Name change puts foundation focus squarely on Portland schools

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PORTLAND — The former Portland Education Foundation has a new name it hopes will make it more explicit to donors and the wider community that its only mission is to help the public schools achieve their priorities and goals.

The nonprofit is now known as the Foundation for Portland Public Schools.

“We hope that the name change helps people in the community, businesses, individuals, foundations and alumni, understand that we are here to serve the public school system,” Executive Director Kate Snyder said.

“Our mission is to raise philanthropic support (in order) to enhance the educational opportunities for present and future students.”

Superintendent of Schools Xavier Botana said the School Board took an initial important step three years ago when it created the Portland Education Foundation, which he described as a vehicle for increasing the district’s ability to access philanthropic support.

“Over the past two years, the foundation board has worked to refine its work in support of (the schools, and) in the process, we determined that a name change would make it clearer that the role of the foundation is to raise awareness and financial support to support the district’s strategic plan,” Botana said.

With the name change, the Foundation for Portland Public Schools is also launching two new fundraising campaigns.

The first campaign is an effort to raise money to expand the foundation’s staff and outreach.

The objective of the capacity-building campaign “is to secure a one-time infusion of resources that will allow the foundation to hire additional staff to support critical fundraising activities,” Snyder said.

She is currently the only paid staffer, which, Snyder said, limits the “foundation’s ability to pursue new opportunities and continue to develop existing and varied partnerships and support for (the schools), including philanthropic revenue, gifts in kind, and strategic partnerships.”

“Without additional dedicated staff,”  she said, “we know that (our) growth and sustainability (will) have limits. Our objective is to secure $200,000 for staff capacity building that will allow the foundation to better meet and manage (various) opportunities.”

The second fundraising effort is called the Visionaries Giving Circle Campaign and is a more long-term effort. The hope is to encourage donors to give at least $1,000 as a one-time gift or multi-year pledge. The hope is to raise at least $25,000 through this campaign, Snyder said.

Snyder said money donated to the Foundation for Portland Public Schools not only goes toward programming, but toward infrastructure needs, as well. Overall, she said, donations are targeted toward supporting the district’s new strategic plan, the Portland Promise.

Along with the two new fundraising campaigns, Snyder said the foundation is also working hard to generate direct investments, such as grants or gifts of money that support specific programming initiatives.

“We believe that there are many more opportunities available to Portland Public Schools in the realm of community and philanthropic support and partnerships,” she said. “… We believe that philanthropy can seed (other) exciting and meaningful investments.”

Snyder said the reason the work of the foundation is so important is that “public education budgets experience uncertainty every year. Because of this fragility, it’s critical that public K-12 school systems (work) to coordinate and leverage philanthropic support for education.”

But, she added, while the Foundation for Portland Public Schools can “diversify and expand revenues” for the school district, it can’t replace taxpayer support.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Kate Snyder is executive director of the Foundation for Portland Public Schools.

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