Tuesday, April 26, 2016

School Fundraisers: DogFest has passed, Taste of Potrero is coming up!

As they learn about different public schools, many San Francisco parents are surprised by the scale of PTA fundraising that goes on. At many schools, the PTA uses those privately-raised funds to support art teachers, music teachers, PE, class size reduction in upper grades, language programs, garden programs, and other valuable enrichment activities. Some news outlets have reported on the scale of fundraising going on in SF and wondered whether it contributes to inequality of opportunity (http://sfpublicpress.org/news/public-schools); commenters have often countered by pointing out that SFUSD generously supports schools with high percentages of low-income children; a lot of that funding goes to fund enrichment activities like art, music, and dance, as well as smaller classes. With private support from foundations, programs like Playworks and Education Outside are also present in many SF schools where the parents are not able to engage in heavy-duty fundraising.

As far as the kids of fundraising going on, I think fundraising events can offer a nice opportunity to build a sense of community and purpose among parents, teachers and students. I do sometimes worry about the kinds of fundraisers schools put on, though. I worry that families who can't shell out for big ticket items at the annual fundraising auction (or even tickets to the auction) will feel like they aren't appreciated, or that children will feel left out if their parents can't afford to bid on items the playdate with a favorite teacher. It's also true that most fundraisers are raising money from within the same group of school families.

Given those concerns, one kind of fundraiser that has really impressed me is when a PTA figures out how to draw on funds from outside the immediate school community. If you have ever been to McKinley Elementary's Dogfest, you know they have very creatively  tapped into the local community of dog lovers in the Castro/Lower Haight/Duboce Park area and they always throw a party that includes everyone! The event just passed for this year and we forgot to mention it but make sure to check it out next year if you've never been -- there are activities for kids, items to bid on, and an always hilarious dog parade, often hosted by the very funny Daniel Handler (aka the famous author Lemony Snicket).

Another event that is reaching out beyond the parents from one school is Taste of Potrero, happening this year on May 12th at Pier 70. Started 6 years ago by a group of Potrero parents to support Daniel Webster Elementary School, the event has grown from a small community fund raiser to a big foodie event. The PTA has gotten over 40 chefs and mixologists to donate their time to raise money for Daniel Webster. This event is pretty significant for the school -- it accounts for more than 65% of the PTA's total fundraising budget. Check it out and let us know your reaction!

We would love to hear other thoughts, concerns and experiences about school fundraising in the comments.

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