Donating & Volunteering in BUSD

Parent Q&A

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  • 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.

    At the beginning of the year, most of the BUSD elementary school PTAs will do a capital fund drive, and they will say how much they spend per student per year. It ranges from $350 to $500 for the BUSD elementary schools. Just give what you can and don't worry too much about it. There are many different fundraisers during the year because they will (hopefully) raise money from different revenue streams--you aren't expected to participate in all of them. For example, there is usually the capital fund (which raises money from the students' families), the Read-a-Thon/Walk-a-Thon (extended family and friends), the auction (local businesses donate items), and some schools do a raffle (the kids sell tickets to the community at large). If you can afford it, give more than the per-student amount--many families do. There are also many more families who just give $100 or $50 per year, or even less. We are lucky that BSEP funds so much at BUSD schools, so it's really all good, whatever you can donate.

    I’m interested in seeing the replies to this. Our school PTA calculated how much they need for each student to maintain the programs at the school that are either funded by the PTA or at risk of being cut for lack of funding from other sources and they published that amount as $350 per student. We chose to donate 3x that in a lump sum - basically fund 3 kids at the school. We basically ignore most other fund raisers except the Read-A-Thon after that.

    It's all relative to how much expendable income you have. For each child, we set aside one month's preschool tuition for elementary school donations each year – auctions, etc. were on top of that. But volunteering in school is equally important to the cash donations. At the elementary school level, teachers really do need the extra support, and it sends an early message to your kids that you value education – and action always speaks louder than words. I still remember very fondly my time in my kids' classrooms and getting to know their teachers and classmates. As your child enters middle school and beyond, your physical presence in the school will no longer be needed or encouraged to the same extent. Take advantage of the time now, when the teachers and the kids still really want you there.

    We have two kids in one WCCUSD public elementary school and donated $850 last year, not counting non-deductible payments for supplies or whatever. (Just completed our taxes!) I think we probably should have done $1000, $500 per kid, based on our income which was $100K+. As an active PTA member, I think it's best to donate in one lump sum right at the beginning of the school year; it helps planning for the year.

    We donate $1000/year per kid in elementary school; less for our kid in middle school (maybe $300?) since we wind up having to pay for other school-related things and they don't seem to provide any supplies.

    So this might not be applicable because I'm in the peninsula, but our school asks for $1,500/child donation for their main fundraiser plus additional contributions for the smaller fundraisers such as read-a-thon, walk-a-thon, raffles/auctions, etc.  I usually end up giving a total of about $2,000/year for everything.  We do volunteer very little in the class since both parents work a lot and I rarely volunteer to bring stuff since I know I'll forget, so giving a donation on the higher side is our way of making up for it.  I think if I did more volunteering and gave more time, we might have given less in money, so everything is relative.  I'm jealous of the low asks in the BUSD schools since $1,500+ asks per child or family are pretty common here and the push to give that and more is intense.  

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Best institution that helps Berkeley public schools

Oct 2010

I would like to make a significant donation to help Berkeley public school programs. What organization will use the funds most directly? Would it be the Berkeley Public Education Foundation? If I want to give to a specific school, should I donate to that particular PTA? Comments or suggestions welcome. -public school supporter

What a nice thing to do for Berkeley kids! The Berkeley Public Education Foundation gives classroom grants directly to teachers every year, so that would be a great way to get money directly to school. Any PTA at any of the schools would also be thrilled to accept your donation; PTAs are sadly becoming crucial fundraising organizations for schools and are no longer just paying for enrichment and ''extras,'' and funds that PTAs collect go directly to programs that support all the kids at their school. Donations to PTAs are also tax deductible. You might consider splitting your significant donation up and giving a portion to each of the schools so that all kids in Berkeley could benefit. Thanks for being so generous! Jill

Having worked for BUSD, all of the schools are fantastic and you couldn't go wrong donating to any of them. That being said, if I had a sizable chunk of money to donate and wanted to benefit a lot of kids in Berkeley, I would approach 826 Valencia about setting up a branch in Berkeley. 826 Valencia was started by author Dave Eggers in SF (and now has branches throughout the country). It is run largely by volunteers and works on tutoring students in writing. A branch here would offer chances for public school classes to attend writing based field trips during the school day and for many other students to receive after school help in writing. 826 Valencia has developed many creative, engaging writing projects to challenge and inspire students. I also believe there is enough support in the Berkeley community to get (and keep) something like this going. Btw, I am in no way affiliated with 826 Valencia, I'm just someone in complete awe of what they are able to accomplish. Gail

I would suggest one of the following: Berkeley Public Education Foundation; In Dulci Jubilo, or if you want to donate to just one school, Berkeley High Development Group as all Berkeley students enter BHS (rather than facilitating inequities in the elementary or middle schools by choosing one of the elementary or middle schools over another). anonymous

In response to the wonderful person out there who is interested in making a donation to support our Berkeley public schools: I am Executive Director of Berkeley Public Education Foundation, and we support ALL BUSD schools from preschools through high schools. We raise funds for general and specific purposes, as a donor wishes, and use those resources for grants and program funding, as well as to recruit over 1,000 volunteers from the community to support classroom, after-school, library, and gardening teachers. I would be delighted to fill you in more, and explore your interests, if you want to contact me directly at 644-6244. We have been around for 27 years, are a 501c3, manage over $.5 million each year, and are highly regarded, trusted, and appreciated by teachers, administrators, parents and students alike -- we just keep our eyes focused on giving directly to where the funds will be put to work! Thanks for thinking of Berkeley public schools--they are great places that benefit hugely from community support. Molly

I have been teaching elementary art in Berkeley for 14 years, and I have received many mini grants from the Berkeley Public Education Foundation. Their support has allowed me to create an engaging, materials-rich art program reaching hundreds of students at three different schools. They give grants to teachers at all of the schools for all kinds of wonderful programs, materials, trips and more that would not otherwise be available for Berkeley students. We teachers truly appreciate BPEF, so any donation to them could reach a whole lot of students. Lucy

Oh, I know what I'd do! I used to teach at a middle school in BUSD, and I now have a child in kindergarten in the district, and what continues to kill me are those 2 kids in every class who struggle in serious emotional and behavioral ways, but get no funding because they don't have a 'fundable' diagnosis. Teachers and staff scramble to help them, as do school volunteers, but these kids need systematic and skilled help - help with social skills, with classroom confidence. Helping these kids in a real way would help the entire classroom - it allows the teacher to not have to focus so much attention on one or two students. I'd start a pilot program at one elementary school, with a kindergarten, to figure out the smartest ways to meet these kids' needs. I say kindergarten because early intervention is easiest - at this point these kids are still very much interested in learning, and being part of their peer group. Please feel free to email me if this idea appeals to you - I'd love nothing more than to help you make this happen.