The Neosho R-5 Charitable Foundation is expanding its role as a financial supporter to enhance the educational opportunities for all students in the R-5 school district.
Helping to fund additional educational endeavors beyond the budget of the school district since its inception in 2001, the Neosho R-5 Charitable Foundation recently established the 1842 Fund to further its mission.
Justin Branham, president, said the 1842 Fund is an endowment fund.
Though it is always accepting donations for educational interests, he said the foundation has typically gone out for a capital campaign to raise funds.
“Like if the school came to us and said, ‘We really need to put SmartBoards in every classroom,’ which they did, we’d go out and set a goal to solicit those donations, raise that money, and give that to the school to serve that purpose,” he said.
Branham said the foundation board came to realize that every couple of years they were doing a capital campaign, and were going out and asking people for money.
“[We] determined there’s got to be a better way to do this, so we started looking around at what other foundations were doing and had some discussions with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks,” Branham said.
Branham said that is when the board began to investigate an endowment fund.
“Where basically you set a principal value of a fund, which in our case is $250,000, and that fund stays in perpetuity, forever, as an interest-bearing principal amount of that fund, and our fund can never drop below a principal value of $250,000.”
He said the goal is to seed the fund so it can begin generating some interest.
“That gives you some free dollars to use without ever touching that principal,” said Branham. “So we want that endowment fund to get bigger than $250,000, but $250,000 is our minimum.”
Once the $250,000 is surpassed, Branham said the goal will be to continually add to the principal balance to provide a higher return on interest, and thus more that can be accomplished.
“Obviously we want to be good stewards of how that is managed, and you always want to live off the interest value,” he said.
Branham said one of the perks of being one of the founding partners is that that money will stay in the fund forever — it will never be spent.
“It’s a protected principal value,” he said. “There’s a lot of trusts and as people pass they can leave portions of their estates to this endowment fund and they can always feel comfortable that that money is basically forever going to stay in that fund and produce interest to support the school district.”
He said funds earned off the endowment investment will be used to fund projects, “Instead of having to go out to the community members repeatedly year after year after year asking them for dollars.”
Responding to needs requested by the school district, Branham said the foundation has previously funded “technology advancements throughout the schools.”
“The foundation actually purchased the property the Carver Elementary sits on,” he said. “As I mentioned before we did the drive to put SmartBoards in all the classrooms. It depends just whatever the school feels they need to further our mission of positively impacting all the students in the district.”
Branham said La-Z Boy has been a very generous donor to the foundation’s efforts to provide mini-grants to teachers.
“Twice a year we take applications for mini-grants for teachers to do things in their classrooms,” he said.
Branham announced the first seven of a hoped-for 25 Founding Partners in Education for the 1842 Fund during last week’s annual “Excellence in Education” fundraising banquet. He said those who have so far committed $10,000 to the endowment fund include Branco Enterprises; the Farber Foundation; the Fred Clark Revocable Trust; L.B.J.-Neosho, Inc.; the Freeman Health System and Freeman Neosho Physicians Group have combined for a $10,000 donation; the Dallas Kelly Trust; and Haas Warehousing, Inc.
Branham said they began the drive with the hope of getting 25 founding partners to quickly arrive at the $250,000 principal.
“At the same time, we realized there’s a significant amount of businesses and people in Neosho that would want to support the foundation but they can’t necessarily bite off a $10,000 donation,” he said. “We knew we were going to have to stair-step that down. So we established what we’re calling the 1842 Club and that fundraising is basically if you’re willing to commit $1,842 a year for three years, you’ll be in the 1842 Club.”
A brochure that explains the 1842 Fund states that the names of founding partners will be placed on the fund’s letterhead for as long as it exists, forever acknowledging their support of the school district. The names will be used on all signage used for later solicitations, and at the top of all donor listings in the foundation newsletter.
As the years go on, Branham said schools must rely less on the state and federal governments to meet the needs of students, faculty and staff.
“The state funding, and the tax funding, is erratic at times,” he said.
Branham said Dan Decker, R-5 superintendent, recently advised foundation members that the governor had put a hold on money for schools that was going to have an impact locally.
“And even if they got full funding, it always seems like education is behind,” Branham said. “We’re always a step behind trying to get in front of the curve, and it’s going to be that way for a while. So there are going to be gaps in that funding mechanism where we can’t be providing absolutely the best education we can just because the resources aren’t available. We want to bridge that gap to where if there is a basic need for a student to further their education, to give them a better opportunity, a better education in our schools, we want to be able to provide that opportunity to them.”
He said the community has been very supportive of the Neosho R-5 Charitable Foundation, and the board hopes that over time, the 1842 Endowment Fund will limit, and ultimately eliminate, the need to regularly go out to the public to keep funding campaigns.
The 1842 Fund was established in communion with the Neosho Area Community Foundation (NACF) — established in 2011 — and makes the foundation an official member of the Rural Schools Partnership, and eligible for grants and programs from that program, an initiative of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.
A press release from NACF states that school district patrons and alumni can receive a charitable deduction for their donation to the 1842 Fund, and establishment of the fund makes the Neosho R-5 School District a member of the Rural Schools Partnership, which promotes resource development for local schools, collaboration between school and community and place-based grant opportunities for the 114 Southwest Missouri schools participating.
Chrissy Rhoades Day, endowment committee member of the foundation, said in a letter to supporters soliciting Founding Partner members, that she was “in total shock and disbelief” after returning to her hometown in the late 1990s after practicing law in St. Louis to find the foundation holding a campaign to buy computers for the school. Growing up in a school district in which Day said she felt supported, protected and cared for by everyone involved in the educational process; she said her warm and rosy feelings came to a crashing halt when she found that, “my school cannot afford computers?”
Day said much has changed since she attended school in Neosho, but she cannot live with the change that students don’t feel as if they are supported by the community in the same way that she felt when she was a student. Day stated that someone now has to raise funds when a need for students is identified, and she wants to return to the day when students feel like they are not wanting. She said that is the reason for the 1842 Fund. Day said the endowed fund references the year in which the first public school was founded in Neosho, 1842.
For more information about the 1842 Fund, please contact Tanya Patterson at the Neosho R-5 School District, 451-8600, ext. 1102; email 1842FUND@NEOSHO.k12.MO, or contact Day at 451-6271 or email Christine@rhoadeslawoffices.com.