Wednesday, June 12, 2024

GISD approves crowdsource fundraising for district programs


District programs can once again use crowdsource fundraising at Granbury Independent School District following an approval from the board of trustees May 20.

Crowdsource fundraising, also known as crowdfunding, is a way to raise funds by collecting small amounts of money from a large group of people online.

In the past, GISD used crowdsource fundraising to send an email out to student contacts to ask for a small program donation.

However, GISD Director of Athletics Lamont Moore said current parent teacher guidelines prohibit crowdsourcing due to past issues regarding an overuse of the fundraising method.

"The reason why it was prohibited was because past board members, staff and parents were bombarded with emails and texts about donating,” Moore said. “I believe in this case, we will set guidelines and parameters that will not allow that to happen in the future. It was overused, and those parameters and guidelines will not allow that moving forward.”

He added that booster clubs will receive annual training on district guidelines to ensure total transparency over the funds received.

"A few years ago, we did do away with crowdsourcing for a couple of reasons,” Superintendent Jeremy Glenn confirmed. “One, I don't think organizations were clear with families and parents on why it was being done, so there was information being put out that wasn't necessarily factual as it related to why parents and families should donate. Two, was the bombardment of emails and receiving an email every week until you donate. It just became excessive.”

Glenn said the biggest reason he could give trustees to encourage them to approve the agenda item is how intentional Moore has been in the district since his arrival — especially through his efforts to transform the athletic program into a digital-only system.

"He has taken our athletic program cashless to make sure that, again, the safety of all funds are secure, and the money that is spent by parents, families or community in any program goes exactly where it's supposed to go,” Glenn said. “We’re not putting our kids and our children in a position where they have to have a lot of cash. Ultimately, it provides a safer environment for fundraising, so for those reasons, we would ask that you reconsider reversing that policy and allowing our programs to use crowdsourcing.”

Vice President Courtney Gore made a motion to approve allowing the district programs to use crowdsource fundraising. The motion was seconded by Place 2 Trustee Nancy Alana.

But before a vote took place, Place 3 Trustee Melanie Graft had a few concerns regarding the fundraising method.

"Are we aware of the tax laws that go along with crowdsourcing?” Graft asked.

“Absolutely," Moore said.

“OK, and so how can we plan to remain in compliance for the income reporting? Do we have something set up for that?”

“PTO and booster clubs are required to be a 501(c)(3) and they do file a form 990, I believe — that is recording their income,” Chief Financial Officer Emmett Whitefield said.

Graft also asked if crowdsourcing would affect any other funding the district receives. Whitefield said booster clubs and PTO groups are both limited in the number of fundraisers they can have.

She also asked what would happen if an amount was donated over what was needed and if there are any laws regarding financial overflow.

“There's no laws against going over the goal, no,” Moore said. “That's actually, we feel, like a bonus. Once we have those guidelines and the meetings with the PTO and boosters about what we require, we’ll have total transparency about how much they need and is given over.”

Graft asked if the app would accommodate those who wish to donate anonymously. Moore said it will. She also asked if the GISD attorney would sign off on any legal implications associated with crowdsourcing.

"Typically, when you're talking about booster clubs, if something wasn't done correctly, it would fall back on the booster clubs,” Glenn said. “We give them all of the state guidelines, we inform them of what their responsibilities are, but ultimately, they take ownership of that.”

“They are independent sources outside of the district,” Whitefield said.

Gore then made a comment that when her son was in band, the district allowed the boosters to crowdsource. However, since that option was taken away, she said it has greatly affected the organization’s ability to raise funds.

"The amount that those organizations were able to do for the students above and beyond what the district does was greatly impeded, and I've seen the effects of that firsthand,” Gore said. “I know with the new parameters that they're going to put in place, I believe it's going to be used judiciously and our students are going to gain from this. It's going to benefit them ultimately, in the long run.”

President Barbara Townsend said she was one of those individuals who wished to get rid of crowdsourcing as she was receiving 25 to 50 emails from different students every week, asking her to donate to an organization.

“I finally had to get hold of each one and say, ‘Stop,’” Townsend said. “We can't go back to doing it that way.”

“Absolutely. I agree,” Moore said. “When I heard that, I was like, ‘Wow.’ I've never seen that actually. Each kid is supposed to contact their contacts — not anything outside of it. The kids are reaching out to their contacts, people they know.”

“They felt like they knew me,” Townsend said, chuckling.

Alana commented that there is also a safety issue that goes along with not having the crowdsourcing option in place.

"Putting them out there in the community to raise funds is always an issue that we need to look at," she said. “With them handling money, it really puts them in an awkward position and making sure that they keep up with that money. Just as far as security measures (are concerned), this is an excellent idea, and it keeps our kids off the streets asking for money.”

Townsend then put the motion to vote. The motion passed 6:1, with Graft voting in opposition.