Since the Foundation’s beginning, 30 years ago, Excellence in Education has taken a more out-of-the-box approach to fundraising.
Rather than bake sales, raffles, or big fundraising events, the Foundation has always sought to fundraise while providing some sort of value to the donors who make a contribution.
That’s where Dining for Schools cards come into play — or Golfing for Schools Cards, or Skiing for Schools tickets. All of these programs provide funding to the Foundation, but also provide a benefit to the donor.
In 1993, Kathleen Semrad was a new board member at the Foundation. She had signed-on to help build a new fundraising program: The Dining for Schools cards. The initial idea was to convince local restaurants to donate a portion of their sales on specific dates.
“The Dining program would never have been the huge success it has for the past 20 years if it weren’t for all of the amazing local restaurants who continue to support us year after year. We are grateful for their continued support and the support of all who purchase the cards!”Laura Brown Excellence in Education executive director
The goal was to enlist one restaurant each month to participate. After a few months, Kathleen quickly realized that this approach was much too labor intensive. So, she and her husband sat down over dinner one night and hatched a new plan. Instead of one restaurant per month, she would try to get as many restaurants as she could to participate in a “dining card” program.
All of the restaurants listed on the card would offer a half-price entrée for the cardholder. The cards would be valid during the shoulder season. Kathleen believed this approach would be a win/win strategy.
“The restaurants would win by getting locals in to eat during the off season. The people who purchased cards would win by getting a discount on their meal, and our local schools would win by having more grant funding available to teachers,” says Kathleen.
Her new approach worked. Over 30 restaurants signed-on to participate that first year and the Dining for Schools Cards program went from raising just $2000 under the monthly restaurant idea to raising $43,000 with their new approach. In the 20 years since those initial cards went on sale, the program has raised over $1 million dollars.
“The Dining program would never have been the huge success it has for the past 20 years if it weren’t for all of the amazing local restaurants who continue to support us year after year,” says Laura Brown, Excellence in Education executive director. “We are grateful for their continued support and the support of all who purchase the cards!”
On average, the Dining cards raise $45,000 per year. That Dining money is added to funds raised from other programs like Golfing for Schools cards and Skiing for Schools tickets. It all adds up to about $250,000 per year that is then awarded to local schools for programs that provide enrichment opportunities to students.
Dining for Schools cards are currently on sale. They make great holiday gifts for teachers, employees, friends, and family. Please remember to tip on the original amount when using your card.