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February 2023

Message from the Executive Director

Make a Professional Impact in NAEF

To rightfully represent the needs of the education foundation industry, we welcome applications from education foundation leaders within the K-12 educational system to serve as a Director.

As Board Chair Traci Skalberg said, "Service as a director is an honor and a privilege. The opportunity to serve the industry provides you with greater access to your peers as you work to lead the association in a collegial environment. While individuals may consider volunteer service as 'more work,' the additional benefits received include enhanced leadership skills, a sense of accomplishment, and in-depth connections and friendships with foundation leaders from across the nation."

We respect the time commitment of every volunteer. As such, we host ten teleconference meetings, per year, each to last between 60 and 75 minutes, and one in-person meeting at the National Conference.

In compliance with the bylaws, Directors are elected to a two-year term from January 1 to December 31, with no more than half elected in any given year. While the term begins in January, we currently have a few vacancies we want to fill.

If you can commit your time, energy, experience, knowledge, and passion for the good of the education foundation industry, then you are strongly encourage to submit your application on or before 12 PM ET Tuesday, February 21, 2023. Click here to access the Director Application Form. If you do not feel inclined to apply, but know of someone who should, then please encourage them to apply.

Should you have any questions about the commitment, please contact me at

Education Foundations: Leading Community Impact

In one month, education foundation leaders will convene at the 2023 NAEF National Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. Across three days, we will have deep-dive breakout sessions, meetings with exhibitors, and opportunities to network with education foundation and school district leaders from across the nation.

If you have not registered for the conference, I encourage you to attend the conference to develop and enhance your philanthropic, fundraising, leadership, and operational management skills.

Don't delay............REGISTER NOW

It's Time to Think BIG!

Join Debbie Sontupe, President of Match Nonprofit Consulting, for this special extended pre-conference workshop. Drawing from her experience raising over $100 million dollars working with hundreds of philanthropists, the goal is to inspire attendees to think BIG!

Take your education foundation to the next level by dedicating this time to focus on how to drive significant gifts to your district and foundation.  In this session, participants will gain valuable insight and a roadmap to help build your vision and plan, develop strategies for donor engagement, and prepare for those major gift asks.  Debbie will present a five-step plan to set you up for success and transformational giving for the future. We look forward to having you join us for this interactive workshop to advance your fundraising.

Register for It's Time to Think BIG!

There is a separate fee for the pre-conference session to offset facility-related costs to host this session.


Peter Constantinou
Executive Director

Join us in Las Vegas!

Improving Pledge Fulfillment
By: Janell Johnson

We know your education foundation needs the money today, but what if you could get a much larger gift by offering donors the option to pledge their gifts over time? An effective strategy to grow your major gift donors, who often become your most loyal donors, is to recognize them for their total gift committed.

“But what if they don’t pay?”

We hear this all the time. Many foundation leaders are hesitant to give recognition until a gift is paid in full. They don’t want to treat a pledge like a gift until the money’s in hand. Some caution is understandable, but why not trust people to do what they say they will? In fact, research shows that less than 10% of pledges to nonprofits go unfilled, and the vast majority of those are low-dollar pledges. Here are a few strategies for an effective, strategic approach to pledge fulfillment:

Establish a donor-centered approach.
Work with donors to ensure a donor-first approach. Listen to your donors, and treat them how you would want to be treated: like a person, not an ATM.

Be flexible with the timeline.
There may extenuating circumstances where donors can’t fulfill the original terms of their commitment. If donors have lost a job or been sick, etc. and gotten behind on payments, offer to pause or extend the pledge period by a year. Assume they want to honor their promise as best they can. Develop the pledge timeline in pencil, not pen.

Communicate regularly.
Don’t be a debt collector and send monthly bills to your donors. A reminder is not a “bill.” One of the most important ways to ensure pledge fulfillment is to communicate regularly with donors. Keep them informed about how their gifts change lives. Thank them often, as if the commitment was already paid in cash.

The most important pledge fulfillment strategy is to treat your foundation donors like people who care, first and foremost.

About the Author

Janell J. Johnson, MPA
Executive Vice President

Janell’s track record serving Kinetic clients speaks for itself: She routinely exceeds her clients’ expectations and breaks fundraising records. She is well versed in capital campaign organization and execution; major gift identification; event planning; cultivation and solicitation strategies; annual fund development; planned gift acquisition; and strategic planning. She also has considerable experience in board development, strategic planning and staff management.

Prior to her work with Kinetic, Janell served in development roles at Michigan State University and Western Michigan University. She was also the Director of Annual Giving at University of North Carolina-Wilmington. She holds a Bachelor in Elementary Education degree from Michigan State University and a Master of Public Administration and Certification of Nonprofit Leadership Administration from Western Michigan University.

Make a Donation!

Support the success of education foundations and donate to the 2023 National Conference!*

Give Today

*Our 501(C)3 charitable arm, National School Foundations Associations, Inc. (
NSFA) accepts online donations.

Demystifying Philanthropy with and for the Superintendent — Making Them the “Lead” Fundraiser 
By: Randall Hallett, CFRE, Ed.D., JD, MBA, BS

For many foundations supporting a school district and its never ending “push and pull” of the relationship with the Superintendent feels overwhelming at times.  And over the past several years, with a pandemic and challenging economy, “fundraising” doesn’t even reach the list of priorities for most public-school leaders.  And yet, when looking at other sectors of the nonprofit world, the “CEO” is truly the chief fundraising advocate:

  • Higher Education – In today’s world, the President/Chancellor will spend more the 25% of their time on philanthropically related activities
  • Healthcare – There is a real “push” to move CEO’s more present into the community to engage with large philanthropists to offset the decreasing operating margins of hospitals
  • Associations (Zoo’s, museums, etc.) – To increase size or scope, the CEO leverages philanthropy as the majority mechanism to increasing holdings (art, animals, etc.) and make physical improvements to the facilities
  • Social Services – While many years ago the leader might have risen the ranks from the services provided, today the CEO is out in the community developing relationships to ensure philanthropic funding will help keep the doors open, serving the community’s needs

Leadership in our nonprofits is even more needed today when we realize that, in 2002, 66% of the households made some type of philanthropic gift---while today it is less than 50%.  So properly engaging with a smaller population of “prospects” and “donors” is critical to success.

So how do you engage the “CEO” of the district, who is naturally inclined to avoid fundraising engagement?  Five (5) simple steps:

  1. Realize Their Deficit – Almost nowhere in their career trajectory is their a “responsibility” where a superintendent practiced the art/science of fundraising.  As a teacher, assistant principal, principal, or assistant superintendent, they were never asked to consider the practice.  In addition, public education does not have a long recent history of including philanthropy.  So, it is natural that their lack of experience, understanding, and the industry’s naivet√© lends itself to a combination of concern and insecurity in this new paradigm of revenue generation.
  2. Go Back in History – It can be greatly helpful, from a macro perspective, to realize that public primary and secondary education in the United States was started through philanthropic efforts.  In the first decade of the 1800’s, in Boston and New York, charity societies raised money to educate a larger swath of the community.  And while it was done by the rich to find “better workers” for their businesses, the basic premise of the importance of public education started with fundraising.  Just as an FYI, it wasn’t for another two-plus decades until city governments took over the efforts.
  3. Encourage Them to Listen to What the Community Wants – One of the challenges is the disconnect that lives between “donors” and district leaders.  The district leaders want to “tell” people what they want/need.  The problem is that donors want to give for their own reasons.  One of my favorite sayings helps to overcome this challenge:
    If you want a donor’s advice, ask for money.  If you want their philanthropic money, ask for advice.

    While no one is advocating for donors to take over education (far from it), the decision to make a philanthropic gift is based on “buy in.”  In the end, it is their money.  So ask them what they think is important about public education (leading to what they will give to).  Even take them 30% of a plan and ask their advice (even if 80% of the plan/solution is known). 

    And yes, that means more meetings (1 or 2 a week with possible donors)….but meetings with community leaders who know great public education is critical to the community’s future success. The more you ask for their engagement, the more they will “buy in” to the vision.
  4. Basic Education of Philanthropy – Learning is a life-long pursuit of most educators….so help them.  Find different tools, sessions, classrooms, videos, podcasts, articles, reports etc. for them to learn from.  Tap into that educational curiosity.  Maybe it is from another sector of nonprofit work (Association for Fundraising Professionals or Association for Healthcare Philanthropy).  There is so much good data out there that can help us all regarding the best fundraising activities with limited resources (ROI), how to build a board, how to build a case statement, industry-wide (outside of public-school fundraising) best practices, etc.  Get them, and you, out of the vacuum of the same constant information and noise.

  5. Strategic Planning Alignment – With two active volunteer boards (school and foundation), there are bound to be politics and “misalignment.”  The Superintendent is the conduit for reducing “politics” as he/she most likely serves on both boards.  And while the foundation is “subservient” to the school board, they play a critical role as a lens and outlet to the philanthropic community.  The sooner the chief development officer and key foundation board members are part of strategic conversations (even if confidential---they can keep their mouths closed!), the more philanthropy can support critical needs of the school district.  Time, through lack of alignment, is sometimes the biggest hurdle for fundraising---especially when there isn’t any to create the right type and form of campaign.

It is a challenge---superintendents are busy with so much.  But the community, especially those who have resources and who are philanthropic, want to see, hear, and interact with “the CEO.”   And while much of the work can be done by the staff head and volunteers of the foundation, philanthropists seek to know their “investment” is going to make a difference—and that is best trumpeted by the Superintendent, many times one-on-one with donors. 

Other sectors of the nonprofit world have captured the philanthropic importance of the CEO---it is high time for public and secondary public education to do the same.

About the Author

Randall Hallett, CFRE, Ed.D., JD, MBA, BS
CEO/Founder of Hallett Philanthropy

Randall Hallett is the CEO and Founder of Hallett Philanthropy, a full-service consulting firm. Having spent his entire career in philanthropy, Randall has a passion for helping organizations seek funding to meet their mission, and believes giving is good for one’s emotional and physical well-being.

Prior to founding Hallett Philanthropy, Randall served as President and Principal Consultant for Gobel Group, a leading firm in philanthropy consulting. While at Gobel, he oversaw all client programs on behalf of the 20+ person firm. The final four years of his seven-year tenure were the most profitable for the organization in their history. As a consultant, Randall has worked with universities, healthcare systems, hospitals, medical centers, and community non-profits here in the US and across the globe.

Before consulting, Randall was the Chief Development Officer (CDO) and MedCenter Senior Executive at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where he was responsible for all aspects of fundraising; Randall and his team supported the $370 million 18-month fundraising effort for the Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.

Prior to working with the MedCenter, Randall spent 15 years in fundraising leadership positions with educational institutions.

Randall holds a bachelor’s degree in business and finance from the University of Nebraska-Omaha, a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, a Juris Doctorate with a personal focus in taxation issues of estates and trusts from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and an Educational Doctorate in leadership from the University of St. Thomas.

Storytelling Has Powerful Impact on Critics and Supporters of Public Schools
By: Liz Renner

As we begin 2023, public education continues to make news on the national, state, and local level. Decisions on topics from curricula to staffing will affect thousands of employees and even more K-12 students. Regardless of the state, most public school systems find themselves doing more with less funding and asking how they can help their communities understand exactly what goes on in public schools every day. 

I represent a group of storytellers who have successfully engaged a state-wide community to ensure our public schools have the spotlight they deserve. I Love Public Schools is a non-profit organization that connects people to the humanity of public schools through storytelling. So far, we have focused exclusively on Nebraska and have yet to run out of stories to tell.

Our organization’s name — I Love Public Schools — is a personal declaration of commitment to the success of all our kids. In our home state of Nebraska, our public schools educate more than 90 percent of K-12 students and provide specialized services for all children, regardless of their school. There are more than 40,000 employees in Nebraska’s public school system and our districts represent urban and rural populations.

It is our belief that if people can connect to the humanity of public schools they will be more inclined to support public schools because once you see the professionalism, innovation, and dedication inside public schools, you can’t deny their value within our communities.

The impact of I Love Public Schools has been made using three distinct approaches: storytelling, community-rallying, and relationship building. These approaches work together symbiotically to create a trusted space where people — teachers, parents, members of the community, business owners — can show support for and pride in their public schools.

Storytelling Approach
We believe in the power of stories. We provide free access on our website to original, award-winning documentary shorts and features highlighting public schools. Our stories range from “feel good” celebratory stories to longer-form, in depth explorations of issues such as mental health and poverty inside public schools. The films are viewed by thousands annually and are used for professional development, teacher prep coursework, community conversations, and policymaker education.

Community-Rallying Approach
I Love Public Schools provides a space for people to share their love for public schools. We’ve seen impact using both traditional (TV, radio) and social media to engage audiences. Our popular t-shirts spread awareness and spark conversations. Additionally, we have used monthly and annual events to rally audiences to recognize the work of public school educators and administrators.

Relationship Building
We engage in and facilitate connection with members of our state’s educational ecosystem. This collaboration keeps our team “on the pulse” of the topics that are most important to local educators and administrators. Our campaign plays a role in demonstrating the importance of issues facing public schools. Critics and supporters of public schools are influenced by our work and the awareness we bring to key topics.

Our intention is to become a national resource, a bullhorn for communities across the country to share their pride in public schools.

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