Frequently Asked Questions

What is an Education Foundation?

Education Foundations are 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations that function as a partner in a community's overall strategy to support its students and teachers.  Often, students who have benefited from specialized foundation programs become future contributors to the foundation. 

What are the benefits of having an Education Foundation?

Specific benefits include the following:

  • Financial support is raised to support existing school revenues.
  • Community and financial support of education are expanded.
  • Attracts donations that can only be given to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations.
  • A perpetual source of funds can be created to support education.
  • Funds are provided to supplement educational programs and activities for which tax dollars are not available or for which tax dollars cannot be expended.
  • Donations to support education may be accepted from individuals, corporations and other funding sources, and donors are assured maximum tax credits.

How long does it take to establish an Education Foundation?

A foundation can usually begin operating in four to ten months.  The amount of time is dependent upon how quickly a steering committee is formed to begin the process which includes identifying funding priorities, adopting bylaws, and filing the necessary forms and applications to receive approval as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.  

What are some of the pitfalls in setting up an Education Foundation?

The most common pitfall is organizing an education foundation without a clearly defined purpose.  Other pitfalls include not having identified funding priorities or well-defined marketing and development plans.

Who runs the Education Foundation?

The education foundation board of directors, selected from a cross section of the community in the school district it is pledged to support, runs the foundation.

Where do Education Foundations receive funds?

Education foundations gain funding from a variety of sources, customized and aligned with their strategic plans and their school districts'.  Generally, individual funding comes from people who graduated from your school district or who work in staff positions and people who know members of your foundation's board of directors or people in the community who are supportive of education.  Other donors include businesses in your community, philanthropic foundations, and grant sources.  A primary source of perpetual funding comes from planned giving with individuals remembering the foundation in wills, insurance policies and estates.

How much money can an Education Foundation raise?

Some Education Foundations are very aggressive in raising funds. On average, an education foundation will raise $150,000 annually; others raise more than $1 million per year.  The amount raised is dependent upon the foundation's commitment, tenacity and programmatic solutions. 

How are Education Foundation funds used?

Foundation funds are used to support educational programs and initiatives for students and teachers, and a small percentage of unrestricted funds are used to operate the foundation office.  The board of directors ensures the foundation's strategies and goals are aligned with your school district's.  Based upon that information, educational programs are designed and implemented using foundation funding.  It is noteworthy that education foundation funds and the school\district's funds are never comingled.  Your foundation is set up to partner with the school district, not to supplant local, state or federal funding. 

Can we use the money to target one or two special programs?

Absolutely.  Many foundations are finding that their school district's money is not sufficient to cover the national emphasis on core subjects, such as math and science.  With foundation funding, they are implementing programs that help students further excel in these areas as well as language arts, fine arts, career and technology and student enrichment opportunities. 

What if we don't have an Education Foundation?

You are in the right place.  First, take some time to review this information.  Think about your community's leaders and target some who believe similarly as you about advancing education.  Contact Successful Ways, Inc. for a timeline and information about creating a foundation specifically for your school district and community.  You can learn about the fundamentals of managing a foundation from A Guide to Education Foundation Policies and Procedures.

We've had an Education Foundation for years, but we really don't have "programs," other than a small teacher grant program and a $500 scholarship to one student a year.  Is there more we should know?

Are your programs aligned with your school district's strategic plan?  If so, your programs may be just fine.  For many school districts and their partner foundations, this programming may not be enough.  You may decide your foundation can do more to impact your children's education.  When you are ready, contact Successful Ways, Inc. for an individualized assessment of your foundation.  We can work together to interface the district's strategic plan and your foundation's strategic plan.  In addition, we will work with you to find and nurture funding sources to finance your new programs. 


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