GHSF > Memos > Alliance For Education, Rodney Wheeler
My June 25, 2002, conversation with
Rodney Wheeler,
Senior Vice President, Development and Community Relations
Alliance for Education
by Ben Slivka


Rodney moved to the Seattle area in 1987 from Washington, D.C., to work for the United Way of King County. In 2000 he joined the Alliance for Education (A4E), taking on responsibility for development, marketing, and community relations.

A4E is expanding it's focus to help provide basic "back-office" support for non-profit organizations targeted at each individual school, which meshes very nicely with the role we forsee the Garfield Foundation playing at GHS. If we affiliate with A4E we won't have to worry about financial back-office infrastructure.

That still leaves GHSF with the need to develop and maintain an alumni database, but here I think we have an opportunity to encourage A4E to staff up to provide this back-end service as well, since it would presumably be less expensive for GHSF, and we would get a more complete set of alumni database services because A4E would offer this to all other (high) schools, too.

So, if A4E can deliver stellar, low-cost back-office support, and are willing to help put together an alumni database system, it might make sense to affiliate with A4E.

If not, we should investigate a donor-advised fund at Seattle Foundation, and continue to look at putting together our own alumni database system.

A4E is Expanding its Focus to Supporting Individual Schools:
  • To date, A4E has focused it's efforts on creating systemic change within Seattle Public Schools, hence the big focus on individual school transformation plans for each of the 98 schools
  • Going forward, A4E is now trying to connect with individual schools to help create local, independent supporting organizations for each school
  • A4E Key Messages
    • A4E must earn the right [by virtue of delivering great service] to serve individual schools [and school groups]
    • Our strategy is to create the habit of giving to public education;
      ==> We want to be respectful of donors, but we do want to build up our donor list and mail them twice a year about A4E;
  • A4E provides the following services to individual school groups:
    • Low-cost accounting services; SPS reimburses A4E for some services and A4E retains interest earned on first $25,000 of account balance (at recent interest rates of ~1%, that is the same as Seattle Foundation 1% charge for a Donor Advised Fund, and obviously A4E is a better deal at larger account balances)
    • Send thank you letters and tax receipts to donors [on A4E letterhead at present]
    • Cuts checks
    • Handles matching gift and in-kind donations
    • Quarterly financial reports
    • Snail mail services (group must reimburse for material and postage costs)

Some Numbers:
  • FY2001 annual budget was $10,241,353
  • Fund raising and Administrative costs were $1.455 million, 14.2% of total budget
  • According to Charity Navigator, A4E's overhead costs are quite respectable when compared to, for example, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Planned Parenthood of Western Washington, and Charity Navigator rates A4E higher than similar organizations in other parts of the USA.
  • A4E maintains ~200 accounts for ~45 individual SPS schools and ran $1.8 million of funds through these accounts in FY 2001. A4E provides a "financial back office" for alumni clubs, booster clubs, and similar school groups at no cost to those groups.
  • A4E has ~$6 million in endowment funds: $4 million is the John Stanford fund, the remaining $2 million is in 5-6 other accounts.

Other A4e Facts:
  • A4E has one database professional (James McNamara) who uses Raiser's Edge to track donors and their gifts; this appears to be the market-leading IT tool for fundraising; it supports restricted gift management, pledge management,
  • A4E has one accounting person (Susan Lockyer) who handles financial transactions and reporting

$125 million "The Campaign For Every Child" has target launch date of October, 2002:
  • A4e is still in the quiet phase of this six year (2002..2008) campaign
  • 2008 chosen to coincide with year that passing the WASL becomes mandatory for high school graduation
  • Don Nielsen (ex-SPS board member) is leading the A4E development committee
  • NOTE: The following points are still preliminary!
  • Won't Raise Money For...
    • Capital Expenditures
    • Basic Salaries
    • Basic Services
  • Will Raise Money For...
    • Professional Development
    • Reinvention of the Use of Time
    • Enrichment Opportunities for Students: Arts, Math, Science, Music, Fitness, etc.
    • Technology and Information Resources
    • Smaller and More Personalized Communities Within Schools
    • Innovation in All Areas of Public Education (R&D)
    • Attraction and Retention of "The Best" Leaders and Educators
    • Pre-K and Post-12 Programs to Extend Classroom Learning
    • Recognition of Excellence Among Schools and Educators
    • Building Positive Public Relations for the Schools in the Community
    • Building the Will and Responsibility for Change in the Community
    • Supporting Children and Families for Success: Family support workers, pre-school/afterschool programs
    • Mentorying and Tutoring to Improve Student Performance

-- Ben Slivka

Last updated Tuesday, June 25th, 2002.
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