Thursday, August 13, 2015

Mt. Lebanon School District to ramp up fundraising campaign

Mt. Lebanon School District to ramp up fundraising campaign

Mt. Lebanon School District's fundraising campaign has received $1.1 million in pledges and has about $300,000 in hand, but organizers should do more to spread awareness of the effort and court big donors, a consultant said.

Consultant Margaret “Maggie” Schmidt said the campaign had strong and active volunteer leadership, yet was having trouble instilling a sense of urgency in potential donors with the $109.65 million high school renovation nearly complete.

“The high school renovation project is nearly completed, and there's been no real incident, no critical thing out there making people say, ‘Yes, there's a danger here or a challenge here and we need to make this happen,' ” Schmidt told the school board Monday.

The $6 million fundraising campaign originally was planned in 2012 to offset the second round of bonds issued for the project.

However, it couldn't have been started in time or raised enough to avoid borrowing money.

With bonds funding the renovation, proceeds from the campaign will be split between other capital projects and an endowment fund that will award grants for classes and programs at the schools.

So far, the campaign has secured a total of about $1.1 million in donations and pledges, with most coming from two “pacesetter” donors, Schmidt said.

In fundraising parlance, pacesetters are the early, big-money donors who help a campaign reach as much as half or two-thirds of its goal while fundraisers still are making private, individual appeals to potential donors.

Schmidt's comment was the first time anyone disclosed in a public meeting how much had been pledged and raised since the fundraising effort began in 2013.

Almost half of what's been raised so far will reimburse the cost of starting and running the campaign, though most of those expenses were one-time fees for things like purchasing software, said school board president Lawrence Lebowitz.

“The equipment, if you will, to run the campaign has been purchased and now we're just talking about personnel costs going forward,” he said.

The district will need to hire a new director for the capital campaign because Alyssa Jackson DeLuca resigned this year.

Schmidt has been filling DeLuca's role on an interim basis but said she has other commitments.

DeLuca's salary was about $82,500 a year, and Schmidt is being paid up to $2,000 a month for part-time work.

Schmidt recommended forming a panel to take requests and award grants to district projects and programs using some of the $300,000 the campaign has in cash, and using a planned grand opening ceremony for the high school renovation in the fall to draw parent and alumni attention to the fundraising efforts.

The campaign will broaden its search for additional “pacesetter” donors to bring in more large gifts, will look for donations from foundations or corporations and will do more to spread the word about the district's needs and reasons for the fundraising, Schmidt said.

“One recommendation is to make the campaign more public, which would mean that more people would know about it, more people would know the rationale and why it's important,” she said.

“It's different than going out and starting to mass-mail information to people.”

She also recommended evaluating the campaign in six months to assess whether the $6 million goal is still realistic.

The board will vote Monday on a contract that would allow the campaign to accept donations online or via credit card, using an add-on to the DonorPro software the district already bought.

The district will pay DonorPro a flat fee of $10 per month, plus 20 cents per transaction and 2.89 percent of each donation made via credit card, which Superintendent Timothy Steinhauer said was pretty typical of such contracts with payment processors.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or


Anonymous said...

Poor decisions being made. There's only so much money in this community. We have the highness retired people in the nation. Where does the municipality and the school district think where they are going to find more money for their pet projects????

Richard Gideon said...

"Mt. Lebanon School District's fundraising campaign has received $1.1 million in pledges and has about $300,000 in hand....".

WELL! I'm reminded of a joke told to me by a Jewish friend of mine. It seems a boy had a well-attended Bar Mitzvah party. The next day his friend asks him, "Did you get a lot of stuff?" The boy replies, "I got a thousand dollars in cash, and ten thousand dollars in pledges!"

After three years of beating around the bush concerning this "Capital Campaign" we find that the District has managed to take in $300,000 in actual cash; most of which came from two "pacesetter" donors. Really? After all the hype I would have thought the District would be awash in cash, with Brinks trucks taking the loot to the local bank. Perhaps Ms. Schmidt's angst comes from the fact that the $6 million figure, which is equivalent to a $181 per-capita tax on every man, woman, and child in Mt. Lebanon (based on the last Census figures), is just as unrealistic as the $30 million, $905 per-capita hallucination that was trumpeted back when this whole thing started. And now that they have managed to collect, in cash, one-tenth of that original $30 million the next step will be going to the residents at large to see what they can shake down. Perhaps six million "bucks" is as hard to find as is 600 "bucks" in our parks!

I understand that part of this "come to Jesus" program will be to track down former MLHS grads. My grown children, all survivors of the Mt. Lebanon school system, have informed me in no uncertain terms what I can tell the District, should they call here looking for their whereabouts!

Anonymous said...

I wonder if those 2 donors received naming rights to anything?

Nick M.

Jason Margolis said...

They already had a successful fundraising campaign. It was called: The Newcomers Tax.

E. T. Gillen said...

I have read Santoni's article several times and it isn't adding up for me. Did they receive $1.1M in pledges and another $300,000 in cash bringing in the total of $1.4M? Or was it $1.1M total of which $300,000 is in cash in hand? Is that $300,000 in cash after costs? Or is it really $150,000 in cash after costs? None of this makes sense to me.

Thank you, David, for making the podcast available to us. Visit If someone can offer some clarification, I would appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

I've never been in a public high school that had a library named after someone. The decisions these people make really give me the creeps -- and I mean that genuinely. Between the schools and the municipality, everything is becoming commercialized.

So I just googled this idea of naming rights for schools and I see that I am not alone in thinking there is something wrong with this. The author states in 2007 that there is a "coming wave of school naming rights cases, which will probably crest in the next few years, will provide courts with an ideal tool with which to explain and clarify those categories". I wonder how Mt Lebanon is ensuring that their naming rights policy is constitutional.

E. T. Gillen said...

12:57 AM, here is the link to the School District's Naming Rights Policy. Policy FF Naming Rights was revised on November 17, 2014.

To make it easier for Lebo Citizens readers, I made a clickable link to your excellent article.