Overcoming Your Board’s Reluctance to Ask for Funding: A Charter School Case Study

Most public schools can rely on government funding to assist in bricks and mortar funding needs, but what if you are a public charter school and ineligible for such funding? How do you raise awareness and support for your school amongst the local community, including those who do not and will not have children attending your school? Can you depend on the financial support of current and past student families? These were just a few of the concerns facing a North Carolina public charter school as it decided to embark on its first capital campaign.

 

The Situation

Roxboro Community School (RCS), located in Roxboro, NC, is a 10-year-old public charter school. The school has been ranked in the top 3% of North Carolina public schools and regularly graduates close to 100% of its seniors. To provide even more opportunity for its students, the school wanted to renovate a portion of its facility, the 100-year-old Roxboro Cotton Mill, to create a new multipurpose area and gym.

The school’s board of directors didn’t envision using this just for its students, however; they wanted to create a new family and community venue. To achieve this goal, school officials realized that they needed to engage the entire community, involving them in the planning process as well.

Project Goals

  • Secure the funding needed to build a new gym/multipurpose area
  • Engage community members in the planning process, broadening the school’s base of support
  • Complete renovations quickly so current students could enjoy the new facility

Challenges

  • Board members did not feel comfortable asking for money
  • School admission is lottery-based, so potential funders had no guarantee their children would attend the school
  • As a North Carolina charter school, RCS was ineligible to receive state funding for bricks and mortar needs

The Convergent Approach

The funding feasibility study is widely considered to be a key component of the capital campaign process, and that was definitely the case here. RCS had to come up with a strategy to raise the funds needed for its renovation without the support of any state funding, and it had no way to guarantee local parents that their children would be able to attend the school and utilize the new facility.

Roxboro Community School’s Managing Executive Director, Natalie Brozy, updating attendees on progress at the campaign kickoff.

To overcome these obstacles, community members were asked to participate in the feasibility study and provide their thoughts on how best to complete renovations to the cotton mill so that the new facility would be an asset to the entire community. This input helped shape the plans for the size and specifications of the renovation so that the finished product would provide a new and much-needed event space for the community.

In order to complete the campaign as quickly as possible, RCS engaged Convergent on a full-time basis, meaning the project director was on-site five days a week, ensuring the campaign moved forward on schedule. Additionally, the project director made the ‘ask’ on behalf of RCS, relieving the staff, board members, and volunteers of the responsibility. Our professional solicitations focused on the return on investment that investors would receive by supporting the new facility, instead of relying on personal connections to justify the pledge amounts requested.

Another unique component of this campaign was the student run telethon, which was covered by local radio and TV stations. It was important to school officials that students were given the opportunity to take ownership of the campaign, and a telethon was the ideal way to achieve this goal. In just one and a half days, a team of student volunteers was able to raise $100,000 by calling parents, grandparents, and local community businesses. While our team did provide direction and insight on how to most effectively run a telethon, the credit for the success of the telethon definitely belongs with the students, parents, and teachers who committed their time and energy to the event.

Results

  • In just twelve months, secured nearly $1,600,000 in pledges for the Raise the Roof campaign.
  • Community members were more informed about the quality of the school’s educational programs and success, increasing its base of support.
  • Convergent’s aggressive timeline enabled the school to begin renovations ahead of schedule, ensuring that current students benefited from the success of the campaign.

Client Feedback

Natalie Brozy, Managing Executive Director, Roxboro Community School

There were times when I was present at the ask and was actually shocked at how much our campaign director asked potential funders to commit, not to mention when they actually agreed to that amount!”

We really appreciated not only how professional our project director was in his interactions with our community stakeholders, but also how invested he was in our community while here. He attended community events and became a familiar face, leaving a very positive impression.”