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Illinois Community Foundation Builds Capabilities of Rural School Foundations

The Galesburg Community Foundation’s nonprofit governance certification program is an ideal example of how a community foundation can reach out to and support local school foundations and nonprofit organizations in a way that ultimately benefits everyone: the foundation, the school and its community.

The Galesburg Community Foundation was established in 2004 in order to support the efforts of local people and organizations to foster and promote and healthy community. In 2010, the Galesburg Community Foundation held a series of seminars on nonprofit governance that were made available to nonprofit organizations in the area. Its goals were to train nonprofit board members and management in six key areas:

  • Maintaining board level strategic focus
  • Establishing and maintaining governance committees
  • Understanding legal and financial responsibilities
  • Policies and procedures for effective board operation
  • Resource development and image building
  • Understanding how to work with senior executives and management teams

The program is designed to achieve four primary goals: 

  • Prepare current and future board members to serve with distinction on nonprofit boards.
  • Prepare senior executives to serve with distinction on nonprofit management teams.
  • Strengthen governance practices in the nonprofit sector.
  • Build inter-organization partnerships that improve the health of your community.

Both the ROWVA Public School Foundation and the Monmouth Roseville Education Foundation attended this nonprofit governance seminar series.

The ROWVA Public School Foundation, like most school foundations, is comprised entirely of volunteers.

“It was basically designed to be a funnel for any kind of funds that might come to the school,” Pat Turner explains, “its purpose is to enhance and expand educational opportunities that have either lost funding, or never had funding.”

In 2010, GCF invited board members of the foundation to attend an informational meeting with GCF about opportunities that were available, such as GCF funds that the foundation could apply for.ROWVA computer_lab_cropped
ROWVA student uses Dell computer purchased by ROWVA Foundation.

Before Turner retired from her teaching position, ROWVA had offered an art program for the gifted elementary students, but the funding was cut shortly after she retired. The foundation applied for funding from GCF to reinstate the gifted art program as well as a new drama program and GCF granted it to them.

When GCF offered the nonprofit governance workshop, the foundation was quick to send delegates to attend.

“None of us have ever been involved with nonprofits before, and none of us are professional fundraisers. Last summer, we had the chance to attend one of the GCF’s cohort governance meetings and we learned a lot about how we should be set up and how we should be governing, planning, and setting our goals, and that has been a really big help,” says Turner. “It really gave us a sense of direction we have never had before.”

Currently, the foundation raises about $36,000 a year, a large portion of which is generated by a single dinner auction that the foundation holds annually. Their largest money generator at the auction comes from seed corn, donated by farmers from the district. Apart from the auction, the foundation receives money from funerals and memorials, some of which are designated for specific purposes and some of which they are free to use how they see fit.

In addition to the gifted art and drama programs, the foundation designates a certain portion of the funds to classroom technologies and a mini grant scholarship program for teachers to attend seminars and to implement the innovative ideas they learn about. Every other year they fund a junior achievement program for 5th and 6th graders.

Turner says that the foundation plans to apply for more funds from GCF next year; “We couldn’t continue to do what we do without the support of GCF.”

As for future plans, “we are still in the dreaming stage,” says Turner, but she reveals that the foundation hopes that one day they will be able to make scholarships available for students going into trade schools. As of right now, scholarships are only offered to senior high school students who are going into college.

Like the ROWVA Foundation, the Monmouth-Roseville Education Foundation is comprised entirely of volunteers. It operates mainly as an alternative source of funding for teachers who need additional money to purchase educational resources for their classrooms and acts as a third party that monitors, manages, and directs funds and donations given to the schools.

Brady Ray explains that they had not been aware of the opportunities available for nonprofits before GCF approached them about their nonprofit governance seminar series. Ray emphasizes how the seminar helped the foundation gain direction, enhance its strategic planning and reconsider its structure in order to be more effective in meeting the needs of their school district. 

“The seminars were also good for networking with other nonprofits and bouncing ideas off each other,” Ray adds. “We were encouraged by the ideas that similar nonprofit organizations shared.” 

The foundation plans to apply for a grant through GCF once they have a better sense of direction as to where it will be used.

Currently, the foundation’s fundraising brings in $12,000 to $15,000 a year and raising this money is no simple matter. At the start of basketball season, the foundation encourages members of the community to pledge money for each three pointer scored over the season by the boys and girls basketball teams for what they call “Hoops for Education.” They also hold an annual variety talent show from which they collect money through ticket sales and an annual summer golf outing.

“We have to raise money in many different ways throughout the year,” says Ray, “people usually donate in small amounts and eventually it adds up.”

Monmouth-Roseville 2Students read books purchased with Monmouth-Roseville Foundation funds. So far the foundation’s fundraising has gone toward two main projects. The first has been updating classroom technologies, such as making sure every classroom has a smart board. The second has been making reading materials available for accelerated reading programs and providing teachers with any classroom materials they may need. “All they have to do is ask,” says Ray.

The foundation is now reconsidering its role in the future development of the school district. According to Ray, Warren County may be consolidating with the Monmouth-Roseville schools. If they do not consolidate, Monmouth High School is in need of a new facility.

“We are trying to understand what our role will be in this, what we are expected to do,” says Ray, “because it is going to require planning and resources.” This is where GCF’s nonprofit governance seminars have been invaluable for the foundation.

“We hope to continue to utilize GCF as a resource from an organizational standpoint,” says Ray, especially now that they have begun to consider further growth and Ray hints that an endowment committee may be in the making.

“I think it’s of real importance to make sure the board gets together and plans the direction of the foundation,” he says. He stresses the need for the new and old members of the board to be on the same page with clear a understanding as to what is required of each member as they move into the future.

The Center for Midwestern Initiatives believes that collaboration between community and school foundations is invaluable for strengthening schools and their communities. To learn more about how to get involved with your school or community foundation contact  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Gary Funk at 417-848-9083.