School foundations net $65k in fundraising effort

GREENFIELD — Local school foundations saw a boost of more than $65,000 through a matching donation campaign with the Hancock County Community Foundation.

That’s money that will help teachers fund special projects and reach creative goals, say local volunteers who were busy the past two months raising awareness of their foundations.

The concept was simple: For every dollar donated, the foundation used Lilly Endowment money and its own funds to match that dollar and up the ante 50 cents, for a $2.50 total donation.

The inaugural initiative was so successful that each education foundation exhausted available matching dollars.

And while the total benefit for each foundation averaged $16,000, perhaps the biggest benefit was raising awareness.

“Many people didn’t even know Eastern Hancock had an education foundation,” said Jill Scott, Eastern Hancock Education Foundation president.

Each education foundation serves as one fundraising arm of the school corporation and is run primarily by parents and funded through donations.

Each of Hancock County’s school foundations varies in longevity and sophistication: some have staff directors, while others are run completely by volunteers.

The Eastern Hancock foundation is fairly new, having launched in 2011.

With a themed basketball game that showed off the projects the foundation has funded in the last four years, Scott said community enthusiasm for the fundraising program also was built through social media and word of mouth.

That was the story of each education foundation. Parents and students spread the word and special fundraising events were conducted, from a Foundation Feast at Southern Hancock to ice cream socials at Mt. Vernon.

Greenfield-Central School Foundation conducted a communitywide awareness campaign, and director Myra Bleill said it paid off.

“All of us are sort of low-budget education foundations, so to have such a high-profile, organized effort was very helpful because people would see it, no matter if they worked in one area, and their kids went to school in another area; they saw it countywide,” Bleill said.

“People love matches. They love to see their gift mean more.”

It’s hard to say what kind of projects the money will go toward.

The foundations were encouraged to put funds into their endowments for long-term sustainability, but they may also use the money to meet teachers’ immediate needs this year.

“Our plan now is we are going to do a push to the teachers to submit teacher grant requests,” said Steve Henry, Southern Hancock foundation president.

In the past, the foundations have funded a variety of projects ranging from sensory equipment for special education classrooms to professional development for teachers.

Sometimes students even receive scholarship money to pay for dual enrollment courses while they are still in high school.

“We have some faith and love for what (teachers) do, and here is the ability to do that without getting into their own pockets,” Bleill said. “It’s just a way we can enhance our kids’ education and give them more opportunities not available with the general tax dollars.”

Mary Gibble, community foundation president, was pleased each school community stepped up to the plate and chipped in to the campaign.

It’s too soon to say whether another opportunity will be available next year; it will be based on whether matching funds are available.

Andrea Yovanovich, director of the Mt. Vernon Education Foundation, said she was glad the schools could partner with the community foundation.

“They really work with the education foundation to help us set our sights higher and have bigger goals and to tell our story and our mission,” Yovanovich said.

“They were able to provide incentives for people to participate. It just makes our job easier.”