Parent creates program to fundraise for schools online

April 28, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Whether it's the PTA or an ad-hoc committee, the usual school fundraising program involves a lot of bookkeeping, check processing, and receipt writing. Not so for some tech-savvy parents in Silicon Valley. In a few weeks' time, they've already raised over $1.4 million toward a goal of $3 million to save the jobs of 115 teachers. The key to their success has been a software program created by a parent.

That parent is Soren Christensen, an electrical engineer with three children enrolled at Christa McAuliffe School in Saratoga. The online program he created is credited with achieving its goal in just six weeks. There are just over two weeks left in the campaign. If the goal is met, it will qualify the district for a similar grant from the state, eliminating most of the $7.4 million in state education funding it is slated to lose.

The program accepts checks and credit card donations, freeing up parent volunteers from so-called "back room" accounting functions. It provides a real-time total of amounts raised, which schools are represented, produces receipts, and allows data analysis. Christensen says all of that enables the volunteer committee to see where fundraising has been weak and to focus on those schools and their parents. There are 25 schools in the district, which encompasses six South Bay communities. Because the donations are done online, 24 hours a day, contributions have even come in from grandparents and other relatives across the U.S. and even from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Europe.

Perhaps one of the most important features of the software is a drop-down list of employers with matching gift programs. Companies have donated over $142,000 in matching gifts so far. When donors find no matching gift program at their employer, the fundraising committee works with the employees to solicit a donation.

Carol Crouthamel, a recently tenured teacher in her third year in the district, is enthusiastic about the software program. She's one of the 115 teachers who received pink slips. She thinks the software could help parents and school districts everywhere to do the same kind of fundraising to keep teachers employed and classroom sizes manageable.


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