A Letter from the President

Wherever you are reading this from, I hope you are finding moments of peace as we have all experienced a rather turbulent year.  Here in the Midwest we are enjoying a beautiful fall with the changing of the leaves, morning frosts and warm afternoons.  It won’t last long, after all it is Nebraska, but we are enjoying it while it lasts!  

One of the many benefits of being a member of the National Schools Foundation Association is unlimited access to colleagues around the country who are experiencing the same or similar to you and your Foundation, who have some advice on how they are addressing a particular issue, or are just willing to lend a thoughtful ear.  I have personally found great solace in this perk and consider it quite therapeutic. Covid has shown us that Zoom, Teams, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (to name just a few) are our links to the outside world. The efficiency created with the remote option of meetings alone will forever change the way we conduct meetings and conferences considering the time and money saved, though I truly look forward to the time when we can again meet in person.

I hope you will join us in February for our Annual Conference and while it will be virtual, there will be no lack of talent-showcasing topics facing our industry. Please make sure you receive the early-bird discount and join your colleagues from across the country as we work to ensure we are fully prepared for the changing times.

As I reflect on 2020, I’m so proud of the fact that our Foundation (as I’m sure yours has too!) has always had an appreciation for our teachers (especially since February 28th when our District had to close its doors).  And we continue to be grateful to our District’s Operational Services Department – but this year we saw them in a new light. Remember to herald your nutritional services staff who work tirelessly to feed students whether they are remote or in person, the custodians and building engineers who are ensuring that classrooms are disinfected, the bus drivers who are getting the students to and from school in every type of weather and purchasing staff who are finding the cleaning supplies to keep it all moving forward. Laud your teachers, curriculum specialists, counselors, social workers, principals, human resources staff and other members of District Administration. Superintendent’s must always be superheroes, but THIS YEAR has proven that they need the strength of Captain Marvel, the agility of Spider Man, the negotiation skills of a good Secretary of State, the creativity of Iron Man and most of all have the bracelets of Wonder Woman. Make sure you remember your District village during this time of constant change, regardless of the size or membership of your student body.

Lastly, I want to thank the thousands of volunteers who help our foundations raise money, tell our story, support our staff, advocate in the community and help the millions of children in this country receive the necessary and exceptional tools to ensure Every Student, Every Day is Prepared for Success. Wishing you all a good holiday season and remember we’re all in this together. Please reach out any time to me (toba.cohendunning@ops.org), our amazing board of directors or the incredibly talented team at AMI.  Cheers to a bright and joyous 2021!  #SchoolFoundationsRUs         

Toba Cohen-Dunning, CEFL, MSW, MPA
President, National School Foundation Association

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How-to Guide for NSFA

By: Eric Wilson

As year-end giving approaches, now is the time for education foundations to tidy up their databases.  A database is simply an organized collection of data, generally stored and accessed electronically from a computer.  Many smaller- to mid-sized foundations; however, are wrestling with disorganized electronic files and do not have good data management practices in place.  Starting a database may feel like a daunting task.  You may be asking yourself, “Where do I begin?  What skills are needed?  What board agreements need to be in place?”  The following steps will help identify the answers to these questions and get you moving in the right direction:

  1. Have a discussion with your board about the expected value and purpose of a database.  A database can support many critical functions for your foundation such as segmented marketing communications, fundraising campaigns, event management, and donor retention, to name a few.  After this discussion, begin developing a donor privacy policy which clearly articulates the purpose in collecting information on your supporters and guidelines on what the foundation will do with that information.  Getting this statement drafted early is very important and will shape your overall data strategy.  The NSFA Resource Library has an excellent donor privacy policy from the Issaquah Schools Foundation.

  2. Write a confidentiality agreement and have your executive director, staff, board members and any other interested parties sign it.  This agreement sets the tone about the seriousness of your data protocol and outlines penalties for those who violate it.  It will also make patrons feel more comfortable as they interact with your foundation knowing that you have been thoughtful about their personal data.  Your board may decide to limit complete access to the database to just one or two members involved with its ongoing maintenance.  This is not uncommon.  Again, the Issaquah Schools Foundation offers a sample confidentiality agreement in the NSFA Resource Library.

  3. Pick someone to serve in the role of Data Collector.  This person will be responsible for initially gathering all the files from the foundation into one location.  This location would ideally be in the cloud (i.e. Google drive) where sharing and permissions can more easily be established.  Another alternative would be to store the information on an external thumb drive which can be shared with others involved in your data project.  Sending multiple emails with attachments is not recommended and a much less secure way of sharing data.

    Collect all donation receipts, event registrations, contact info, and any other files which have information on previous interactions with your supporters.  This may even include scanning paper copies into a digital format. Don’t forget to gather up a list of your previous foundation volunteers, board members, executive directors, staff, school district board members, administrators, and employees.  These are obviously key backers sympathetic to the ongoing work of the foundation.  Your foundation’s Secretary or Treasurer may be a natural fit for the role of Data Collector.

  4. Carefully select someone to serve in the role of Database Manager.  Initially, this person will compile all the files from the Data Collector, clean them up, standardize the layout and valid values, assign unique IDs to each supporter, and store the information in a cost appropriate database solution for your foundation.  This person should be comfortable working with large amounts of data and have a background in doing this kind of work.  This is a highly technical role and if your foundation does not have someone with these skills, then consideration should be given to outsource this to a qualified third party.

  5. Your database will need constant updating as supporters move, as fundraising events are held, emails are sent, letters are snail-mailed, and donations are made.  In addition to this, there are a variety of other activities in your school community which generate data that can be useful to the foundation.  For example, donors interact not only with you, but also the alumni association, booster club(s), and parent/teacher association.  The closer these groups can work together and share information, the more complete the donor profile becomes which has benefits for all involved.

    In an ideal state, all these “supporter touchpoints” would be channeled through to your Database Manager who would properly sort and store this information away.  For those of you interested in embarking on such a data collection journey, setting up a memorandum of understanding, in conjunction with the donor privacy policy and confidentiality agreement is strongly encouraged from all participating organizations.  This can be achieved, but it will require careful coordination and a strong spirit of cooperation for the ultimate benefit of the school district.

  6. Data privacy is a growing concern and no doubt a question that someone on your board will ask about.  Currently, there is no single body of legislation in the United States that covers everything, but for those interested, please review the below sampling of legislation.
  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).   Take special note of the section on “Directory Information.”
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX)
  • Gramm-Leach-Bliley (GLB).  Banking and Financial Law.
  • Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
  • Several states are now enacting data privacy laws including California, Massachusetts, New York, Hawaii, Maryland, and North Dakota

This legislation should not; however, discourage your foundation from setting up and using a database.  By establishing a donor privacy policy; confidentiality agreement; and memorandum of understanding (if needed), your foundation will have followed best practices on data management.  Additionally, foundations should be prepared to allow supporters to do the following:

  • Opt-out of marketing communications
  • Access their personal data
  • Request their information be deleted

By following the steps in this article, your education foundation will be in an excellent position to generate value from an organized database and, overall, better achieve your mission.

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About the Author

Eric Wilson

Community Dataroots was started with one goal in mind – Help nonprofits with their data so they can better fulfill their purpose.  Company Owner, Eric Wilson, has over 20 years of experience managing and automating data processes to support front-end analytical tools in Tableau, Microsoft Access, Excel and PowerPoint.  He’s a data enthusiast, a deep thinker, analytical and passionate about arming decision makers with information they need to better run their organizations.

He has over ten years experience serving as a volunteer board member on K-12 Education Foundations supporting both private and public school districts.

For the past two years, he’s worked closely with Information Technology professionals prioritizing work as Product Owner to rewrite an extensive database out of Oracle and into Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) cloud environment.  He’s been fully trained to use the Agile software development methodology during this process.  This has been an invaluable experience that will no doubt help him in serving the nonprofit community.

He holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Missouri State University and a Master of Arts in Marketing from Webster University.  Outside of work, he’s actively involved with youth ministry at his church and enjoys being involved in sports, music and speech & debate with his children.  He currently lives in America’s Heartland outside of Kansas City, Missouri with his high school sweetheart and his growing family of seven children.

One of his favorite quotes is from Robert Collier which says, “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”   This ideal is something he strives to live by as he works with each of his customers.


By: Debbie Sontupe & Molly Servais, Match Nonprofit Consulting

With the COVID-19 pandemic, something we have all taken for granted – our children being educated in classrooms – vanished overnight. Some districts were prepared with one to one devices, personal wi-fi kajeets and virtual lesson plans.  Others were not prepared - scrambling to effectively teach online with students sharing computers with family members, no internet connection and no school supplies at home.  Most districts landed somewhere in between, but none were 100% prepared to teach pre-K – 12 online. No matter what kind of district you serve, large or small, urban or rural, all districts are running into unforeseen needs – technology, paper and pens, food, professional development – and the list goes on.

All of this requires much needed funds. 

Education foundations are vital partners helping their school districts transition to virtual learning and funding emerging needs. Four months into the crisis, we are adapting our fundraising plans as we face the unknown.

Listed below are SIX ESSENTIAL STEPS to effectively raise funds for your education foundation during the pandemic.


As always, stick with your mission.  For education foundations, our missions may vary in wording and breadth, but we all strive to serve the students in our districts. How you deliver your mission looks different right now.  Rather than funding classroom grants that cannot occur outside of our schools, foundations have pivoted to provide basic needs, personal technology devices for both students and teachers, home school supplies, worksheet packages and much more. All these things still align with the mission to serve the students in your district, they are simply delivered in a different way. Be nimble and flexible.


The second essential step is always vital, whether you are responding to the pandemic or not: work with your district. It is important to have an ongoing dialogue with your superintendent, district staff, and BOE, recognizing that they are deep in the trenches of planning for whatever the 2020-21 school year brings.  Your district’s needs are changing weekly.  To best serve your students, you need to be able to respond as needs evolve. Donors want to have impact and see their dollars at work so be sure to align your solicitations with needs that are current and critical.   Give grants where your impact can most help respond to the crisis.


With your district’s changing priorities, education foundations need to change their case for support to reflect the pandemic. Acknowledge the elephant in the room. Effort should be made to tell your new story and your critical role in helping your district and students adapt to the current reality. Test your new case with your board and volunteers to be sure your message resonates. Your case needs to include the compelling need for fundraising during this time. Education, and how districts are responding, is headline news.  Make sure you communicate your partnership with your district during these challenging times.  


It is vital to stay connected with your donors and keep them engaged with your mission. Some of us stopped communicating, worrying that reaching out would seem insensitive. Yet donors want to know how their district is handling this crisis and may not be receiving the information from other sources. After 9/11, many non-profit organizations did not stay in touch with their donors for fear of being insensitive and they ultimately lost them.  Do not make the same mistake. Your message should be strong and concise and tell your new story.  Be specific with the ways you are helping individual students - you must bring your mission to life.


Be sure to be among those who are asking and articulating how your organization is helping educate your students in this new reality.  Many parents have been overwhelmed with home schooling and are more appreciative of their children’s teachers.  This is a very strong fundraising message. People are giving to organizations they have a relationship with.  They already have loyalty and trust.  However, seldom do people give without being asked.  You need to make the appeal. Organizations that are directly responding to needs that have arisen from the pandemic are seeing an increase in donations and new donors. They are publicizing the charitable giving incentives and making sure donors know they are an organization active and worthy of their support. There are certainly those that cannot give due to financial insecurity, but there are many donors who want to take some action to help during this time and donating funds is one way for individuals to have an impact.  Don’t make the decision for the donor by not asking. 


With the future of special events uncertain, now is the time to make a strong annual campaign plan.  This should include an emphasis on major donors and individual cultivation and stewardship plans. When in the past you likely spent many hours planning and executing special events, use that time to make personal connections.  You have a new story to tell and it is important to take time with individual donors to tell it. Annual giving will be your lifeblood through the crisis.


The pandemic has highlighted the vital role education foundations play for our districts and students. Don’t be afraid to fundraise to meet the emerging challenges. People want to help in times of crisis and EVERY public education student will need help. Donors will be there for your education foundation, if you make a compelling appeal on behalf your students.

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Debbie Sontupe

With over 25 years of experience in fundraising, communications and non-profit management in both the non-profit and higher education sectors, Debbie Sontupe, President of Match Nonprofit Consulting, provides consulting services and project-based leadership in helping organizations in the areas of building and managing development programs, campaigns, major gift fundraising, board development, alumni relations, annual fundraising efforts and public relations.  Debbie served as the Vice President of Institutional Advancement at Mercy College in NY. Prior to joining Mercy, Debbie provided campaign direction at Rutgers University where she was responsible for the planning and operations of the largest campaign in university history, a $1 billion comprehensive campaign initiative. In addition to her higher education experience, Debbie has served in several leadership roles in the YMCA, where she held the positions of vice president of operations as well as the vice president of marketing and development.  She also served as a national trainer in all aspects of fund development for YMCA of the USA. She currently serves on many non-profit boards and has served as board member for the Association of Fundraising Professionals, NJ Chapter and chaired the state-wide conference in 2004.  She recently earned her Certification of Education Foundation Leadership from National University. In addition to running her consulting firm, Debbie was the Executive Director of the Morris Educational Foundation for five years, during which time it was named #1 in the country for its size by the Carruthers Institute. Debbie earned her Bachelors Degree from Rutgers University and holds a master of Education from the Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University.

Molly Servais
Senior Consultant

Molly Servais is a senior consultant for Match Nonprofit Consulting.  She has over 25 years of experience in nonprofit management, fundraising and leadership. She has worked for national non-profit organizations including the Arthritis Foundation, Junior Achievement and the YMCA.  Molly’s vast experience includes developing annual giving programs, special events, grant writing, corporate and foundation relations, board development and governance and volunteer management.  In addition to professional non-profit management and fundraising experience, Molly has also served on numerous non- profit boards.   She served as Chair of the Morris Educational Foundation for three years which was named #1 in the country for education foundations of its size and is a current board member.  Molly earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Michigan State University and completed the National School Foundation Association’s Certified Education Foundation Leadership program through National University.

Become a Member

The National School Foundation Association (NSFA) is leading the education foundation movement by connecting, informing, and supporting local education foundations across the United States.  Membership with NSFA provides you with access to the tools, resources and networking opportunities you need to grow and strengthen your foundation.

If you're interested in becoming a member of the NSFA, start the online application process here!

Pivoting During a Pandemic: How a Quick Response and a Focus on Those in Need Helped the Naperville Education Foundation Raise More than $250,000

By: Amy Schade and Wendy Goettsch

The Naperville Education Foundation (NEF), supporting opportunities for Naperville Community Unit School District 203 students in Naperville, IL, was days away from one of two major annual fundraising events when news of COVID-19 went from a global story to a local one.

A year of planning for an annual breakfast, scheduled for March 19, boiled down to the tough decision to cancel just one week before the event. Rescheduling was not an option, based on the school calendar and the uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis. The event was budgeted to raise a total of $75,000, with a significant portion coming from day-of gifts driven by a video-led program sharing stories of the impact of NEF-funded programs.

Information changed rapidly in the early days of the crisis. Communication with supporters was key. On Friday, March 13, NEF announced via email and social media, “For the first time in 27 years, the Naperville Education Foundation is canceling our major fundraising event, the annual Building a Passion breakfast.” This email made a case for support based on the looming crisis: “We are bracing ourselves for the impact that this virus will have on our most at-risk students and families.” From the very first communication, the focus was on helping students and families, not on helping NEF stay afloat.

Later that day, the school district announced a move to e-learning.  

As the crisis loomed over the weekend, NEF’s Executive Director and Development Coordinator noticed two simultaneous occurrences. Social media was filled with local residents looking for ways to help, offering to buy groceries, supplies, or food for local families in need. And needs were rapidly increasing, as social workers reached out to at-risk families in the district. The desire to help was there. The need was there. NEF facilitated the connection between the two.

By Monday, NEF created the Kid Booster Crisis Fund, an emergency fund providing immediate access to financial assistance for students and families impacted by COVID-19.

The emergency fund was part of the foundation’s existing Kid Booster Anonymous Fund. Kid Booster helps at-risk Naperville 203 students throughout the year by supporting specific and unique needs that are identified by social workers and staff. Funds assist with educational, physical or social emotional growth, and are used for needs like counseling or participation in school activities. The fund provides a timely response and the “missing link” under circumstances where there is no known family, district, or community system or structure to address the need.

The Crisis Fund was similarly structured. Social workers identified needs, provided community resources where available, and used the Crisis Fund when necessary. Funds could be used for housing support, transportation, or basic needs. Through a partnership with food service vendor, Aramark, the school district provided lunch and breakfast for Naperville 203 students and their families who needed it. NEF funds supplemented this with additional evening and weekend meals as needed.

NEF launched the fund with an email explaining donations would “directly help our most at-risk students, including the 15% of Naperville 203’s over 16,500 students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, and the 1% of our students who are homeless. These are the families in our community who are most vulnerable to the overall impact of this virus.” The district emailed the same message to all Naperville 203 families.

Within 24 hours, over $30,000 was raised in support of the Crisis Fund. In addition, supporters donated more than $11,000 in unrestricted funds in the days following the cancellation of the event. The next weeks saw increased support following a press release picked up by local media, district-wide emails from the district and from Naperville 203 Superintendent Dan Bridges, social media updates and weekly email updates to supporters.

On the day the fundraising event was to occur, NEF sent an email filled with video content and student artwork, making the most of the work already created for the event. The following week, an email shared thank you messages from families receiving support and thanked donors for continuing to make a difference. The next week, NEF shared video testimonials from social workers and the supervisor of social work services regarding continued and increased needs, and gratitude for support.

By April 3, just three weeks after the creation of the fund, supporters had donated more than $100,000 to the Crisis Fund and the numbers kept rising. The total donations were so significant that NEF’s donor management software vendor, Bloomerang, reached out to do a case study on NEF’s success.

Donations continue to come in as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, from individuals, corporations, and student and community groups, including several community grants and donations from local foundations.

 As of June 30, more than $200,000 had been given in support of the Kid Booster Crisis Fund, as well as an additional $55,000 in unrestricted funds. The unrestricted funds were supplemented by a first time “High Five” staff appreciation campaign, which resonated in the COVID-19, remote learning environment. Families recognized staff more than 800 times, making donations in staff members’ honor. These campaigns recovered more than the budgeted $75,000 income from the canceled fundraising event, and brought in needed funds for support for students and their families as COVID-19 continues.

The success of the fund, the need for continued support, and the giving nature of the community allowed the Crisis Fund to continue into the summer. As of June 30, the fund has assisted 105 families, including helping 70 families with housing costs, providing 942 evening and weekend meals, and providing 64 gift cards for basic needs and transportation costs.

The success in supporting Naperville 203’s students came from quick action, a giving community, a strong partnership with the district and positive messaging surrounding the impact donors could make.

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the Authors

Wendy Goettsch

Amy Schade

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