FoundationSearch Success Story: Kansas Council for Economic Education

FoundationSearch Success Story: Kansas Council for Economic Education
7 min read

In the second of a series of interviews with FoundationSearch members, Jim Graham of Kansas Council for Economic Education explains why the statewide nonprofit chose FoundationSearch on the eve of its 60th anniversary.

FoundationSearch Member: Kansas Council for Economic Education
FoundationSearch Member Since 2016.

Next May, the Kansas Council for Economic Education (KCEE) will celebrate a milestone birthday. Nearing sixty years old, the 501(c)3 nonprofit continues to provide programs and services that strive to ensure every kindergarten through grade 12 student in Kansas is economically and financially literate. Currently hosted by the W. Frank Barton School of Business at Wichita State University, KCEE has earned an impressive reputation thanks to its affiliation with Kansas’s six public universities, long-term relationships with Kansas business, philanthropic and government leaders, and a core passion for equipping teachers with the knowledge to teach personal finance and economics. However, as President and CEO Jim Graham explains, KCEE understands that even an established and respected organization like KCEE must adapt to a new funding landscape regardless of its age.

1) What attracts your organization to foundations for your fundraising strategy?
Though a variety of funding sources, such as individuals, corporations, government agencies, and private foundations, have consistently supported KCEE, an on-going decrease in giving by several long-time supporters is the primary motivator for KCEE to seek out new foundation partners. “We’ve been going to foundations for years, but are now trying to put more emphasis there, because of the funding we have lost,” Jim says.

Specifically, funding from two state agencies – the Office of the Kansas Bank Commissioner and the Office of the Kansas Securities Commission – has fallen, as much as 80%, due to a drop in fines from penalties, the source of funding from those government agencies. “Likewise, we have some significant corporate funding,” explains Jim, “but one of the things that has adversely affected us over the years, not just here in Kansas, but nationwide too, is tremendous consolidation of companies. We used to get a lot more funding from a lot more banks.”

With almost $106,000 raised from 22 foundations in KCEE’s most recent fiscal year, any difference between budgeted and actual amounts is a problem. “We’re very grateful for what we get, but we have to replace that.”

2) Describe a significant project or campaign funded (or is receiving funds) by foundations.
Presenting over a dozen programs ranging from poster contests to multi-day professional development conferences for teachers, KCEE relies on both general operating and restricted program funding from family, corporate, and other private foundations. Every year, those programs reach more than 100,000 students through more than 1,000 teachers acround the state. For example, Financial Foundations for Kansas Kids (FF4KK), a KCEE signature program developed and copyrighted fifteen years ago, is an interactive, self-paced online course that provides almost 30 hours of personal financial literacy training for grades K-8. A mix of funders – public agencies, national foundations, local family foundations, private foundations – support FF4KK development, distribution and teacher training.

3) Explain how FoundationSearch contributes to your foundation fundraising success.
“One of the reasons we love FoundationSearch is because of all of the information it provides,” Jim says. Since an estimated 90% of foundations do not have publicly available information , such as their giving areas, amounts or guidelines, Jim believes that being a FoundationSearch member with access to updated, in-depth info automatically increases his chance for fundraising success.

“I was frustrated when I would see a foundation’s name and then try to find information about it and then you couldn’t find it!” Jim says. After preliminary searches on the FoundationSearch database, Jim was impressed by the potential for new funders. “I couldn’t believe how many foundations are based here in Kansas and, in fact, right here in Wichita. It’s a tremendous number of foundations.”

Jim is especially eager to learn which foundations provide general operating or programmatic grants so that KCEE can continue its existing services at the quality expected by Kansas teachers. “I would not anticipate bringing on any new programs in the near term,” says Jim. “We’ve got such a good base of programs that it’s just a matter of keeping them active and effective.”

4) What is important for foundations to know about your organization?
Despite KCEE’s solid reputation and donor relationships across Kansas, Jim wants potential funders to appreciate the organization’s significant need for new funding to maintain its current activities. “It’s interesting that we are a statewide organization with a lot of programs and with only two full-time employees,” Jim says, referring to himself and KCEE’s vice president for programs. KCEE also utilizes college students and volunteers to provide many of its services.

Jim also aims to convey that a six-decade-old nonprofit with limited staff capacity can adapt to a changing philanthropic landscape and is a good investment for foundations. Along with a commitment to foundation fundraising, Jim recently has established a development committee of the KCEE board as a tool to complement his use of FoundationSearch. Whereas FoundationSearch identifies leads for foundations, the Development Committee, as Jim envisions it, would generate connections to local wealthy individuals and corporate leaders who are peers or friends with KCEE board members. “The committee is now getting started, so hopefully over a period of time, it too will be helpful to me in fundraising.”

5) What advice do you have for charities seeking foundation funding?
“I would certainly recommend that they use FoundationSearch to find foundations,” Jim says. “The information is there. It’s a huge database.” He adds that for charities like KCEE with one person who is fundraising in addition to managing a dozen other responsibilities, FoundationSearch saves invaluable time by doing initial pre-screening and prospecting* of foundations at local and national levels.

FoundationSearch, Jim says, works for you.

FoundationSearch is able to deliver customized screening and prospecting services for clients, separate from the database membership, through its Grant Development Services division; contact FoundationSearch for more information.

The mission of the Kansas Council for Economic Education is to equip Kansas teachers to educate Kansas students (K-12) on the principles of economics and personal finance.

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