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April-May 2023

Upcoming events

Join us in welcoming the incoming members of the 2023 NAEF Board of Directors!

  • Adam Samuels, CEFL
  • Cindy Morris
  • Crystal Scanio, CFRE, CEFL
  • Gina Welsh
  • Juan Carlos Alacron
  • Keegan Bell, CFRE
  • Sara Alig-Martin, CEFL
  • Tim Eby
  • Whitney Woolf

Message from the Executive Director

What's your business card worth?

As we approached the start of the 2023 National Conference, in Las Vegas, we urged attendees to bring plenty of business cards.Immediately following the welcome address from Board Chair, Traci Skalberg, we made everyone grab their business cards, stand up, walk to different parts of the ballroom based on specific criteria [IE: geographic location, foundation size], and exchange business cards. At the conclusion of this very interactive session, every individual walked away with 10+ business cards - their new network of peers and colleagues. Some, attendees had over 50 cards!

You cannot put a price on networking, connecting, and engaging with colleagues. The value of being able to email or call someone for advice, guidance, or to brainstorm new ideas is immeasurable, but more importantly...invaluable.

So, dust off that box of business cards sitting on a shelf in your office, or pull the box out of the bottom desk drawer and realize the value of those cards. They are the key to unlock a vast amount of resources, knowledge, experiences, ideas, and sounding boards for you to excel, and for your foundation to get to the next level.

Together, we work to strengthen education foundations across the nation [NAEF Mission], for all students to have robust educational opportunities [NAEF Vision].


Peter Constantinou
Executive Director

Congratulations to the newly elected NAEF officers!

Chair ~ Mike Taylor, CEFL, CFRE
Chief Executive Officer, Knox Education Foundation, Knoxville, TN

Vice Chair ~ Toba Cohen-Dunning, CEFL, MSW, MPA
Executive Director, Omaha Public Schools Foundation, Omaha, NE

Secretary ~ Sara Alig-Martin, CEFL
Executive Director, School District 145 Foundation for Education, Waverly, NE

Treasurer ~ Tyren Frazier, Ed.D.
Executive Director, Chesterfield Education Foundation, Midlothian, VA

The Bill and Deborah Hoffman CEFL Scholarship Fund

Use the QR Code or link, below, to access the 2023 Scholarship Form.

We are pleased to announce the creation of a scholarship fund
to support the advancement of local education foundations by equipping leaders with tools and skills made available through the Certification in Education Foundation Leadership (CEFL) Program. The Bill and Deborah Hoffman CEFL Scholarship Fund was the idea of Bill Hoffman, a long-time support of NSFA and NAEF, and the founder and developer of the CEFL Program. Bill is passionate about the positive impact the CEFL has had on education foundation leaders and wishes to expand the reach of the program by providing scholarship funding to committed NAEF members. He has dedicated many years of service to the advancement of education foundations at the local, state, regional, and national levels.

Scholarships from the Bill and Deborah Hoffman CEFL Scholarship Fund provide half the cost of the CEFL program for two recipients per year; recipients must be registered for the full program. Information on the CEFL Program can be found at

Congratulations to the 2022 CEFL Cohort

  • Aimee Addison, CFRM, CEFL
  • Kelly Falck, CEFL
  • Doug Schroder, CEFL
  • Sara Alig-Martin, CEFL
  • Chris Bossola, CEFL
  • Brittany Dwyer, MSW, CEFL
  • Anita Gamertsfelder, CEFL
  • Jodi Gillette, CEFL
  • Christie Graham, CEFL
  • Kristy Heitzman, CEFL
  • Jodi Kohl, CEFL
  • Jerri Monbaron, MA, CEFL
  • Beth Rohrer, CEFL
  • Adam Samuels, CEFL
  • Susan Tower, CEFL
  • Andrea Vail, CEFL
Registration for the 2023 cohort is open until April 23, 2023. Register here!

Building an Engaged Board
By: Laura Pitts

When I started as the CEO at Carlsbad Educational Foundation, I was new to the non-profit world and had never worked alongside a board of directors. It was a daunting task to determine the most effective way to work with a group of 15 community members. For the first year, I spent much of my time copying what had been done previously and searching online for formal best practices. Over time, it became clear that effectively “managing” a board of directors is not dissimilar to managing a productive and happy staff. Rather than trying to fit our board into a cookie cutter structure it effectively evolved by soliciting feedback from the board and infusing my own, natural style.

Things I learned while trying to bring my board of directors together:


Creating a welcoming environment where people can connect and enjoy each other’s company is key. We accomplished this by hosting in-person board meetings in the evening where we can enjoy a casual dinner and drinks. We have discussed moving to alternating online meetings, however, board and staff have agreed that connections made during in-person meetings are invaluable. Overall, relationships are built during side conversations, and we are wildly more productive when we are together.

Keep things light

Board meetings are fun and light. I am a naturally laid-back, collaborative leader and I carry this with me to our board meetings. We take care of important formal business in a regimented process. Within this process, we encourage idea sharing and open conversation to get us to the end result. We infuse fun competition that is well received and effective in driving board relationships, engagement and needed results. For example, leading up to our annual gala we put the board members on teams and award points based on a variety of things like purchasing tickets/tables, securing auction items, and sitting on our gala committee. We celebrate the progress of these teams at each meeting and offer goofy awards to keep members focused on driving the results we need.

Board meetings are board-driven

I know a board meeting is going well when I am doing very little of the talking. Most of the real “work” is done at individual committee meetings and these committees bring important business topics back to the full board. Whenever possible, board members lead these discussions to increase active participation. Staff share information if feedback is needed, and all other important staff business is shared in writing in the consent agenda. The intent is to ensure that every item on the agenda drives active participation and value to both the board and staff.

Embrace feedback

Having an open-minded and feedback friendly environment is essential to board engagement. We encourage our board to share their feedback as much as possible. Through this process, we were able to uncover why new board members were hesitant to take on active roles during their first year and found a solution. To help new board members feel more comfortable, we developed an improved pre-meeting orientation. Newcomers will be introduced to each other and staff to create relationships, so when they walk into their first board meeting, they’ll see familiar faces and know what to expect. We are thrilled to be welcoming four new members in April who will be the first to test out our new process and give us further feedback on the orientation.

Finally, just like any paid staff, board members need to feel that they are an important part of the team. We accomplish this through committee meetings and individual conversations. Getting together in person with board members for coffee or lunch at least annually is incredibly important. These are the meetings where we receive genuine feedback and make progress with new community connections.

Listen and lead

Our board is always going to be a work in progress, and I’m ok with that because it means we’re consistently improving and open to constructive feedback - which is key to keeping our board members engaged and feeling appreciated. I’m proud to say that I’ve have heard from several of our board members that this is the most productive and enjoyable board they have been a part of, and my goal is to adapt as the board composition changes to maintain this level of engagement. Engaged boards make all the difference!

There is no one size fits all. You can’t force your board into the “perfect” cookie cutter version, but what you can do is listen. Listen to your board and lead with your own style. And serve food…that makes everyone happy.

About the Author

Laura Pitts
Chief Executive Officer
Carlsbad Educational Foundation

Laura Pitts has served as Carlsbad Educational Foundation’s CEO since October 2020. She is a Michigan native and relocated to California in 2009.

Prior to joining Carlsbad Educational Foundation, she spent her entire career in the for-profit educational space working with students of all ages, running a tutoring program for elementary students, and later serving at the as campus president for Kaplan College.

Pitts earned an M.B.A. from Purdue University Global and a B.A. in organizational studies from the University of Michigan. When she is not working she spends all of her time with her husband and two rambunctious young boys.

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Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone — Individual Giving, the Key to the Future
By: Randall Hallett, CFRE, Ed.D., JD, MBA, BS

It's tried and true. And historical. And what many know. It even checks off many different “to dos” on a checklist. Special events, those annual dinners/galas or golf tournaments, are what many know and feel comfortable with, both from a staff as well as board perspective. But if education's going to have the support it needs, providing opportunity for kids in teachers, our public school foundations need to venture into the area of individual giving: campaigns, major gifts, and planned giving.

Whether it be the Association for Fundraising Professionals (AFP) or any other nonprofit industry wide association, the numbers are consistent and stark. The return on investment for most nonprofit events is somewhere around $0.50 on the dollar. For every dollar raised, you spent $0.50 to get it. But those same associations in their statistical analysis tell us that in raising money from individualized relationship-based activity, the return on investment is somewhat better than $0.25 on the dollar or for every dollar raised it costs just $0.25. But how do you go from the comfort of a known quantity in a special event to the unknown principles of major gift getting.  Actually, quite simply—and in just 5 steps.

Change in mentality
To make the move toward increasing philanthropy for a school district or its foundation, you have to start by getting all parties on the same page as to “change.”  That means a change in mentality. For the Superintendent and school district, it's the view that the foundation and its volunteers play an active role in providing what used to be considered internal financial support for programs in facilities that just 10 or 20 years ago would have never been considered philanthropic opportunities. For the board, it's a change in realizing their role in making introductions into the community, extolling the virtues of the school district and why philanthropy is important, and being able to properly oversee the foundation leadership/management staff regarding the proper accountability standards for individual gift getting. And for the staff, it's the realization that making phone calls and going to see people, asking about their passions, becomes the norm rather than the exception.  All parties have to embrace the concept of relationship building as the “norm” in everyday fundraising work…. and to put special events into the background.

Change in alignment/priorities
Those in your community who want to make a difference, and have the means to do so, don't want to be asked to do the “very least” of what is being asked of them.  To motivate larger donors, study after study indicates that projects or efforts that are going to make a big difference will be what attracts those with the largest sums of money. But it will take a special effort to change the perspective of the school board and the Superintendent to best articulate that vision. During my dissertation studies, I studied the Tulsa Public School system. Their philanthropy generated millions of dollars annually to provide food in the elementary schools as well as laundry services. The reason why was elemental but not easily found until the right questions were asked. The reason kids weren't going to school was they were hungry and they were embarrassed that they didn't have clean clothes. Eliminating those two factors, kids started showing up which directly related to increased opportunities for educational excellence. Those are big ideas that attract donors. Asking what those big ideas are for a school district, root causes, are what will drive donors to engage at higher levels.

Change in responsibilities
The changing responsibilities for the foundation will be quintessential as a part of success. Board members should take an active role in introducing two to four people annually from the community, those of higher income status, to staff members and the Superintendent to discuss the needs of the school district. They don't have “to ask,” but they're the conduit for further outreach into the community for those who have the means to make a difference. At the same time, foundation staff are going to have to accept the premise that they must be out and engaging community individuals and leaders constantly (one-on-one), asking what motivates them to give, and matching that up to the institutional needs that are articulated from the Superintendent and his/her staff. These will seem scary and a stretch but are essential for sustainable goals and achievement.

Change in research
A special event is built on a few people asking others to join them at the event or mailing out lots of invitations to see who might be willing to come to that golf tournament or gala. That's not research. That's just communication. Research for major gift and planned giving is utilizing the donor database and doing screening for wealth indicators, reports for consistent donors, and even artificial intelligence to best identify the next generation of potential larger gifts. And while one might see it as an expense, the investment of a great research process at as little as $30,000 to $35,000 should return 10 times it's expense/cost with just a few major gifts that could total as much as $500,000 from just a couple of unknown new people/couples/organizations that are already giving to your organization.

Change in reporting
The old adage is so true---what is measured actually gets done. How many phone calls and appointments were made, how many introductions were made, how many solicitations will be or have been made, and other such metrics will change the reporting process for the foundation, for both staff and the board. It can't be enough just to say we want to make the change; we have to measure the change overtime to ensure we're growing in the specific areas that are most important for success. If we want to raise more money, just looking at the yearend total of dollars raised misses the mark on all of the other opportunities to better understand and know what is successful when building individual relationships.

It's scary and even daunting. But our schools, teachers, and students need the financial reinforcement for countless numbers of critical aspects that are the groundwork for a fantastic public school education experience. Embracing the change, no matter how overwhelming it might seem, is the first step toward a brighter future for philanthropy in public schools.

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.

A Foundation That Pays It Forward
By: Joanne Couvrette

Like most school foundations, the Canyon Crest Academy Foundation in San Diego organizes innovative fundraisers throughout the school year in order to fulfill their mission to enrich the experience of every student, every day. The award-winning CCA Foundation raises the money that helps make the difference between an ordinary high school experience and the exceptional educational opportunities and enrichment programs available to all Canyon Crest Academy students.

Successful fundraising events include a yearly Gala, Taste of the Village, a San Diego community favorite offering samples from local restaurants, and of course, Giving Tuesday. All of these events, and more, combined with incredible community generosity, results in funds that bridge the gap between the public budget and the school’s actual needs.

But, the CCA Foundation not only demonstrates core values of generosity and giving, but is proud to model a program of paying it forward.

Example: Canyon Crest Academy has been in the process of replacing all of its dated, traditional desks and chairs to more flexible, collaborative, and innovative furniture. Purchase decisions are made by committees of parents, teachers, Foundation ED, and ultimately, the Principal. To date 27 classrooms at the school have been updated!

As the new furniture was being delivered, the Foundation staff strategized to find a home for the “gently used” chairs and desks. After posting on social media and networking, the furniture was distributed among underprivileged schools in San Diego.

Another example, the CCA Foundation sponsors and facilitates a program of summer camps, open to students from all district schools and ages, many of which are planned and run by the students themselves. 

Last summer, there were over 400 students in CCA Foundation student-run camps.  The students “learn by doing” through creating curriculum, teaching, and managing summer enrichment programs in the disciplines they love. The students volunteer their time, and the money earned by these camps is donated back into their selected disciplines. It is a win-win for the Student-Counselors and the Camper AND all profits from the camps are donated to the camps’ disciplines. It is truly a pay it forward model.

Since 2004, when Canyon Crest Academy (CCA) opened its doors to 364 freshman students in portable buildings in a parking lot, the Canyon Crest Academy Foundation has been steadily working to support and enrich this exceptional school. In 2023, Niche ranked Canyon Crest Academy as the best public high school in San Diego and 38th in the United States. The Canyon Crest Academy Foundation is pleased to have helped CCA to be one of the nation’s top-ranked high schools.

About the Author

Joanne Couvrette
Executive Director
Canyon Crest Academy Foundation

Joanne Couvrette has a 20-year career as a nonprofit executive and is in her 11th year as executive director of the Canyon Crest Academy Foundation. Couvrette started her career in management for a Fortune 100 company and was the chief executive of a successful small business before entering the nonprofit world.

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