Is Foundation Funding Drying Up?

By Naomi Dillon

The booster club at Oregon’s Aloha High School has always been an expansive donor, funding everything from student scholarships and teacher requests to annual festivities and facility maintenance.

“We are a booster club for everybody,” says Marcia Loggins, the club’s president.

As the country sinks deeper into recession, needs are far greater than resources at schools like Aloha, located in the 37,500-student Beaverton School District. Like other districts across the country, Beaverton is contending with rising unemployment, plummeting home values, and a massive state shortfall.

Grassroots fundraising, corporate sponsorships, government grants, and foundation awards are important to school districts even in tight times. But the places districts can turn to are seeing their fortunes sink along with the economy. Foundations have lost an average of 30 percent of their wealth as the stock market has tumbled, a drop that does not bode well for public schools.

Kathleen McCarthy, director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at City University of New York, says education usually is “at the top of the list” of philanthropic endeavors. But, she says, giving to K-12 schools is different; education, in the world of corporate philanthropy, usually means colleges and universities.

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