August 21, 2018
It should be said first that Philadelphia schoolchildren should not need to rely on Super Bowl winners or corporate drives to supply them with paint, gym padding, air conditioners. But they do, so until that changes, spread the news: The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia still needs your money.
The nonprofit serves as a fiscal intermediary between the private sector and school district, allowing it to receive grants and private donations.
It’s also a development partner that hosts Philly FUNDamentals, a crowdfunding site for school-identified needs. Fund President and CEO Donna Frisby-Greenwood told us last November when FUNDamentals launched that the platform was born of focus groups where parents and other supporters asked for a way to donate to schools directly.
“What I heard from donors is, ‘We want to give to schools directly but we don’t know what they need, and we don’t know how,'” Frisby-Greenwood said at the time.
At the beginning, the Fund’s fundraising strategy was to include marketing materials in Philadelphians’ utility bills, which it did this past February; connect schools to local businesses and parent groups, which it has done via regular breakfast events; distribute informational postcards via schools; and other outreach.
“That was our strategy: Let potential donors know the platform exists,” Frisby-Greenwood said. “And that was working.” The first year’s fundraising goal was $100,000.
But the Fund also partnered with outspoken Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson, who agreed to donate a portion of sales from his clothing company, LJ65, to the nonprofit.
Frisby-Greenwood said this week that she expected that aligning with a professional athlete would draw some attention (i.e. press) to the Fund and help get its name to a broader audience — “so that was great, but we did not build our strategy around him, because it was a new partnership and we had no idea what to expect,” she said. After all, “he was a football player in the middle of the season.”
Johnson turned out to be more active expected, sharing the Fund’s posts on social media and writing his own.
“And then the playoffs happened,” Frisby-Greenwood said.
And then the Eagles won the NFC Championship. And then they won the Super Bowl, and Johnson’s famed underdog tees got wildly popular, ultimately raking in nearly $185,000 for public schools.
At the same time, local businesses began stepping up to donate proceeds, too. Reanimator Coffee brewed a special edition Foles-gers (eh?) coffee blend that garnered $23,000 for the Fund, Frisby-Greenwood said — “It’s just extraordinary, we would not expect that type of donation from a small business” — and Federal Donuts’ Kelly green Iggle donuts secured $7,500.
“People just came on board and followed Lane Johnson’s lead,” she said. “We couldn’t have anticipated it, that it would blow up in that way.”
Frisby-Greenwood said the Fund would have made its original goal without the Eagles hype, but in the past 10 months, that $100,000 goal has been mightily exceeded, raking in $413,000.
For its second year, the Fund has upped its fundraising goal to $200,000 — after all, more people now know about its mission. The platform is being revamped so schools can post videos and share donors’ names, and new initiatives are being planned, such as Dress Down for Philly Public Schools, a citywide fundraising event on Sept. 14: Buy a t-shirt for $35, designate which school should get the proceeds, advertise your support for public education.
As for Johnson, Frisby-Greenwood said it’s not yet been confirmed that he’ll partner with the Fund again, but she’s optimistic: The player is currently auctioning off a pair of custom cleats bearing the Fund’s logo.
Happy preseason — or as much of the city knows it, the start of the school year.
By Julie Zeglen / GENEROSITY STAFF