Portland Schools To Start New Nonprofit, Take Over Local School Foundations

By Elizabeth Miller (OPB)
April 12, 2019 10:29 p.m.

Portland Public Schools is starting a new nonprofit, The Fund for Portland Public Schools, to pull in money from philanthropic organizations. The fundraising arm of the district will also begin overseeing 42 local school foundations — a transfer from local nonprofit All Hands Raised.

Jonathan Garcia, the district’s engagement officer, says he’s been focused on developing a fundraising plan for the district since he started 15 months ago. He’s met with foundations and philanthropic organizations who he says want to help PPS.


“As we’ve been moving towards that goal of leveraging and building opportunities for philanthropy to be involved, one natural step in that is to build out a new fundraising entity that will be focused on … private investments,” said Garcia.

Garcia says he’s working on a fundraising plan to best decide where the privately raised money will go.

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That’s one part of the nonprofit. The other part has to do with the oversight of parent-led fundraising efforts at the school level. Every year, parents donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to local school foundations — nonprofits which fund additional full-time employees, such as teachers.

Right now, most of those nonprofits use All Hands Raised to manage their funds. As of July 1, the 42 school foundations will be under The Fund for Portland Public Schools.


“We wanted to be able to bring that into the fold, to be able to augment and supplement hard work and fundraising they do day-to-day for individual schools,” Garcia said.

He says nothing will change about the way parents donate to school foundations. One-third of funds raised will still go to the PPS Parent Fund, which gives money to schools with less fundraising capacity.

“A parent walks in with a check, we will process it, put it into their portion of the bank, and that will get distributed in accordance to donor intent,” Garcia said.

There will be one change; Garcia says PPS will offer additional support for parents through professional development opportunities and fundraising strategies.

PPS Board member Amy Kohnstamm worked with two school foundations at her sons' schools before joining the board.

“I’m excited about the opportunity for the district to take this work over,” Kohnstamm said. “I think the district will be able to support the parent-led fundraising well.”

School foundations launched funding efforts as a way to make up lack of local revenue after Measure 5 passed in 1990. Kohnstamm would like to see those funding roles change.

“I’d really like to see the whole shift where we don’t have to rely so much on parent fundraising and we’re adequately funding our schools,” Kohnstamm said.

PPS will hold two public forums next week to answer questions from parents. Garcia also wants to start talking about the structure of school foundations.

“A lot of these policies, a lot of the things have been in place for a significant amount of time without much double look,” Garcia said. “As part of a transition, you want to just look and see if there’s anything that could strengthen the local school foundations, anything that could make them more accessible, more open, more equitable.”