Donating Money to Public Schools

Parent Q&A

Increased asks by school foundations May 24, 2020 (1 responses below)
How much do parents donate to BUSD elementary school? Apr 4, 2018 (9 responses below)
Donate money to our public school for a specific purpose? Aug 22, 2016 (13 responses below)
  • Increased asks by school foundations

    (1 reply)

    Our school district foundation has increased its ask this year due to the state budget cuts.  Our family has always given the "ask amount" in past years even though the reported rate of families contributing the "ask amount" in our district is about 40%.  We are leaning toward not giving the increased ask and sticking to the regular ask this year at least until we learn whether school is in session as usual in the fall and what programs are in danger of being cut.  It seems crazy for us to give more for the "extras" when we hear that school might continue to be remote next fall, or even if it opens it will do modified schedule and disallow all the extra enrichment and special assembly and other activities the donated money is supposed to go to.  Plus if there is a risk of school continuing remote we will want to use the extra funds for virtual tutors and childcare as both parents are working and unable to help with homeschooling.  My question is whether other school foundations have asked for increased contributions to the fund due to the state cuts and whether they were open about what that money is going to be used for (as our school foundation is not transparent on that), and whether there has been any indication if schools are re-opening in the fall fully, in  modified way, or at all. 

    If you have the ability to give more, please do so, and do so soon. There are many unknowns about the upcoming school year, but one thing is clear - state funding will decline.  Whether your school is holding physical classes or doing online only in the fall, it will need more private funding in order to provide a quality education.  If classes are in session, there will be a need for funds to restructure the classrooms, increase cleaning schedules, provide PPE to teachers and students, etc. If classes are only online, more funding is needed for quality equipment for teachers and for helping teachers transition to effective online learning.  One of my children's current teachers had an ancient Chromebook when classes suddenly switched to online learning. Luckily, the parents were able to pool funds together to help her get a better computer, which means that all students in her class have a better learning experience. Now imagine that problem multiplied across all teachers in the district.  If everyone with the ability to pay more waits to see what they will "get" for their particular child in the fall, it only guarantees that what we all get will be less.  So please give early and as much as you can, so that schools have a better sense of what resources they have and can allocate them effectively before the school year starts.  If we all work together, we can ensure a better education for all of our kids.

    Also, if your employer matches funds for nonprofit donations, this is also a great time to make use of that benefit, to maximize funds for the schools.

  • We've just started in BUSD with a happy kinder.  I want to be an active and supportive parent but I'm totally confused by the fund-raising efforts.  The school seems to be constantly fund-raising.. $40 here for supplies, $100 for field trips, $100 for farm & garden, etc...  I'm honestly tired of the endless fund-raising and just want to write one check or scheduled monthly checks.  Soooo... my question is.. how much is a good annual donation or monthly donation?  We're pretty middle of the road income-wise.  We are saving a bit because he's no longer in a private pre-school but would also love to save some more for his college fund.

    How much do you donate to your BUSD elementary school?  How much is enough to be a solid public school supporter? 

    Our elem school tries to raise $400/student per year. Your employer may match so look into that. Usu the school pta is a 501c3. I agree it feels like a lot nickel and diming. 

    I know it's frustrating and tiresome, but as a PTA leader, I have to tell you that these fundraisers are what pay for any extras at your child's school - the stuff we took for granted when we were kids. There's no art, music, dance, aftercare without literally tens of thousands of dollars each year. So. How much is the right amount? I don't know your circumstances, but I think I end up donating about $200 each year to the school either in money, goods, and time. (Well, in time, I probably send thousands, so let's leave time out of it, yeesh.) But you should talk to your PTA about having this option at the beginning of the year! The thing is, you'll still hear the requests, so that might annoy you, but you can ignore them without guilt. Now that I think about it, maybe you should see how this year goes and add up all the different fundraising efforts, and then you'll know for next year -- since each school and PTA is so different. 

    Haha. I hear you. We are parents of a kindergartener that started at BUSD. We have given what seems like a ton of money already as well. Keen to read some replies.

  • Until recently we planned to send our incoming K student into private school, but due to a move and resulting assignment to a very good public school decided to go to public school instead and reallocate the funds saved and put aside for private school tuition into college savings instead.  Even though most of the money will be eventually moved into kids' college saving account, we decided to donate a portion to the public school our child will attend every year.  I want to give the whole thing in an annual check and be done with it but husband wants to give the suggested donation amount the school/PTA requests in a check and then do something more special with the rest (like donate for a specific purpose, donate technology items, something special for the library, etc.).  His thinking is that the school already seems to be well funded and just another check won't make as much of a difference in students' experience as a more targeted donation.  Any suggestions as to what a well ranked and funded school might need in terms of a donation or is a check still better?  

    As someone with experience working with nonprofits and other institutions reliant on donations that I think I can safely to please give the check instead of trying to do something targeted. "Targeted" giving can be really rough; it's how you end up with the seemingly paradoxical situations at some universities where they have a seemingly nice endowment, but much or most of that is flagged for specific uses (like a specific department, a specifically targeting scholarship, some sort of specific research) so that they can't use that money where it may be really needed (general financial aid and operations).  I think pretty much most institutions would prefer "unrestricted" money and donations. If the school/PTA needs a specific technology item or something for the library, they can just use that unrestricted money for that. If not, they can use it for something else they do need. With a specific donation or a gifted item, if the school/PTA doesn't need it and needs money elsewhere, too bad, they have to just live with that and be gracious for it.

    As with any other organization, PTAs have internal politics. Before coming in and slapping down a big check, I would suggest simply joining the PTA to start with, participating in its meetings, and getting a feel for its mission, values, and the school needs. If after a few months of getting the lay of the land, you end up feeling like your particular elementary school doesn't "need" your extra money (and I definitely agree that it is a good thing to contribute above and beyond since you can; my family also does), you can look into either a district-wide philanthropic organization (Berkeley Educational Foundation, EdFund (WCCUSD), ec.) OR look at your local middle school/junior high PTA. Often times wealthier families pull out for middle school (returning in high school) and as a result the junior high PTAs are underfunded compared to elementary schools.

    All that said... my kids attend a relatively low income public school, and we do a larger donation at the start of the year to the PTA so they can program it accordingly for the year's activities. However, I think at a wealthier school that you are a new family at, you really should take the time to see how things are before making a bigger donation.

    Get in touch with the President of the PTA and ask them what they need or just write a check to the PTA. Schools in California are not well funded so I'm sure they will be grateful for any contribution. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


I want to donate to an underserved school in Oakland or Richmond

Feb 2015

I've been inspired by all the HONY donations to Mott Bridges Academy, but would prefer to make a local donation. Can anyone recommend a school in Oakland or Richmond with an administration or PTA that's doing really great work? I'm sure just about any school meets this criteria but it'd be nice to have a little background rather than blindly writing a check. I am not talking huge sums - a few hundred dollars but I will likely continue donating each year. My kid also recently graduated and it makes sense to me to switch the dollars that were going to my very well served public school to one that is less so. Many thanks anon

I would humbly suggest Fairmont School (in El Cerrito, although its boundary includes more Richmond neighborhoods), part of the WCCUSD. Fairmont's kids are 2/3rds free and reduced lunch, high by many standards but not the WCCUSD's, thus we don't get the ''extra'' federal Title 1 money and other extra resources through the district, but our PTA does not have anywhere near the resources of the other elementary schools in El Cerrito/Kensington. The PTA is small but devoted, funding music education, PE, bonus science activities, and starting this year, environmental camp for 5th graders. Check us out! Thanks for your commitment to public education. Fairmont mom

Please consider Mira Vista School in Richmond for your small ongoing donation. Mira Vista is a K-8 school, so your donation would go to a local public school that is working hard to serve the needs of a wide range of students. We have a small, but hard working PTA that is doing amazing things with the limited resources we can muster. Due to our school population (50+% Free/Reduced Lunch), fundraising is a constant struggle so even a small donation of a few hundred dollars would be greatly appreciated and would be put to good use. Here are a few of our PTA funded programs that need financial support:
  • Art in the Classroom: The PTA pays for an onsite Art instructor to come once per month for students in grades K-3. Parent donations never cover the full cost of this program, but because we believe art is a critical part of a child's education, we have continued to fund it for the last 5 years.
  • STEM Club: Students from K through 8th grade study science, technology, engineering and math concepts at this after school club. It is entirely volunteer run (parents and a couple very hard working teachers who run this program on their own time) and provided to all students at no cost. This year we have over 50 students participating.
  • Glee Club: The PTA contracts with Oakland Youth Chorus to provide after school choir. This program is open to students in 1st through 8th grades and is partially funded through parent donations.
  • Pajama Party & Book Exchange: The Pajama Party is a free literacy event open to the entire school. Thousands of free books are available for students and their families to claim and take home. Parents, older students and teachers all gather to read bedtime stories to the younger students and encourage a love of reading. If you are interested in seeing the Mira Vista community in action, feel free to attend. The Pajama Party is happening this year on Thursday, February 26th from 6:00-8:00 pm.
  • School Gardens: Mira Vista has two working school gardens (one for the lower grades and one for the upper grades) and an Urban Agriculture elective for the upper grades. The gardens are a great opportunity for students to get out of the classroom and learn about ecology, agriculture and how to grow their own food. The gardens are maintained year round by parent volunteers.
  • The PTA also provides funding for field trips and classroom supplies and organizes community events like our Multi-Cultural Potluck.
  • The school Administration is also working hard to create a vibrant and positive school culture using Restorative Justice practices.

Having the additional support of individuals outside of our neighborhood would mean the world to all of us! Learn more about us at: Mira Vista Parent

Why not try Donors Choose? Tons of needing projects. Just type in the town or zip code and you are on your way. Thank you in advance!!!!

I hope you will consider Mira Vista K-8 School in Richmond for your donation. We are a gem of a school that hasn't received the same attention or resources as some of the other nearby schools, yet we are building a community of engaged students, committed parents, and dedicated faculty. Your donation would go to a local public school that is helping to bridge achievement gaps. We have an active PTA that is funding enrichment, including art, STEM club and gardens, but there is so much more that could be done with your support. We would like to be able to fund professional art instruction for more students, more often, for example. We are also in constant need of playground and PE equipment. Thank you for supporting the public schools! You can visit our website at: Victoria

I would recommend donating to Coliseum College Prep Academy (CCPA), a public 6th - 12 grade school in the heart of the killing zone of Oakland at 66th and E 14th. Principal Amy Carozza is doing amazing things with her kids, and she has great integrity. Knows Oakland

What is a fair amount to contribute to public school?

April 1999

My daughter is currently attending a public elementary school in Oakland. The other day she came home with a survey from the parent-faculty club asking for parental input regarding budgeting issues. There was a list of about 15 different programs currently funded with PFC money. But due to an expected shortfall of $35,000 for next year, parents were asked to prioritize the programs and make recommendations for cuts. In order to fund all the seemingly worthwhile programs (e.g., music, art, motor, etc.) each family would need to contribute $315 per child per year rather than the $195 now set as the upper limit.

To me it would seem totally reasonable to ask people to pay $315 a year as it would only be about $30-40 a month. Compared to private school tuition or even what I paid for preschool, this is nothing! I would like to hear from other parents what their schools set as a suggested family donation. How much money do people think is a fair amount? What ideas do people have for encouraging families to pay the full amount? I know we all pay taxes and it would be wonderful if schools actually provided all the essentials that are currently considered options. But that's not the case. Given the state of public education in California, what do others think?

I struggle with this issue since there is a wide variance on how much an individual family can *afford* to donate to the schools. $35 a month isn't much to me, but to a single working mom, it may be a *huge* amount. And I wouldn't want anyone to feel badly because they can't contribute. I see why the fundraising is done the way it is done (selling stuff, getting contributions for walkathons etc) although it can be annoying. I am frustrated that the public schools, particularly in Oakland, have so few resources to go around. What is this not having PE or Music, or Art? I can't imagine grammar school without these kinds of classes being available routinely.

The elementary school my children attend asks for annual donations but does not specify or demand a fixed dollar amount. Some years they have suggested $100 per family. They do other fund raising during the year focused around events (i.e. carnivals, auctions, candy sales and garage sales) and these activities generate more money than does the direct appeal. The teachers also request that parents buy materials for their children to be used in the classroom (pens, pencils, crayons and glue) and make additional wish list requests as well. As a single mother and sole supporter of my family, I personally have found it diffiuclt or impossible some years to even donate $100. While I agree in theory that $300 isn't too much to ask for in terms of paying for an education, I think that in reality $300+ per year is a lot to expect from all parents.

We are also in the Oakland School district, but our parent-teacher group does most of its fund-raising with school activities, like the walkathon, which is really successful. I remember one letter asking for a donation, but it was so low-key, I can't imagine a lot of people giving more than $50, and nobody was asked to prioritize for the budget. If I'm wrong about this, can a Peralta parent please correct me? (I do remember the Oakland school district management sending out a letter asking for parent input (to a sample of parents) about budget priorities, and honestly I thought it wasn't fair, because I very well might have answered it differently if I had more information about the issues. But getting the information would have been a major undertaking, and I couldn't take it on.)