Success Stories

Success Stories: Examples to inspire your funding!

Mt. Pilchuck Elementary, Lake Stevens, WA

Chris Larson
Principal, Mt. Pilchuck Elementary, Lake Stevens, WA

Mt. Pilchuck Elementary started the regular way with a book study and visiting an existing Leader in Me School. In December, their staff overwhelmingly decided that they wanted to implement The Leader in Me, so now what? “As principal, I didn’t really know where to go for money,” admits Principal Chris Larson. Initial fundraising took place over the summer and into the next school year.

The majority of fundraising responsibilities fell to Chris. “I had $10,000 to carry over in my school budget that I put toward the first year.” One teacher helped write grants and they found success with local organizations. They received $3,000 from a local education foundation and $6,000 from the Tulalip Tribes Charitable Fund. “We tried other grants as well, but those foundations had specific things they wanted to support.” The Charitable Fund application process proved to be a great learning exercise as it was a multiple-step process and required legal information from the school district. Now Chris is pleasantly surprised when she sees a simple grant application and only needs to adjust existing text.

Chris and a colleague also attended a lot of meetings with area organizations—breakfast with the Kiwanis, lunch with the Chamber of Commerce, a meeting with the Rotary Club. “We wanted the kids to know the community leaders and our community, and also get leaders into our schools as role models.” To contact these groups, they approached whoever may have had a contact with the group, or researched contact information on the Internet. They were on the agenda as guest speakers at the Kiwanis and Chamber of Commerce meetings. In preparation, they created a PowerPoint® presentation including general Leader in Me information; their own story of how the school got involved, including quotes from the kids; and finally, the training and materials needed and associated costs. They finished the presentation by asking for support. Chris wasn’t comfortable asking for money, but luckily she found a teacher on the staff who was able to confidently do so; they make a great team. A total of $4,000 was raised from these area organizations.

The PTA had some money available at the end of the year, so contributed $10,000 for the first year’s training and materials. Chris gave a presentation to the PTA that, in the end, was an easy sale because the kids were talking about the 7 Habits at home. The following year, the PTA added a line item to their TLIM budget for $1,000.

Chris and team also tried to be creative with fundraising ideas, which they ran through the PTA. During the school’s Field Day, one of the teachers had the idea to put the principal on the roof and pass a hat for donations. The president of the Chamber of Commerce joined Chris and $3,500 was raised—well beyond their expectations. “A lot of people wanted me on the roof!” Chris says laughingly. They hosted a holiday bazaar at the school and received monies from table rentals and a small percentage of sales or flat donations. The old administration building was used for a community haunted house, with the funds specifically set aside for The Leader in Me. The kids had roles and activities at the haunted house, and it turned out to be a great way to advertise the school’s efforts with The Leader in Me.

Being a union school district, an early challenge was needing $13,000 to pay one day of staff time during trainings. Chris was able to find the money the first year, but the money wasn’t there for Year 2. The staff decided to donate their time to attend the trainings because they were so committed to The Leader in Me.

Though a daunting task, Chris can now see the silver lining. She had no idea that making the community connections would be so important. Through getting to know the community leaders and organizations and inviting those leaders to the school, the community has become a vested party in Mt. Pilchuck’s success.

Lee Hamilton Elementary, Ferguson, MO

Dr. Emily Turner
Principal, Lee Hamilton Elementary, Ferguson, MO

Within one month of her arrival, Emily’s school had been named a Focus school in Missouri. Focus schools are identified as a result of low achievement for three years prior, based on state assessments and attendance for students within subgroups. “I came here with The Leader in Me as my core belief system, and knew these kids needed this,” says Principal Emily Turner. She set expectations for implementing The Leader in Me early on—during her job interview.

Emily already knew and used The Leader in Me language, and after surveying the staff, it was clear that 100 percent of the staff was ready for a change. One of the first steps was to write The Leader in Me into her “building accountability” plan. Emily named The Leader in Me system as the foundation, but she didn’t list specific workbooks, trainings, etc., which could have restricted exactly how monies were to be used. Emily suggests taking the time to ensure the information and content of the plan is clear and concise the first time. While minor modifications can be made throughout the year, the core intent and focus of the plan must remain unchanged.

Funding for the first year’s implementation was pulled from (1) Title I federal government monies ($16,217), (2) Focus-school state government monies ($14,931), (3) district professional-development funds ($3,000), and (4) student fundraisers ($2,000). These funds were used to support the training process, pay teacher stipends, purchase materials for implementation, and continue professional learning throughout the school year.

Title I and Focus-school funding require individual school plans. For each plan, Emily intentionally used the same wording, goals, and strategies. She feels strongly that this consistency of message is vital to ensure everyone understands the future direction of the school.

The district professional-development funds were acquired by contacting Professional Development administrative staff and requesting funds available to her school. Emily’s consistency in mentioning The Leader in Me to district staff has created the view of “this is who we are at Lee-Hamilton, and this is what we need to make it happen.”

Fifteen student-leadership groups exist within Lee-Hamilton. One at a time, each group may choose to run a fundraiser for building initiatives (landscaping, resources for students in need, painting, recess equipment, bulletin boards, etc.) to improve the building environment.

Year 2 brought about funding challenges well known to the education community—lower tax income, redirection of district professional-development funds, and reduction and reallocation of Title I funds. Focus-school funding continues to fund the majority of TLIM with the help of district and local funds and student fundraising. Emily has now identified the need for parent and local business support, and is looking for “win-win” relationships to maintain The Leader in Me moving forward. They are in the process of creating parent and community groups to strengthen the impact of The Leader in Me within the school and community.

Tips From Emily:

  • A key to writing plans is in the wording you use and how you set yourself up to be able to utilize the funds—be clear and consistent with your language and goals.
  • Get higher-administration support and help them understand the how and why of what you are doing: “This is who we are and what we are about.”

DeFranco Elementary, Bangor, PA

Braden Hendershot
Principal, DeFranco Elementary, Bangor, PA

Principal Braden Hendershot of DeFranco Elementary knew he wanted to bring The Leader in Me to his school but didn’t know where to find the funds. The United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley opened the door by introducing Braden to a local businessman. The two were introduced at a leadership event at the only other Leader in Me school in the region. This introduction led to the gentleman paying for staff training in the 7 Habits. At the time there were no future plans for funding but the staff was fired up and ready to go.

Once they had started TLIM it became less about finances and more about creating leadership opportunities to the kids. Braden said, “Let’s get the students in front of some fresh faces. The message to the community is that good things are happening in the school.” They invited business and community members to Leadership Lunches and Leadership Days. These were very successful with spreading the word and creating enthusiasm for The Leader in Me with local realtors, businesses, and hospitals. The CEO of a regional bank attended and left saying “you’ve got to see this school and see what’s going on.” Knowing many people aren’t available during daytime hours, the bank hosted an event at a local facility with 75 people attending on a Wednesday evening. School staff volunteered their time and student presenters occupied most of the agenda. In all about $25,000 has been raised through these types of events.

Braden struggled with the decision of going for the hard sale/ask, or letting the pieces fall where they may. “I’ve never said ‘we need your money, please give.’ Rather I say, ‘here is our dream’ and then put dollar amounts to that. For example, ‘I’d love to bring in outside coaching. It’s going to cost $5,000. I’d love to give the kids t-shirts which will be about $500,” says Braden. More than anything, Braden’s team decided they wanted the partnership and support of the community. Some businesses haven’t given money but have retold DeFranco’s story. People that attend the lunches tell the kids stories. For those who give money, the district’s business office has provided donation receipts for tax purposes.

An additional $10,000 was acquired through using Title III funds which are federal government funds that flow through the district. Braden found this by contacted the district to ask if any monies were available. ‘Reshaping school culture’ fell within the school improvement portion of the Title III initiative.

Also, a grant was written to a local business for $6,000, and a community foundation will now put money toward Leader in Me coaching. Four years into The Leader in Me process and no monies have come from the regular district budget or parents.

To date over $45,000 has been raised for the elementary school and interest keeps pouring in. Now Braden spends time taking calls from business people wanting to know more and visit the school. “This is not something I envisioned four years ago,” says Braden. It is now reaching a point where the businesses are seeing the school as a resource. For example, a local transportation organization wants to increase ridership and is looking to the school for input and potential partnership opportunities.

The community is now asking “What next? What happens when the kids don’t have this culture in the middle school?” The answer – get The Leader In Me into the middle school. A local hospital has already committed $13,000 toward the middle school implementation. Hospital staff sees this as helping the body as well as the mind, and an investment in disease reduction.

PS 39 Francis J. Murphy School, Staten Island, NY

Tracey Wright
Principal, PS 39 Francis J. Murphy School, Staten Island, NY

In 2012, staff at PS 39 was looking for ways to improve academic achievement and school climate. A colleague at the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Safety and Youth Development told them about The Leader in Me. Principal Tracey Wright and staff attended a Leadership Day at a local school and met with the principal and assistant principal to learn more about the process. Liking what they saw, focus was then turned to fundraising.

Principal Tracey Wright admits to being good at getting grants. “Perseverance is key. You can’t give up,” says Tracey. Be willing to research grant options on the Internet, and have your goals in mind. With The Leader in Me, Tracey’s goals included improving school climate and decreasing discipline referrals. And don’t forget to be creative in your approach. During Year 3, Tracey is partnering with two schools to plan joint training for all new staff to attend a 7 Habits workshop.

The first year, they received a $5,000 grant from the Office of Safety and Youth Development to help pay for staff time and training fees to train all staff in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. They were also awarded a $20,000 grant from the Staten Island Foundation, a private foundation serving the borough of Staten Island, New York. The Foundation has a well-defined application process, so Tracey reviewed the steps and ensured compliance throughout the process (very important). In the application, Tracey identified their desired outcomes for implementing The Leader in Me as improving school achievement and decreasing discipline referrals. As part of the application process, Tracey had to meet with members of the Foundation Board, and she utilized this opportunity to make a compelling argument for supporting their application. She obviously did a great job, because the grant was awarded.

For Year 2, they used extra money in the school budget to fund The Leader in Me. The extra money became available due to an influx in students. “People heard about the school and wanted to come,” says Tracey. Upon entering the school, visitors can feel the positive energy. For arranged visits, student ambassadors give school tours and are in charge of preparing questions in advance. They continually receive compliments on the school culture.

With empowerment comes curiosity and engagement, so students started showing interest in having more school clubs—comic books, art, cheerleading, bully-free zone, journalism, and a leadership club to focus on service. Paid staff and volunteers are needed to support these efforts, and costs are kept to a minimum where possible. Club expenses are covered by the school budget and fundraisers such as Movie Night. Over $1,000 was raised at Movie Night, which was held outside on school grounds using the school’s popcorn and cotton-candy machines and selling candy bars.

During Year 3, they again secured a $20,000 grant from the Staten Island Foundation. The monies will be used for continued staff coaching, “booster-shot training,” student clubs, a Lighthouse Team retreat, school beautification, and an award lunch for student leaders. Everyone has been impressed by the leadership shown on behalf of the students. In addition to club activities, students raised money to pay the bus expenses for a student trip to Philadelphia, and are leading service projects such as a coat drive for NY Cares, food drives for local food banks, and raising funds for the Mercy Project, which works to free enslaved children in Ghana.

PS39 continues to create a win-win situation for their students and community. Their school motto, "Public School 39: A Bridge to Success," motivates academic achievement for the students, instills in them a sense of school pride, and motivates them to become lifelong achievers and contributors to their community.

Silver Springs Elementary, Northville, MI

Melissa Hunt
Principal, Silver Springs Elementary, Northville, MI

"Our story is about true synergy," says Principal Melissa Hunt. Fundraising united their community of stakeholders toward a common goal. That goal was to raise $35,000 for year one – which they met and exceeded through a creative mix of fundraising efforts. An important side note is that this synergy took place before implementing The Leader in Me which means they created a unified school community that then felt a sense of pride when able to start implementation. All groups came together to decide on the goal of $35,000 which seemed both attainable and necessary based on input from other schools already in the process.

It all started when a few teachers decided to pilot The Leader in Me in their classrooms. Their passion was contagious and the parents of students in those classrooms wanted to share their experiences. Staff and a key group of parents attended Leadership Days at other schools, and everyone was excited to see the process engrained in an entire school. Rather than relying on the PTA, the parents brainstormed ideas with the end result being the creation of a Dad’s Club. Several dads already had the desire to become more involved in the school and this gave them a mission. Their primary role for the first year was raising money for The Leader in Me.

A wide variety of fundraisers were held throughout the year - Chilis® night $400, Bake Sale $2,027, Golf Outing $6,500, Leader in Me book sales $300, hockey ticket sales where kids sing the national anthem $2,000, Wine/Beer Tasting and Silent Auction $16,000, jewelry sales, $2,900, Fun Run $6,000, and Staff Recipe Book sales $200. Add to that a Rotary grant of $2,500, a private donation of $10,000, and $2,500 for winning the district’s Outstanding Collaborative Outcomes award, and a total of $49,000 was raised in one year.

Melissa admits it takes an investment of time and energy to organize such a variety of fundraisers, but the benefits overwhelmingly outweigh the challenges – not just financially but by the synergy among the stakeholders. Many of the fundraisers have become annual events.

  • The bake sale involves individual staff members creating themed cakes to be raffled off. It is a friendly competition with trial cakes being made and some working on their theme throughout the year. The students get excited and want to buy their teacher’s cake. The $2,000-3,000 is used for The Leader in Me intellectual property/website renewal and other expenses.
  • The golf outing was a great success and has now been implemented in neighboring schools. The Dad’s Club is reaching out to help others start their own groups.
  • The parent Lighthouse Team sells The Leader in Me-related books at an information table at events. It isn’t a big money-maker but does serve to provide resources to the students’ families.
  • The music teacher initiated a partnership with the local hockey team, Whalers. Students sing the National Anthem at every Monday game. The school is allowed to purchase tickets for resell and set the price (the school makes $4 on each ticket sale). This has become a tradition and the National Anthem is practiced at each school assembly.
  • The Wine/Beer Tasting and Silent Auction takes the most work but Melissa will tell you it is well worth it, “I wouldn’t take this away from the fundraising experience. If something takes a lot of work to pull off, it’s going to unite a group of parents and teachers and you are going to have to have those public victories of win-win and synergy.” Silent auction items are donated by community business and individuals ranging from a vacation, tickets to local professional sporting events, a wine basket, lunch with the Principal, artwork created by the students, a local car dealership offered ‘drive a Ford Mustang for four weeks’ in exchange for parking the Mustang in front of the school. To get started the Dad’s Club compiled a list of business where families work so there is already a connection to the school; a great way to start the conversation. In the beginning it was the parents and teachers asking for donations; this is now done by the students.
  • A local artesian donated a portion of jewelry sales to the school. This was an inspiring model to the students who have since made jewelry to be sent to Africa, as well as selling some with the proceeds being donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
  • The first fun run was organized by parents and very successful as demonstrated by the proceeds. For the second year the school worked the company BoosterThon Fun Run. Melissa likes this company because they focus on character building and everyone participates regardless of the amount of pledges received. Some schools have raised as much as $40,000 so it is worth exploring.
  • The staff recipe book continues as a fundraiser with a creative twist. Students now compete in a “Healthy Master Chefs” competition during which they create healthy dessert recipes. The student body vote at a taste test and the winner is featured in the recipe book.
  • Bricks 4 Kidz is used as an afterschool program and aligns with the school improvement plan to show academic improvement. The fee covers the LEGO® bricks, instruction, and a percentage is donated back to the school.
  • Meijer Rewards is a store receipt program. Gift cards and sporting event tickets are received and used within the school as prizes.

The school applied for a grant from the local Rotary Club to help fund The Leader in Me. They had a connection in that the husband of a staff member was president at the time, but any school is encouraged to contact the Rotary Club and other local service organizations that are known for supporting community efforts.

The Lighthouse team applied for and won the Outstanding District Collaborative Outcomes award. In 2014, the grant application was written to fund training for families wanting to be trained in the 7 Habits but weren’t able to afford it.

The school hosts an annual school beautification project they call the Lorax Project. Every student works on the project and helps with fundraising during the school’s Spirit Week. A creative way of displaying school spirit is identified for each day, and students are encouraged to bring $1 to participate in activities such as Crazy Hair Day. The student Lighthouse team organizes Spirit Week. This year they are partnering with Home Depot; this relationship started with a conversation with a store representative.

Another happy result of this collaboration has been the relationships developed with community business and members. These same organizations and individuals support the school at Leadership Days and other activities, as well as visit the school to see the students in action and their progress.

Fundraising is still important though not as much money was needed for The Leader in Me after the initial training and implementation. Many annual fundraisers are now also used to support other organizations and schools such as supplying water bottles for a local school’s first Leadership Day. Even the Dad’s Club primary goal is no longer fundraising as they now look for in-school involvement and continue to help others form their own Dad’s Clubs.