't necessarily question your logic about giving locally, although there might be a model where 5% can be sent to a central sharing fund and I don't know that that would decrease the numbers (or where the "sweet spot" would be).

    However, I do disagree that the lottery has decreased quality for all. In fact, I would argue that the market-based quality of the choice system has forced the district to open magnet programs and forced schools to improve. In the nine years since the lottery (since modified greatly) was first instituted, many more schools are considered worthy by middle class families, and objectively the test scores (both absolute and relative to "similar schools" statewide) have gone up. That doesn't mean the lottery is not frustrating in other ways, but I wouldn't say that is an area in which it can be criticized.

  30. What if each school had to donate 5 percent of monies raised to a central pool, and poorer schools could write grants to be funded from that pool?

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