School Foundations

How to Get Started

Planning is essential for successful asset development.

“Education is the linchpin issue in rural economic development.”

This simple statement is the credo of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks’ Rural Schools Partnership and its nationally recognized work with more than 70 school districts and local foundations. Schools truly are the lifeblood of small towns, and everyone must do all they can to maximize the learning opportunities for teachers and students.

Rural school foundations require vision, commitment, and planning. Even in the best of circumstances, developing a viable school foundation may take several years. However, foundations don’t magically appear, and rural school districts that fail to establish foundations will not be in a position to take advantage of the ongoing transfer of wealth.

We believe these characteristics are crucial to the success of any school foundation:

  • The primary focus is to ensure student success and opportunities.
  • Efforts to build a foundation are imbedded in the community.
  • All school foundation board members are donors.
  • The foundation is open to collaboration and partnerships.
  • Planned giving is at the forefront of foundation dialogue.
  • Foundation leadership is active, engaged and persistent.
  • The focus on communications and educating the school community is ongoing.

Building Rural School Foundations

Our partners at the Community Foundation of the Ozarks are an amazing case study in the power of rural School Foundations. Check out this guide on how to get started, and discover stories of rural communities utilizing this model.

Learn More

Action Steps:


Establish a small working group to explore the feasibility of establishing a school foundation.


Keep administrators and school board members in the loop; garner their support before moving forward.


Establish a formal board or advisory board, depending on the legal structure of the school “foundation.” The sitting school board should not serve as rural school foundation governance board, although school board members can participate in the foundation governance structure


Clearly articulate the foundation’s mission statement.


Develop a launch plan that focuses keenly on community education/communication.


Determine short-term goals to build momentum and launch the foundation.


Determine long-range objectives and consider existing assets that eventually could be included in the school foundation’s portfolio.