EDITOR’S NOTE: Earlier this year, WSB started a series of stories about independent local businesses and why they matter more to a community like ours than you might realize. Then, the “West Seattle: We Have That” campaign launched at midsummer. Now, we’re continuing to publish stories as part of the series – and inviting you into the conversation. Many of the reports are being underwritten by the West Seattle Junction Association, but not as ads – it’s their contribution to an issue of importance from Sunrise Heights to Seaview, Highland Park to High Point, Luna Park to Brace Point, and all over WS.
By Keith Creighton
Special to West Seattle Blog
As part of our ongoing series about the impact that independently owned businesses have on the West Seattle economy and quality of life, we asked a selection of local schools, PTAs and retailers to share firsthand accounts of how sponsorships and partnerships affect area students.
Dwindling state and federal funds are forcing local schools to get creative with the support they seek from area businesses. While the “mom & pop” shops don’t have the resources to fully bridge the gap, their contributions certainly make a difference. When you compare prices between local boutiques and giant online and big box retailers this holiday season, keep in mind where those extra few dollars are going.
Q: What type of contributions do local businesses make to your school?
PTA President, Schmitz Park Elementary
Roughly ten percent of our annual budget is generated from local businesses in the form of donations, sponsorships, auction items, volunteer hour reimbursements and gift matching.
PTA President, Lafayette Elementary
This year alone, local businesses contributed more than $15,000 toward our Walkathon fundraiser. We also receive donated items and support for our spring auction.
We are very thankful for a recent contribution from Endolyne Joe’s. The restaurant offered to host and promote a day of dining out where a percentage of food sales would go to support math enrichment.
Darlene R. Williams
Auction Procurement Chair for Pathfinder K-8
West Seattle storeowners are very generous and very supportive of our schools. We receive everything from gift cards to hotel stays to art.
Q: Are your supporters primarily local/independent businesses — or are the local branches of national and regional chains equally involved?
Our supporters are primarily local, but Gatewood PTA does receive generous donations from larger corporations like Target, Safeway, Amazon, and Thriftway too. No matter how big or small the donor, it makes a positive difference if there is a face-to-face interaction when asking for support.
We get a very warm feeling from the local businesses when we ask for their support — many of them have children in our schools, either past or present, and they know how much we can benefit from their gifts. We also receive support from national and regional chains, but often they are in the form of matching funds.
RAYNER (Schmitz Park):
Our contributions are mostly local, but some of the larger chains and employers do their share — especially if a parent works at the company and organizes an effort.
Our support is almost all local/independent businesses. We (also) receive donations from Safeway, Starbucks, Sounders, Seahawks, and the Mariners. I consider supporters like Metropolitan Market and PCC to be local.
Q: What impact do these contributions have on student life or the quality of their education?
RAYNER (Schmitz Park):
Local contributions improve all aspects of the student experience. We buy art, music and school supplies, provide wages for playground monitors, and budget for enrichment programs.
This year’s budget includes funding for positions such as classroom tutors, a reading specialist, a counselor, a health-room assistant, instrumental music, playground supervision and lunchroom supervision.
Local business donations help the PTA bridge the gap between the school’s budget and their need for curriculum materials and safety equipment. It also boosts school spirit year-round by funding family nights, workshops and school fairs.
PTA President, Shorewood Christian School
We’re a smaller school, 250 students K-12, so every donation makes a big impact. Our Evening of Jazz in February benefits the music department. We’re also in need of money and volunteers to fund clubs the kids have shown interest in, ranging from speech and debate to chess and carpentry.
The money raised by our fundraisers supports a wide variety of endeavors, including the Earth Project, an instrumental music program, class discretionary funds, tutoring, art supplies, and PE equipment.
Q: Are there any particular sponsorships or donations that stand out from the rest?
After our Walkathon, the children make thank-you cards for the businesses that support us. It is a great feeling to walk into a local business and see a Lafayette Leopard Paw decal or one of those thank-you notes hanging on the wall.
Windermere Real Estate Co. worked with our art specialist to allow student artwork to be auctioned off at a fundraiser. The proceeds from that event went towards social studies and non-fiction literature.
RAYNER (Schmitz Park):
We are particularly fond of auction experiences that create memories and get people engaged with the businesses. Bakery Nouveau offers pastries and coffees every weekend for a month. A parent volunteer picks-up the goodies and delivers them to the auction buyer. Husky Deli offers free ice cream for a year – this one never fails to please!
One year, a local lawyer donated writing a will for a couple.
Q: Let’s open the floor to some retailers. How do you process, evaluate and select the schools, organizations and non-profits that you support?
Owner, CAPERS gift store
I try to collect and make awards on a monthly basis. I focus on education, literacy, women’s health, and housing. Of course any local non-profits always are top priority.
Owner, Click! Design That Fits
We almost exclusively choose organizations that are based in West Seattle, with a few exceptions for groups that are particularly close to our hearts or are otherwise connected to our business. We’ve created a budget for how many donations we’re able to do.
Q: What advice do you have for schools, organizations, or non-profits that would like support from local business?
Notify early and follow up.
Personal contact is always better than a letter, email, or phone call. I would also ask that people please be understanding that we may not be able to donate every time; we receive more requests that we’re able to support, and if we can’t help this time around, hopefully next time we will.
Q: Describe a donation that worked really well for both parties.
We love to host classes, events and parties at the store. Many of these gifts net the nonprofit a lot of money and are very inexpensive to execute. The nonprofit sells tickets to the event at their fundraiser. Capers then hosts a party or event for the ticket holders, we donate a percentage of sales and serve cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.
We’ve recently been donating “shopping events” where groups host a social gathering in the store. We offer a percentage off purchases during the event that can either be given as a discount to the person making the purchase or donated to the non-profit hosting the event. It is a super win-win for everyone!
Which brings us full circle to my conversation with Jeff Rayner.
RAYNER (Schmitz Park):
We never want the conversation with a local business to begin with “what can you do for us?” If these businesses aren’t successful, the answer will be “not much.” That’s why Schmitz Park has started a new program called “Give Back”. The idea grew out of a conversation with Tim McConnell at West Seattle Runner. If it turns out to be a big success, he will deserve the credit!
The purpose of Give Back is simple — support the businesses through organized patronage. They don’t need to lift a finger except to ring the cash register. Schmitz Park has more than 600 students, which means there are more than 1200 parents we can mobilize. In December, our goal is to shop at as many local stores as we can. In January, we’ll patronize health and fitness businesses in honor of New Year’s resolutions. Every month will bring one or more themes.
If these businesses support our school down the road — great. If not, others will. What goes around comes around. The stronger West Seattle businesses, the stronger West Seattle schools.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We know many, many more businesses contribute – WSB included – and many more schools are beneficiaries; Keith could only speak with a sampling, or else this story would have gone on forever! Watch for more “West Seattle: We Have That!” stories in the new year.
Side note on this topic: At WSB, we do our best to publicize school and nonprofit fundraisers here in a variety of ways – including calendar listings and other types of mentions. But we can’t share the news if we don’t hear it from you! E-mail is the best way to do that; while we’re very active on Facebook and other social media, it is NOT an optimal way to get us information that we can process and publish. At least a week (the earlier, the better) before your event, or the start of other types of fundraisers, please send information (photos if relevant, but we generally cannot use flyers/posters, so don’t worry about including one) in plain-text e-mail, with a web link if you have one, to firstname.lastname@example.org.