By Patricia French's estimate, Dollars4Schools, an independent website created by SantaFe.com last September, has raised more than $100,000 and funded 60 programs within Santa Fe Public Schools in a year.
The site lists a number of various school programs requiring somewhere between $100 and $3,000 in funding. Teachers create the grants requests for the site. The minimum pledge is $25, and donors can go directly to the site — dollars4schools.org — to make a general pledge or focus in on a specific program or school.
Last week, as the site celebrated its first-year birthday, French announced that the Community Foundation will completely take over the site by the end of this calendar year. SantaFe.com had already formed a partnership with the foundation and Santa Fe Public Schools, with no overhead to the site, that ensured that every dollar donated went directly to the programs.
"We created a website, but it didn't have a home," French said. "I wanted it to find a home that embraces education in Santa Fe. When we looked to see who could administer the whole thing, over the past year the foundation proved to be the partner. They embrace so many of the nonprofits in Santa Fe, including Partners in Education. We needed an organization with a staff to oversee the program, who could connect with the programmer, with the public schools, and with the donors."
French said the website has learned a few lessons this year. She found that programs requiring $3,000 often sat there for a long time with only partial funding behind them. "So we set up a new model," she said. "We're asking teachers to ask for $500 at a time to get the program funded to start."
Likewise she's noticed that teachers who are more Web-savvy tend to be more successful at attracting donors. "Some of our teachers are not as conversant in submissions via technology as they could be," she said. "Teachers who are comfortable sending out email blasts get their programs funded quickly, we found. I would like to see more training for teachers in using technology."
She said SFPS has provided a free liaison to help make the program work. Neither she nor her staff of one — volunteer Chris Svetnika — have taken a penny from the program, she said.
She's encouraging people to donate, even if it's $25. "A lot of $25 donations can fund a program," she said. "Santa Fe is near the bottom of the state when it comes to education, and the state is near the bottom of the nation. That's not something any of us want. We need to change that, and this is just one step."
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Parents and students seeking information on prospective college options should take advantage of Santa Fe Community College's upcoming College Night. Representatives and alumni from more than 80 colleges and universities will be on hand to give out information and answer questions about academic programs, support services, and financial-aid options. In-state schools will be represented, as will other colleges including Stanford University, Duke University and George Washington University.
The event is free; no registration is required. It takes place from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18, at the William C. Witter Fitness Center on the SFCC campus on Richards Avenue. SFCC has hosted this event for 15 years. Remember: road construction continues out there so get an early start to the event just in case there are delays. For more information on the event, call Colette Lee at 428-1271.
Contact Robert Nott at 986-3021 or email@example.com
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