EDUCATION FOUNDATIONS: The Blockbuster Success of Santa Monica Education Foundation

Santa Monica Ed Foundation

Article in a Series…

Education Foundations in Ventura County and surrounding areas.

(Santa Monica, Ca) After discussion with several education foundations in Ventura County, it appears most follow a model around community outreach and event based fundraising.

One foundation in the area follows a very different form of fundraising: Centralized fundraising at the district level for all district schools with small fundraising only at the individual schools.

And it works…

Education Foundation Fundraising
Education Foundations Fundraising from 2001-2016.

Santa Monica Education Foundation’s (SMEF), Linda Greenberg has served as the Executive Director of the Santa Monica Ed Foundation since 2001. Prior to that, she served as the Foundation’s volunteer President for seven years.

Under Greenberg’s leadership, the education foundation has raised Academic and Arts Endowments in excess of $8 million and has awarded grants to the District, schools, teachers totaling more than $10 million. “We have tried using events to raise money and it is very hard. Events are fun but they don’t raise the kind of money that is truly needed. The best way to raise is to direct ask people for money. Events are a good way to increase recognition and to build affinity for a cause. But honestly if you want to raise a lot of money you have to ask people for money,” states Greenberg. Santa Monica Education Foundation’s split between individuals and corporate donors is 85% to 15%.

Greenberg’s success is unmatched by most foundation in southern California. Compared to foundation in Ventura County, Greenberg is raising between 20-30 times what other foundations are raising.

So how has SMEF been able to raise so much money? Simple Answer: a few reasons.

“This is really about education people that the way to support the schools. The average donation is $350. It used to be the low $200’s. Each year the average gift goes a little higher. We put a real focus on participation. We want people to give at their capacity. We want everyone to be in the habit of giving.”

Greenberg also discussed changing policies at the school district level. About 7 years ago, Greenberg worked with the school district to create a policy where PTA’s and school based groups could no longer fund staff or teaching resources at the schools. Everything had to be centralized at the District level. “There were many human resource and other legality issues created by a person’s position being funded by a school based group. So we corrected that and centralized that to the District which really made things much cleaner.”

With most school districts identify staff costs at 80-85% of their total budget, the majority of spend resides in staff related costs.

Greenberg conveyed the many benefits of having one group raise money for the entire district, “Corporate sponsors like being called once and not 16 times by 16 different schools in the same district.” Her staff include 5 full time people that assist her in dedicated, full time fundraising efforts.

At one point Santa Monica Education Foundation was offering a paid program for summer school as a way to fund raise, but after 2 years shut it down when they received advice from an education services administrator that shared a story about a foundation getting sued because they were not accredited institutions. Fearing  they might be open to liability they shut down the program. Now they simply offer summer enrichment programs.

Santa Monica Education Foundation

Executive Director: Linda Greenberg

President: Nancy Patel

Officers: 5

Board Members: 17

Resource Board: 2

Advisory Committee (required $5k donation): 7

2017-2018  Foundation Assets: $10,531,038

2016-2017 Funds Raised: $3,289,147

  • Santa Monica Population: 93,640 /  (2016)
  • Santa Monica Median Income: $74,120 (2016)
  • Santa Monica K-12 Enrollment: 8,974 (2016)
  • Santa Monica Median Home Price: $1,355,000


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