MCS Foundation close to finishing fundraising campaign | Schools
The Memphis City Schools Foundation (MCSF), the local independent education fundraising arm for Memphis City Schools, has reached a significant milestone in less than six months.
Charged with a major task of raising the local $21.4 million match to the historic Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s $90 million grant through MCSF to MCS, the organization has raised $19.25 million during the private major gifts phase of its ambitious campaign which began in April.
MCSF is the fiscal agent for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant. The organization, independent of the school system, is responsible for oversight of these resources and detailed financial reporting to the Gates Foundation.
“The commitment of the business, non-profit and philanthropic community to our public schools is clear with the generous gifts made to date,” said Kim Wirth, executive director of leading donor International Paper Foundation and MCSF board chair. “The Foundation’s board of directors and executive director are committed to expanding this community collaboration to our teachers, students, parents and other caring community members. We celebrate our fundraising success, but turn now to the work still to be done to reach our seven-year goals,” she said.
MCSF has seven years to raise the local match, and that has allowed major funding partners to commit to multi-year funding arrangements during the private major gifts phase of the campaign. Organizations with a long-standing commitment to public education have entrusted their investment with the Memphis City Schools Foundation to support the reform work around teacher effectiveness. FedEx committed $3 million to MCSF.
“As the largest private employer in Memphis, we have a significant number of Memphis City School graduates and are committed to growing the potential of future graduates,” explained Diane Terrell, vice president of strategic communications at FedEx Corp. “FedEx has been a strong advocate for the past decade’s efforts to promote education reform in Memphis City schools by providing start-up funding for Teach for America and New Leaders for New Schools. This collaboration with the Gates 2 Foundation exponentially expands the opportunity to deliver meaningful system-wide results that provide a quality education for all students, helping to grow the future success of students, teachers, the Memphis workforce and the city of Memphis overall,” she said.
FedEx, the Assisi Foundation, International Paper, AutoZone, Hyde Family Foundations, First Tennessee Foundation, the Children’s Foundation of Memphis, Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation, an anonymous donor, Community Foundation of Greater Memphis and the Plough Foundation make up the list of organizations pushing the total funds raised to $19.25 million as of Nov. 15.
“Over the last 15 years, our foundation has been involved with numerous reform efforts for public education,” said Scott McCormick, executive director of the Plough Foundation. “This initiative provides a great opportunity for the district to achieve sustainable results,” he said.
“We are so very fortunate to have visionary leadership, sound planning and strategies, and now the resources to affect real and lasting change in Memphis City Schools,” said Dr. Freda G. Williams, MCS Board of Education president. “I hear and understand when people say that money is not the solution. But money is a means to get to the solution,” she said.
If success is measured in benchmarks and outcomes, then the independent fundraising arm of the largest school system in the state of Tennessee has exceeded all expectations.
“We are all humbled by the enormity of the work,” said Dr. Kriner Cash, MCS superintendent. “It has never been done with this level of comprehensiveness and collaboration. But in the end, we believe that high-value teachers create high-value students. And, as the many in our city who care for our children continue to come forward with their commitment and support, I know we will succeed,” he said.
The MCSF, a 501 (c)(3) organization, was established in March 2009 as a separate entity to be the central clearing house for school system donations. The non-profit is in place to assist with raising money for individual schools, booster clubs, alumni groups, scholarship endowments and a host of other school specific or system-wide projects. The most visible district-wide project now is the education reform work around teacher effectiveness.
“As the fiscal agent of the local resources and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant, our number one priority is to ensure fiscal accountability and transparency,” said Vince McCaskill, executive director of MCSF. “We are communicating with our investors regularly to ensure they have a reasonable comfort level with our staff and our board of directors. The community support that we have received has been impressive. What is most inspiring is the good people in Memphis really want the best for all children and are willing to support efforts they believe gives MCS a chance at improving where our public schools are today,” he said.
An example of that enthusiasm and excitement can be seen with the level of giving from organizations such as the Children’s Foundation of Memphis, the most recent organization to commit resources to the MCSF with a $750,000 grant awarded last week. The Community Foundation of Greater Memphis 3 approved one of its largest grants ever made from its discretionary funds in the history of the organization. The Community Foundation contributed $250,000 to the Memphis City Schools Foundation.
“We strongly believe in students, teachers and in this work to give them the support that is long overdue. We also believe in the Memphis City Schools Foundation’s ability to provide us with fiscal accountability and transparency, “said Bob Fockler, president of the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis. “We have already received detailed feedback from MCSF that is giving our organization great comfort with our investment in the public school system.”
Assisi Foundation executive director, Dr. Jan Young, said the work focusing on teacher effectiveness is very intriguing. The Assisi Foundation awarded the MCSF a $2.5 million grant to support the system’s reform effort.
“Urban communities are currently facing major issues related to public education. Memphis deserves a strong, effective public education system,” said Young. “The Assisi Foundation has a long-standing relationship with the public school system - our Board’s most recent grant is an example of the commitment to the hope inspired by the Gates investment and to the mandate that we all share in the accountability for the success of the broader education reform vision.”
The MCS Foundation’s fundraising campaign is co-chaired by Johnny and Merry Moore of Sun Trust Bank and J.R. “Pitt” and Barbara Hyde of the Hyde Family Foundations. The Hyde Family Foundations was one of the first organizations to commit to the teacher effectiveness reform work. To date the Hyde Family Foundations has contributed $3.1 million to MCSF, an anonymous donor $3.1 million, Plough Foundation $3 million, FedEx $3 million, Assisi Foundation $2.5 million, International Paper $1.25 million, First Tennessee Foundation $1 million, Children’s Foundation $750,000, Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation $250,000 and the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis $250,000.
“These are extraordinary commitments during uncertain economic times which demonstrate how leaders of these organizations view public schools in Memphis,” said Vince McCaskill. “Their financial commitments indicate their strong desire for public education to improve and become a strong, vibrant beacon of light and hope in Memphis, and a belief that the work focusing on supporting teachers is sustainable and will have the greatest impact on student achievement long-term.”
The Memphis City Schools Foundation is gearing up to launch the public phase of this campaign in January 2011. Work is already underway as contributions from individuals and mid-sized and smaller businesses are beginning to come in. To learn more about the Memphis City Schools Foundation, visit www.givemcs.org.
Information provided by MCSF.
Photo courtesy Flickr user AMagill.