To crowdfund or not to crowdfund? That is the question the Gainesville City School System’s board of education will be tasked with answering.
At a Monday evening meeting, chief professional services officer Priscilla Collins presented board members with policy options on allowing school employees to use crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe to raise money for school-related purchases or not. Final voting on the policy will come at a later meeting, though no board members raised any concerns regarding allowing crowdfunding at the meeting.
Collins said she has reached out to a couple of nearby districts for comparison, and it has been a split issue, with some allowing it and some not.
“If we don’t have a policy or regulation about it, then sometimes perhaps our employees may just go ahead and do it,” Collins said at the meeting. “So if we’re going to allow it, we must state it. If we’re not going to allow it, we must state it.”
Following the meeting, Collins wrote via email that the Gainesville City School System’s policy on gifts and bequests had not been updated since 2011, and with crowdfunding sites growing increasingly popular, she thought it was a good time to make a decision on their viability.
The board was presented two options: one that would completely prohibit Gainesville school employees from “soliciting donations of funds or items through web-based solicitations, including the use of any crowdfunding platforms,” and another that would allow for them to use crowdfunding so long as the employee submits a form to the Superintendent’s office that provides the reason for the crowdfunding and has that request approved prior to beginning their campaign.
Board vice chair Willie Mitchell said he was strongly in favor of allowing school employees to crowdfund.
“Overall, I’m for it,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that you could use crowdfunding for that we may not be able to approve in our regular budget. It’s a fantastic way to get things done for our school system and for our kids. I’m in total agreement with any way we can raise funds.”
Board member Kris Nordholz said he couldn’t think of any drawbacks to allowing school employees to crowdfund but added that if the school system were to officially allow it, transparency would be crucial.
“As an example, if somebody is out raising money for the school to benefit kids and people are giving because they want to help buy band uniforms or they want to help buy new technology for an elementary school or whatever it is, then just making sure that that’s what the money is going to and that it’s clear that it’s benefiting the school and not any individual person or teacher,” he said. “If people are giving money to a cause, just making sure that there’s transparency and accountability that that’s what the money is actually going to.”
Nordholz also said he would have to do a bit more research before making a final decision on which way he would vote.