When parents in Smyrna, Ga., wanted to open a charter school last year, they didn’t have a big management company to take on start-up costs. So they got creative and turned to gofundme, a crowdfunding site that helps people quickly raise money for projects. Within four months, the Smyrna Academy of Excellence collected $10,000.
“We went at it pretty hard,’’ said principal and board chairman Jimmy Arispe, who described the process as quick and easy compared to applying for grants and knocking on foundations doors. “You can send a link to anybody.’’
Crowdfunding is a fairly new concept in education, but the fundraising platform appears to be gaining fans – especially among charter schools. The idea is simple. Put a project or goal on one of the online fundraising sites and ask people from all over the world to help with costs. Typical donations range from 20 bucks to thousands of dollars.
Chicago’s Academy for Global Citizenship charter school has raised $50,000 so far in an ongoing $30 million campaign on indiegogo, an international crowdfunding site. The Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools in Washington, D.C., raised $11,179 for a new gym this past spring during a three-month drive on StartSomeGood.
“It’s a really cool idea overall,’’ said Parker Thomas, who, along with another of the school’s co-founders, headlined a crowdfunding seminar in March at a California Charter Schools Association conference.
No one, including the California association, really knows how many schools are crowdfunding.
“We just have a sense that they’re like most organizations or nonprofits and public schools,’’ said the Los Angeles-based group’s spokeswoman, Dannie Tillman. “Crowdfunding is just one of the methods in their fundraising toolbox.’’
Charter schools are public schools that operate independently from districts. They receive state dollars, but not as much as their district counterparts, noted Eric Paisner of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools. So that has many charter schools raising money, he said.