BY KARISSA MILLER
Iredell-Statesville Board of Education members are considering a new policy that would establish restrictions for school employees who want to launch a crowdfunding campaign on behalf of the school system or any individual I-SS school.
Crowdfunding is the process of raising money for a project or cause by soliciting contributions from a large number of people on the internet. It’s typically using websites like GoFundMe or DonorsChoose.
The policy, introduced to the board for a first reading this month, authorizes employees to engage in crowdfunding activities within the confines established by the policy.
At this time, no action has been taken by the school board. The board was recently informed of what they need to consider regarding drafting a formal crowdfunding policy.
Chief Finance Officer Melissa Wike introduced Policy #7360/8225 entitled “Crowdfunding on behalf of the school system” to the board and said that it addresses some concerns of school finance officers and superintendents.
One concern is the potential to denigrate the school system. Essentially when a teacher puts a request for funding out there, they are saying the school system is not provided what is needed, which is not appropriate, Wike explained.
Another concern, Wike said, is there’s no mechanism to track how crowdfunding dollars are spent. When a teacher or staff sets up an account, the funds are transferred to the bank account of the person who created the account.
Here are some of the main highlights of the five-page policy:
♦ Section A: Establishes a default rule that crowdfunding on behalf of the school systems is prohibited unless approved in writing.
♦ Section B: Specifies the information required to request approval of a crowdfunding campaign.
♦ Section C: Establishes the process for the approval of proposed crowdfunding campaigns and specifies board-determined dollar amounts for which the building principal and superintendent have approval authority.
♦ Section D: Establishes the board’s approval criteria for crowdfunding campaigns and its right to terminate any previously approved crowdfunding campaigns and its right to terminate any previously approved crowdfunding campaign or refuse any donation for any reason at any time.
♦ Section E: Directs the superintendent or designee to develop a list of approved crowdfunding websites that meet board-specified criteria; the criteria include that the website has a policy requiring all donations to do directly to the school system.
♦ Section F: Establishes requirements for receipt and use of monetary and in-kind donations and provides that all donations obtained through crowdfunding belong to the school system.
♦ Section G: Requires the employee to file a written report with the building principal once the donations have been utilized detailing how the donations were used and how students benefited.
Wike mentioned that school Parent Teacher Organizations will not be affected by this policy. The policy would apply to groups like robotics and school-based clubs.
Board members questioned the need for crowdfunding.
“I think it would be really simple just to not allow it,” Chairman Martin Page said.
Other board members have pointed out that the district and the community provide many grants for teachers to apply for throughout the year to fund new projects in the classroom.
District officials said that they will discuss the information this month with their principals. Typically, the board will vote to adopt a new policy after a second reading.
The Superintendent and school principals are responsible for making sure that the people affected by the policy changes are aware of new policies approved by the board.
Alternative source of funding
Having the option to crowdfund has been beneficial for some teachers.
For example, at Harmony Elementary School, the school used DonorsChoose crowdfunding platform to fund a lettuce growing wall. This provided students with additional hands-on learning activities. As a result, the school is a USDA approved site that is allowed to use the lettuce they grow in school lunches.