High school parents are all too familiar with the seemingly endless string of fundraising events that start in the fall and continue throughout the year.
From candy bars to coupon books, there’s usually no shortage of ways for parents to dip into their wallets and support the students’ extracurriculars.
Traditionally, these fundraising campaigns are each centered around a specific school group or club. The band students raise money for new music supplies; the football team raises money for new equipment.
But a new fundraising group at the soon-to-be-opened Lucy Beckham High School hopes to overhaul how the system usually works.
Building a new high school from the ground up has its advantages, said Catherine Templeton, the parent of two ninth grade students at Lucy Beckham and the president of the newly established One Beckham Foundation.
It means there’s more opportunities to try something different, she said, even if it’s never been done before.
The idea behind the One Beckham Foundation is simple: Combine all of the Mount Pleasant school’s arts, athletics and academic groups under one fundraising umbrella so any club or group, no matter the size, will receive fair, equitable funding.
“Everybody gets what they need, so the band doesn’t get $5 million and the chess club gets zero,” Templeton said.
There is some funding at the district level that's set aside for school extracurriculars, including the salaries of coaches, band directors and other staff positions, said CCSD spokesman Andy Pruitt. But often that money isn't enough to cover all the expenses a group or organization might need.
At Lucy Beckham, the average cost parents spend to enroll their child in the band program is around $1,000, Templeton said. That money goes toward things such as renting or buying an instrument, purchasing sheet music and paying for travel to competitions. That's where fundraising comes in.
The foundation, a pending 501(c)(3) nonprofit, consists of representatives from the PTSO, athletic boosters and the performing arts.
Each of those groups will still operate with its own leadership infrastructure, Templeton said, but they will all fundraise together.
“Whatever the need, whichever Beckham student, no matter the interest is the mission of the One Beckham Foundation to let the teachers teach, the coaches coach, the students learn and the parents work,” Templeton said. “Because as a community we need to take the burden of filling those financial gaps away from those who have more important priorities like learning, teaching and working.”
Smaller, student-led academic clubs won’t be left out of the equation this way, Templeton said.
Events that require extra funding, such as SAT prep sessions or college essay workshops could also be funded through the One Beckham Foundation, Templeton said.
“This way, nobody gets lost. This way, we make sure that we prioritize the whole student, not the interest area,” she said.
Lucy Beckham athletic director Scott McInnes, hired to build the athletic program at the Class AAAA school, said the fundraising approach is unusual in his experience.
“I’ve been in athletics for 30 years, and I’ve never heard of anything like this,” McInnes said. “But we are super excited about the opportunity to try it. One of our core values as a school is unity, and we’re bringing that into fundraising.
“The nice thing is that we are building a new school, and we can set it up however we want. We want to model that core value of togetherness and unity. Why shouldn’t theater, art and athletics all work together?”
Still, McInnes said his first reaction to the idea was, “Heck no, this is crazy.”
“But then, I thought through it and I think they’ve got a good idea, and we’re going to give it a shot,” he said. “I’m fired up about the opportunity to work together with all these folks.”
McInnes said that at most schools, athletics and even teams are treated as separate fundraising entities.
“The football team might have its own booster club and do its own thing,” he said. “Same with the volleyball team, and the tennis team. Everyone is kind of on their own separate islands.
“But when I came in, I said I wanted us to be together as an athletics department and run things together. And now, the school has said, ‘Let’s take that model and go one step further and be together on everything.’”
One potential obstacle: At many schools, parents can be territorial about their fundraising efforts. That might not be the case under the One Beckham model.
“That’s one thing we have to do, is try to get out of that mindset where we are just going to support our own little world, one sport or one group,” he said.
So far, Templeton said, most of the parents she’s talked to have been supportive of the idea.
“Think about what a relief it is not to have 42 wrapping paper solicitations and 68 doughnut sales," she said. "It’s a relief on the parent, too."
Lucy Beckham is set to open its doors for ninth and 10th grade students this fall, as long as the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic doesn't force students to start school remotely.
More information about the foundation can be found at OneBeckham.com.