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Education foundation faces future with foundering funding

It’s best not to mess with a strong foundation once it’s been poured and set.

That was the consensus reached at a meeting Wednesday between board members of the Roaring Fork Re-1 School District and the Roaring Fork Education Foundation regarding the future of the foundation.

“We are, without a doubt, at a crossroads,” John Duffy, RFEF board chairman, told school board members.



Founded in 1996, RFEF has given between $350,000 and $400,000 to district schools for classes, projects and programs in the last 5 years, according to Duffy. But funding sources are becoming tapped out, and board members are burned out. If the foundation is to remain, changes need to be made.

Duffy came before the school board with RFEF director Pete Rohan to ask for direction and support in keeping the foundation afloat.



No decisions were made, but the school board agreed that preserving the foundation is in the best interest of students. District Superintendent Fred Wall promised the district will help during this restructuring period.

From the beginning, fund-raising has been event-driven, Duffy explained, which takes a lot of time and energy. Board members are getting burned out.

RFEF began talking about a restructuring about a year ago. Now, a major funding source has announced changes that push the foundation to take immediate action.

Since 1997, Alpine Bank has worked in partnership with the foundation to raise funds through its Classroom Credits program. Classroom Credits is based on a percentage of proceeds from a special Alpine Bank debit card, and has generated more than $120,000 for the foundation.

In February, Alpine Bank announced its own restructuring program. Alpine Bank will now expand Classroom Credits funding to other educational programs beyond the Roaring Fork School District, which may reduce funding to RFEF. Alpine Bank pledged to give the foundation $30,000 this year.

Since Alpine Bank’s announcement, the 11-member RFEF board has scrambled to find solutions.

Until now, the foundation has operated independently of, but in line with, the goals of the district. Duffy said autonomy was necessary in the beginning. The district was facing serious financial problems and the foundation needed to distance itself.

Those financial woes are largely now in the past, and the foundation and the district need to look to the future.

One solution may lie with Pete Karabatsas and his Foundation Development Consultants, a Denver-based consultation business.

In February, Karabatsas gave a presentation to members of the foundation, the school board, and district administration staff. He explained how to set up an education foundation that can go after funding sources, according to Duffy.

The presentation was impressive enough that the district and RFEF will look at bringing Karabatsas back for further consulting.

RFEF funds are divided among the three towns in the district, Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs.

Two other educational foundations, the Basalt Education Foundation and the Carbondale Public Education Foundation, raise money for their own communities.

The existence of three educational foundations creates some confusion for donors and sometimes stretches donors too thin.

“Businesses get hit by everything out there,” said district finance director Shannon Pelland.

Rohan agreed, and added that the real money comes when an organization lays a good track record year after year. Thus far, the foundation has been mediocre, he said.

“What do we have to do now to stay together and make it great?” he asked.

Wall said it would be ideal if all three foundations could work together.


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