According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “foundation” is a noun that is one of three things: A stone or concrete structure that supports a building from underneath; something such as an idea, principle or fact that provides support for something; or an organization that is created and supported with money that people give in order to do something that helps society.While the last definition properly interprets what school foundations and nonprofits provide for both public and private schools in Cobb County, these organizations can also be viewed as the stones, or rocks, that support a facility, its staff and its children, in addition to an idea that supports what drives these same things in promoting excellence for Cobb’s young people.
In fact, many of Cobb’s private schools and school districts are or have organized nonprofits to help conduct fundraising efforts within their schools or systems, and a majority of that additional funding is raised by employees, parents or guardians, the business community and even several residents who may not have children in the various systems or schools but support the drive for providing quality education.
“The reason it is necessary and important for The Marietta Schools Foundation to exist is to enhance our community’s tradition of spirited involvement in the success of Marietta’s youth. Our children are our future,” says Joseph E. Kinstle, executive director of The Marietta Schools Foundation, which was incorporated in 1983. Kinstle, in addition to two other staff members within the organization and 24 active board members and executive committee oversee 35 separate endowments with a combined portfolio worth more than $3.8 million. Their particular foundation pays out more than $200,000 in donations annually and raises more than $150,000 each year.
Kinstle went on to say that foundations are necessary, specifically in the public school district sector, because systems are always subject to budget cuts. “The Foundation helps to fill those shortcomings. Recently, one of our schools wanted to start a ‘Girls Without Limits’ club to help build and develop leadership skills with young girls within the school. The school needed additional funds beyond what was within their budget, so they came to the Foundation for a small donation to purchase t-shirts and supplies to get this club off the ground,” he adds. “That is just one of the many ways the Foundation is there to help Marietta’s students, faculty and staff enrich their educational experience so that one day each and every student may graduate from Marietta City Schools.”
Other endowments help to support funded project requests that are not normally covered within the school budget, for example, field trips, and there is also an endowment that helps support needy students who cannot afford school supplies and another that provides cash awards to each school’s Teacher of the Year.
Cobb Schools Foundation, the fundraising arm of Cobb County School District, runs similarly. Sheri Brante, executive director of the organization, which was founded in 1999, says their total unrestricted revenues, gains and other increases was $919,000 last year, up from $830,000 the year before. Like Marietta City Schools, money is raised through various events and activities, such as the annual Leaders & Legends Ball and Cobb Classic Golf Tournament. “Funds are used to support teacher grants, scholarships for graduating seniors, After School Program scholarships for kids in need, SAT prep classes for high school juniors, employee and volunteer recognition events and so much more!” Brante says. “We also manage 45 school funds under our umbrella, assisting our local schools and helping them meet local needs. These schools determine how to use the funds that they raise for their schools. Some schools use the funds for technology and academic equipment, supplemental salary funds and other needs that may arise.”
And while private schools do collect tuition from its students and their families, it doesn’t always cover all of the operating costs of a school, so many area schools themselves are nonprofits, which, like Marietta’s and Cobb’s foundations, are philanthropy driven, relying heavily on the financial support of the parents and community to help cover additional costs.
“We do not have a separate organization that raises money for the school, but philanthropy from the Walker community plays a critical role in the school’s success annually and on a long-term basis,” says Shelly Manuel, the school’s director of advancement. Walker itself, which was founded in 1957, is a nonprofit. Gifts from the school’s Annual Fund benefit the annual operating budget of the school through areas such as faculty salaries, professional development and program support. Restricted gifts support the program for which they are designated. A capital campaign would support a specific building, campus enhancement or endowment growth effort, for example.
At Walker, its Board of Trustees approves the annual operating budget and would approve a capital campaign. Last fiscal year, they raised approximately $640,000 through the Annual Fund. As far as future use of funding, Walker recently released a long-range plan in which one of the goals is to enhance the quality of its facilities to positively impact the school’s educational, arts and athletic programs. There are plans for campus expansions and renovation needs. Specifically, Mike Mascheri of Chapman, Coyle, Chapman Architects in Marietta, met with Walker faculty, staff and administrative groups to identify what it will mean to upgrade their facilities, with particular attention being paid to math, science, technology and fine arts facilities for middle and upper school, as well as space needs for athletic programs. Walker acquired 18 acres of contiguous property at 815 Allgood Road for $4.6 million late last year.
Founded in 1998, Mt. Bethel Christian Academy in east Cobb is also organized as a nonprofit. Head of School Jim Callis says their school’s Annual Fund is the primary means of fundraising. “The development office of the school conducts this drive in October of each year,” he says. “One hundred percent parent participation is the primary goal, with a particular dollar amount being a secondary goal.” In addition, Mt. Bethel’s Parents Association raises money year-round, returning those funds to help the school purchase big-ticket items. For example, they bought a school bus in 2013, which like with every dime raised through this organization, benefits the children. Callis, members on the Board of Trustees and Mt. Bethel’s Parent Council helps determine how the funds are allocated. The average amount of contributions from all sources exceeds $500,000 per year.
Mount Paran Christian School in Kennesaw, also itself a nonprofit, has raised funds with the help of volunteers, booster clubs and the Parent Teacher Fellowship since opening in 1976, but about 10 years ago, the school established its development office and hired a director to focus on establishing an Annual Fund for the school to begin building a culture of philanthropy, says Jennifer New, Mount Paran’s director of development. “The Annual Fund is the number one, ongoing fundraising priority for the school,” New adds. “Parent participation in Annual Fund is critical to the school being able to leverage outside resources from foundations and corporations. We ask every family to make a gift to Annual Fund and by our goal-setting and strategies, we focus on participation.”
The nearly half a million raised annually at Mount Paran benefit all students, helping in an array of ways, such as technology upgrades, facility enhancements and professional development for teachers. “In the last couple of years, funds have also gone to support improvements in our campus security,” New says. “Additionally, a portion of Annual Fund goes directly to financial aid for qualifying families who need help with tuition.” In late 2012, the school completed phase one of its Imagine Tomorrow Capital Campaign, raising $16.5 million to purchase the Murray Arts Center on campus. Currently, Mount Paran is in the early stages of phase two to build an athletic stadium and an addition to its high school campus, which is in need of expansion. The original building serves 250 students, but the high school enrollment currently sits at 440 and growing.
To learn more about how you can contribute to area schools and their programs that better serve Cobb’s students, teachers and staff, visit individual school and district websites.