Crowdfunding has exploded in K-12 education. The number of campaign requests, as well as the number of donations towards these campaigns have significantly increased over the years. Data from one popular crowdfunding site for teachers showed that during the 2017-2018 school year, over 254,000 campaigns were funded, resulting in over $152 million in funds raised for K-12 classrooms, projects, and experiences.
This type of online crowdfunding has opened enormous opportunities for K-12 school districts to raise funds for projects, equipment and supplies. Crowdfunding is ultimately helping close the education funding gap and support the needs of schools and students. Its efficiency and effectiveness have been proven not only through the generous donation amounts, but also through the speed and ease compared to traditional methods like burrito or donut sales.
Despite the many benefits of online crowdfunding, school districts need to be aware of the associated risks and liabilities. Every single campaign that is posted poses serious liabilities for a school district, depending on how the campaign is pitched, what names are used, what the campaign is raising funds for, and what type of student information (photos, names, etc.) is displayed. Every donation made to the campaign also comes with financial liabilities for a school district, including where that money is routed, who controls or oversees those funds, who owns the funds, how inventory is accounted for, and how the school district manages to report those funds.
The lack of proper built-in oversight, tracking and reporting on crowdfunding sites – even education-specific sites, present significant legal and reputational risks for school districts across the country. Every school district should have oversight for any online fundraiser conducted in the name of the district, a district school or a district employee.
At Livingtree, it’s our goal to help school districts understand the risks of crowdfunding, and better manage the process within their district to ultimately raise more money. Due to the recent publications from state auditors and school board associations on crowdfunding, Livingtree decided to take a deeper dive and report what is happening right now. To provide a better picture of the current risks school districts are facing this year, we took the latest data from the earlier mentioned crowdfunding website to develop this Mid-Year Education Crowdfunding Report.
According to the crowdfunding website, over 145,000 projects have been fully funded so far in the 2018-2019 school year. At that pace, we expect to see around 290,000 fully funded campaigns by the end of this school year, an increase of 36,000 campaigns from the previous year. In addition, this year’s completed campaigns have raised over $77 million of donations for teachers and school projects. Based on that number, we’d expect to end the school year with around $154 million of donations, an increase of $2 million over last year. Since this data is only taken from one popular crowdfunding site, it’s likely that the overall crowdfunding totals are much greater.
To further understand this issue, Livingtree compiled all of the campaign data from the crowdfunding site for the 2018-2019 school year and composed lists to help identify which states currently have the highest risk when it comes to education crowdfunding. Below, we’ll examine the states with the Highest Average Amount Raised per District, the Highest Average Number of Campaigns Posted per District, and the Highest Average Number of High Risk Campaigns Posted per District.
Note: the data is organized to represent states in amounts per district to give the most accurate representation of every state. Hawaii and the District of Columbia are not represented in the data.
|State||Avg Amount Raised Per District||Total Amount Raised (Statewide)|
Florida made number one on the list for the highest amount of money raised from the crowdfunding site, averaging out at over $57,000 per school district. The next three states all averaged over $40,000 in funding per school district.
Regardless as to whether these donations reach schools in the form of funding or project items, a district must be able to ensure that every dollar is tracked and properly routed, and oversee the process to maintain accurate inventory and donation reporting. State-wide totals are also included in this report for reference.
|State||Avg Number of Campaigns Per District||Total Number of Campaigns (Statewide)|
Florida again tops the list at number one for the highest average number of campaigns posted from the crowdfunding site, at 107.2 campaigns per school district so far this year. The higher the number of campaigns being posted, the higher the risks and liabilities for school districts without fundraising controls in place. And without the ability for school districts to review and approve campaigns before they go live, it’s almost impossible to be sure that the campaign meets all of school district’s requirements.
|State||Avg Number of High Risk Campaigns Per District||Total Number of High Risk Campaigns (Statewide)|
Nevada leads the way for the highest average number of high-risk campaigns posted from the crowdfunding site, at 7.7 high risk campaigns posted per district so far this year. At Livingtree, we identify high risk campaigns as those classified on the crowdfunding website as either “Special Needs” or “ESL.” The classification of high risk is due to the fact that “Special Needs” campaigns have a high possibility of violating a student’s IEP, which a district would be legally required to fund through IDEA. There are also special services that ESL students qualify for that can’t be funded outside of the school district. These are all in addition to the existing risks that go along with crowdfunding, making them much higher risk campaigns. So far this school year, “ESL” and “Special Needs” are ranked as the 7th and 8th most popular project categories.
Again, it’s important to note that these statistics were generated from a single crowdfunding site, and that this is only a piece of the “crowdfunding picture.” We’d expect that total crowdfunding numbers are much larger, however it is difficult to collect data from every single site out there.
Because of these statistics and the associated risks, some districts take the easy route by setting policies that ban crowdfunding. However, this option forgoes the many benefits that crowdfunding has to offer for school districts, and creates a new task of having to police the large number of crowdfunding sites to ensure district members aren’t using them.
The other option is to evaluate online fundraising management options and adopt one that provides an automated district approval process for all campaigns, tracks all donations, routes funds through a district account, gives the district access to their donor information, provides aggregated reporting for every campaign, and has built in tools to make fundraising easy for any PTA/PTO, booster, club, team, or district member.
Once a management platform is selected, procedures and guidelines can be written to accompany the school district’s fundraising policies (no, you don’t actually have to re-write policies!). These should clearly outline rules for only using the district’s chosen fundraising management platform, campaign approval criteria, required campaign content, and ownership of the funds raised.
Once this is all in place, start fundraising! With your district overseeing the entire fundraising process and having official procedures to guide the process, fundraising becomes manageable and easy.
If you are curious about your school district’s risk potential on the crowdfunding site we used, check out the free tool created by Livingtree to evaluate your district’s risk potential, dollars collected, and number of campaigns posted so far this school year: https://learn.livingtree.com/risk-analysis
Is your school district ready to start evaluating fundraising management solutions? Then download our free Crowdfunding Considerations Guide for K-12 School Districts and know the 7 important areas to evaluate when looking at fundraising sites: https://try.livingtree.com/crowdfunding-considerations-blog/
Data Sourced from:
Every year on Livingtree Give, we see projects from outdoor gardens to programs for the arts. Every project has an outcome directly related to students. Where else can you have such an impact on the future of our country and the world to inspire a life-long journey of learning?
One of the biggest problems for schools is funding. Schools need resources now to support the over 51 million students across our country. Our school’s educators, clubs, orgs, teams, and PTA/PTOs work tirelessly to secure funding that supports the additional educational resources and experiences for our students, and that often includes fundraising. One of the best days of the year to fundraise is on #GivingTuesday
#GivingTuesday started off as an idea in 2012 and has turned into the largest single day of philanthropy in the world. This day provides an enormous opportunity for your school’s PTA/PTO to market their campaigns, involve the community, and bring in more money than any other day of the year.
Here’s why you should launch a campaign:
1. Education is the second largest category of giving on the #GivingTuesday. People are already looking for opportunities to give to education so take advantage of the momentum.
2. It is a great way to engage your community in what your school is doing. #GivingTuesday is about connecting people to your mission!
3. If you have an urgent need at your school it is a great way to raise the money you need.
Livingtree Give has innovated school fundraising, and provides modern online tools for school PTA/PTOs. Every PTA/PTO account has the ability to manage their school and donor contacts, launch a multitude of online fundraisers, promote their campaigns and activity portal through built in email and social sharing tools, and both reconcile and report on all transactions automatically.
For more information and to sign up for a free account, CLICK HERE.
You can also download our “GivingTuesday for Education Toolkit” that we created in coordination with PayPal and 92Y.
You can learn more about #GivingTuesday and our partnership with 92Y and PayPal in the video below:
What is #GivingTuesday and how is Livingtree Give involved?
#GivingTuesday is a global movement where campaigns happen in almost every country in the world. For the past two years, Livingtree Give (Formerly Edbacker) has been proud to partner with PayPal and 92Y (one of the founders of #GivingTuesday) to help promote #GivingTuesday in education. Watch the video at the end of this for more!
When is #GivingTuesday this year?
This year, #GivingTuesday is on Tuesday, November 27, 2018.
Who can participate in #GivingTuesday?
Anyone, anywhere can get involved and give back in a way that’s meaningful to them. There’s no minimum or limit to how people can do good. All types of organizations are welcome to participate.
Does my campaign have to end on #GivingTuesday?
While #GivingTuesday is celebrated on November 27th, your campaign can be much longer than one day. We see a lot of campaigns that kick off before #GivingTuesday or that launch on #GivingTuesday and connect to a larger end-of-year or holiday campaign.
To help further innovations and improvements in Education Technology, Livingtree pledges to donate part of the proceeds generated on #GivingTuesday to Ed Tech non-profit StartEdUp!
How can I get started?
We’ve put together a “GivingTuesday for Education Toolkit” to provide you with some helpful resources that you can use to setup a successful campaign, including:
#GivingTuesday mega messages
Sample outreach emails
Ideas for getting involved
Social media tips
We’ve put together a feature recap from the Fall of 2018 for all of our Livingtree Engage users. Here are the updates that went live this fall:
New “Share A Message” Design
Sharing a post has a new look! At the start of the school year, we updated the design and feel for users sharing messages, photos, videos, files, text messages, or phone alerts. This is just one of several new designs we are rolling out to give Livingtree Engage a cleaner look and feel.
You no longer have to login to share a post. Now you can schedule posts ahead of time! You can plan out the upcoming week, month, or even year if you’d like… This was a popular request that is now in place to help create a more convenient experience for our educators!
Livingtree Engage Fundraising
We’ve removed the need to enter any bank account information. That’s right, principals and admin can now skip ahead to simply creating fast and easy campaigns by going to your ‘Give’ feature inside of Livingtree Engage and we will send you a check at the end of your campaign.
Want to learn more about our fundraising feature? Go to our Fundraising FAQ
Text-To-Join User Onboarding
We’ve added in the Text-To-Join feature for our school and district customers with SIS Integration, allowing us to send a text message to staff and families prompting them to join Livingtree during the onboarding process. Now users can receive welcome emails and text-messages, helping districts and schools increase their adoption rates across the board!
Want to know more about what’s new with Livingtree as a company? Click here to read our last blog: Livingtree: Always Growing
Livingtree was created by a family in 2013 as a solution to keep families connected to the academic lives of their children through technology. As a company, we are on a mission to bring the best tech platforms and practices to schools and families, and believe that together we can bring out the best outcomes for students and families.
One of the first steps in that direction was to acquire Class Messenger in 2016 to keep the tens of thousands of educators and families connected. The acquisition kept the app operational and also provided Class Messenger teachers with access to free Livingtree Engage accounts. Since then, we’ve continued to provide support for Class Messenger users, while assisting many of them in transitioning to Livingtree Engage.
At the beginning of 2018, we grew even more by announcing the acquisition of district fundraising tool, Edbacker, and appointing Edbacker’s founder, Gary Hensley, as our new CEO. The addition of Edbacker helped us continue to fulfill our mission of connecting schools with their broader communities, while also providing districts with a much-needed solution to crowdfunding that fills the education funding gap.
We grew again in the month of June when we hired Dr. Steve Constantino, the nation’s leading expert in family engagement and former Virginia State Superintendent. As a member of the team, Dr. Constantino is helping to shape the Livingtree Engage platform through his research and best practices, and ensure that educators, schools, and districts have the appropriate tools they need to actively engage families.
In the month of August, we launched a new website with the rebranding of our products under Livingtree. The original Livingtree product became Livingtree Engage, while Edbacker became Livingtree Give. And with that, we made enhancements and launched new features in each product for the new school year (which we will take a deeper dive into in our next blog posts).
We’ve had extraordinary growth, and we continue to develop new partnerships with districts across the country to provide family engagement and fundraising solutions. We are continuing to develop Engage and Give, so that school districts have the best tools to help every student succeed.
In our next blogs, we’ll cover the most recent enhancements to the Engage and Give platforms. To learn more about the individual products visit Livingtree Engage or Livingtree Give, or follow us for new and updates on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Over the years, there has been a growing spotlight on the education funding gap. The gap has become more of a problem for many K-12 school districts with recent statistics showing an increase in teacher spending on school supplies.
Many schools and districts are finding that traditional fundraising can no longer cover some of the greater costs that are needed, and as a result of the mass growth in technology, an increasing number of K-12 members are now requesting funds through crowdfunding sites. These sites are providing valuable opportunities for K-12 staff, organizations, and teams to raise funds for additional resources and experiences, while addressing the needs of our schools and students.
However, these Crowdfunding sites were not built specifically for school districts and lack the necessary oversight and control. Every single online fundraising campaign that is posted poses serious liabilities for a school district, and can result in a number of legal and financial violations.
As a result of the liabilities, some districts take the easy route by setting policies that ban crowdfunding. However, this option forgoes the many benefits that crowdfunding has to offer for school districts, and creates a new task of having to police the large number of crowdfunding sites to ensure district members aren’t using them. It can also imply a lack of trust in their educators. Until the educational funding gap is solved, schools should absolutely fundraise online, however it should be done in an appropriate way. That’s why it’s important that district leaders be aware of the liabilities associated with crowdfunding, and use the information to evaluate crowdfunding platforms for their district.
Below, we’ve put together the 5 Liabilities of Crowdfunding that every K-12 District should know:
1. Fundraising on the School or District’s Behalf: Most Crowdfunding sites will allow anyone within the district to launch fundraising campaigns. This means they can use the name, logo, or images of the school or district without any form of consent. Based on how the campaign is pitched, the campaign can reflect poorly on the district, and the results of the campaign can cause PR nightmares.
2. Sharing Student Information: Everyone loves to see pictures and know the students that are being directly impacted by their contribution, however this can be a largely overlooked FERPA violation. Sharing student images or names without consent can create huge liabilities for a district.
3. Routing Funds through Personal Accounts: Many Crowdfunding sites transfer the lump sums directly to the person who posted the campaign, which raises legal and financial accountability issues. In most cases, this is also a violation of district and state policies that affirm that the District Treasurer is supposed to be in charge of the funds.
4. Ownership: Once completed, who actually owns those funds or products that are produced through that campaign? Was the campaign personal or on behalf of the district? Is that the property of a teacher, a school, or the district? Some teachers will tell you that everything they raise is for the school, while others will tell you differently if policies are not in place to outline this problem.
5. Existing/Incompliant Resources: It’s actually a common occurrence for staff to raise money for items that either already exist elsewhere, or already have funding. It’s also not uncommon for staff to raise money for technology that isn’t approved or that the curriculum isn’t available for.
Livingtree Give takes the same concept of online fundraising, but uses features built specifically for school districts to do so in a coordinated fashion in order to eliminate these liabilities. Give provides district oversight to every fundraiser, while also assuring donors that every single campaign has been vetted and approved through the district’s built in and customizable approval process. District admin can now track every single dollar, route funds through a single district account, easily disperse funds to the appropriate accounts, and generate reports – all in real time.