That possibility — of starting a capital funds campaign — was raised Friday morning at a work session of the Jacksonville Board of Education and the city's Educational Trust group.
“The state budgets have been crunched repeatedly, federal funds have been reduced and we are working with a smaller budget next year,” said Jacksonville schools Superintendent Jon Paul Campbell.
Campbell said the school system hoped to use money raised through a campaign to improve the services offered to students and families even as taxpayer-funded budgets shrink.
A company called the J.F. Smith Group would assist the board in the campaign.
Company CEO Jerry F. Smith told those at this joint meeting Friday that money is available, if it’s asked for in the right way.
“The American public, last year, gave away about $300 billion,” said Smith. “They gave it to some 1.4 million nonprofit organizations. Those nonprofit organizations are growing by 30,000 to 40,000 a year. Everybody has got their hand out. Everybody is looking for that charitable dollar.”
Smith started his company in 1991 when, after he had worked for many years at Auburn University’s Alumni and Development Office running capital campaigns, a Christian school in Birmingham asked him to head its capital campaign.
Since then, Smith and his company have gone from colleges to private schools setting up capital campaigns.
“There is money out there,” said Smith.
He said many donors cut back on giving after the 2008 economic crash. Things have begun to pick up since 2010, Smith said.
“What happened with people with money is they still have money,” he said. “They have pulled back from some of the organizations they do not have a close association with and they give it to the people and organizations whose missions they believe in.”
Smith’s company would charge the school system $32,900 plus expenses for a feasibility study that would include more than 100 interviews.
“The information we would receive from the feasibility study can be used for a lot of things other than just a capital project. It is good feedback information,” Campbell said.
The system would then decide if it wants to enter into a second contract that would designate the company as project manager of the campaign.
Board members were also given a first look at two options of the 2012-13 school calendar. Campbell said no matter which option is chosen, both options have set spring break for March 25-29, the same as Jacksonville State University’s spring break. Both options will be up for review at the school system’s website and parents can vote in a poll for which option best works for them.