Case Study: Portland Public Schools Foundation

21 Apr 2016 By Miranda Hansen

portland-districtLast year Portland Public Schools parents raised over 3 million dollars through fundraisers.

Considering these are dollars raised by numerous volunteer hours and unquantifiable energy costs, that number is staggering. Fortunately, these schools (44 of them) have the support of the Portland Public Schools Foundation (PPSF) under the nonprofit umbrella of All Hands Raised. In this atypical partnership of public school and nonprofit, PPSFprovides strategic support to these schools. In doing so, not only do schools have an easier time planning and executing a successful auction, the foundation receives access to quality data, providing both parties with set, measured and achieved development goals. has been providing the auction software services for this partnership, offering the schools even more support and more savings.

In this third installment of Case Study, we sat down with Rosemary Schwimmer, Manager of Parent and School Engagement at The Portland Public Schools Foundation, to chat about this unique group effort that smoothly and successfully manages school auction fundraisers.

Tell us a little more about the Portland Public Schools Foundation (PPSF)?

PPSF was founded in 1994 when Portland Public School parents came together with the PPS School Board to form Local School Foundations (LSFs). These LSFs were designed to raise funds to support teaching and staff positions in the schools, while also supporting high need schools through the establishment of the PPS Parent Equity Fund (one-third of all funds raised by the local school foundations after the first $10,000 is allocated to the PPS Parent Equity Fund). The PPSF stewards the funds raised by local schools and manages the PPS Parent Equity Fund, in accordance with PPS School Board policy.

Can you explain the general setup of this arrangement and how the group license plays a part?

Under the non-profit “umbrella” of All Hands Raised, every school in the Portland Public School District has an established Local School Foundation account. Affiliated programs operate under the umbrella of the All Hands Raised and receive a variety of direct support services crucial to the operation of the LSF. Independent LSFs operate under their own 501(c)(3) and receive a more limited set of services. With’s group-license agreement we are able to save district foundations a significant amount of time and money. We are able to provide measurable, tangible benefits to schools (community building, volunteer swaps, less volunteer burnout, better coordination across chairs, establishing local best practice etc).

What are some other benefits of this agreement?

Centralized credit card processing via the district foundation’s master merchant account, plus access to real-time financial and donor reporting (including the ability to easily import donor data to the primary foundation CRM) has been the most tangible benefit. This has enabled the LSF’s as well as PPSF to reach and exceed its goals. Additional support services from PPSF include stewarding donors through gift recognition and tax documentation, managing accounting, including deposits, accounts payable, accounts receivable; taxes and audits; use of Bulk Mailing Permit and Raffle Class A License; event and umbrella insurance coverage; and of course special pricing on software.

Is there a fee for operating under PPSF?

No. One-hundred percent of the net parent-raised funds benefit PPS students – All Hands Raised does not keep a single dollar of ANY of the money raised, including for operating expenses, and neither PPS nor PPS parents are charged a fee for this work. By working with we are better able to provide a shared group of services at lower costs. For example, renting credit card processors is a significant expense for school auction teams but through this group license we are able to have a set number of credit card processors on hand at no extra charge to the school. Normally it costs $200 for each machine rental, which saves the school at least $600!

Can you share any examples on how this has improved workflows, communication and planning overall?

From the perspective of PPSF, the software saves us significant workforce capacity and expense since all auction payments are acknowledged at the event and our office does not need to send letters. From an LSF perspective, the auction software streamlines the transactions and paperwork required to put on the event and creates a database of information to be used for future events. For LSFs, it also allows them to review the data to make improvements for next year, for example, determining how much the silent auction raises versus the work required to put on this portion of the event. PPSF benefits from having everyone using one system.

_ A big Thank You to Rosemary and the PPSF team for helping to continually improve the landscape of school fundraising. _

What are your thoughts? Do you know of a similar team effort in fundraising? We would love to hear about it in the comments below.