Now&Forever Q&A with EGR Schools Foundation Executive Director Amy Stuursma
What is EGR Now&Forever?
Amy Stuursma: Now&Forever is the Foundation’s endowment campaign to build a sustainable source of funding for vital programs and leading-edge enhancements in our schools.
Why is there a need for Now&Forever?
AS: Uneven, unpredictable state funding has put important school programs at risk for years. For the last several years, many of those programs have been saved through the Foundation’s annual EGRNOW! spring fundraising campaign and the hundreds of families who have supported it. Now&Forever is our chance to replace EGRNOW! with a stable, predictable solution.
When did the EGRSF start working on Now&Forever?
AS: We started researching and planning the Now&Forever campaign nearly two years ago knowing that EGRNOW! wasn’t going to be able to meet our needs forever. We performed a feasibility study and began to reach out to community members individually to see if what we envisioned for Now&Forever was possible. We’ve just begun the rollout to the entire community with the goal of reaching out to as many families as possible through gatherings and forums.
How will this be different from (the annual-for the last 7 years) EGR NOW?
AS: Sustainability. Now&Forever is our chance to create a permanent source of funding that will preserve our schools’ tradition of excellence. If we’re successful, we won’t have to make a desperate push every spring to raise money to save programs. We’ll also be able to be proactive instead of reacting to the latest budget crisis.
What will Now&Forever fund?
AS: The funds raised from the Now&Forever campaign will support the Foundation’s mission of enhancing teaching and learning in our schools. They will fund critical programs and enhancements to the curriculum that support the whole child and excellence in education.
Who should donate and why?
AS: Everyone will benefit from this campaign. Families with school age children will benefit, of course, but anyone who calls East home will benefit as well. Our schools are a source of pride. Many, many people move here for our schools. That helps increase property values, which helps us all. But we know not everyone will donate, so we need everyone who does donate to pledge what they can to help support our schools, which help make East Grand Rapids what it is.
Why is this a better approach than EGRNOW?
AS: EGRNOW! has been an absolute necessity for our district for the last seven years. Without it, elementary gym, art, music, and the K-12 world language program and many more programs and supports may have been cut. Without EGRNOW!, our schools would not be as outstanding as they are today. For proof, all you have to do is look around the state and see what other districts have been forced to eliminate. But we can’t continue to race the budget axe every spring. Now&Forever secures our future today and for many years to come, but only if we’re successful at raising this money now.
How should people donate?
AS: Capital campaigns such as EGR Now&Forever are structured to give supporters an opportunity to make a generous, and maybe more aggressive than normal, pledge and spread the payments out over a multi-year period. Our goal is that at the end of the three-year period our endowment will have grown to a point where it is able to provide funds for program support and enhancements using only the earnings, interest and dividends from the fund.
What about our property taxes? Shouldn't those go toward funding our schools?
AS: Property taxes have not fully funded our schools since Proposal A was passed in 1994. Prior to 1994, 33 mils were included in our tax bills to go towards the operating costs for our local schools. Now it’s 6 mils and that amount goes to the State which in turn they distribute back to the districts. Schools are largely funded by sales tax revenue and the amount we get is determined by the State, not locally, in the form of a per pupil allocation.
Are other schools creating endowments like this?
AS: Together, we’re leading the way. Other school foundations are in the early stages of growing an endowment, but we’re the first to set a goal of providing significant sustainable funding for programs and curriculum enhancements--a stream of funding that will last forever, allowing the district to maintain current programming and continue to enrich student learning.
Where can we find more information about Now&Forever?
AS: Here on our website's Now&Forever page. Or you can call us at (616)235-3535, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit us at Woodcliff. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have, and we usually have a bowl of candy on the desk.