Fueling Education far into the Future

Saving for Tomorrow

In 2021, during the 156th anniversary of the Happy Valley School, now-retired superintendent Michelle McKinny received a phone call that would forever change their community. Long-time Happy Valley residents Dean and Mary Alys Barnes left a landmark gift of $590,000 to the Happy Valley School Endowment Fund. It was the largest gift, to date, given to the endowment in the fund’s 34-year history.

“Dean and Mary Alys dedicated their lives to serving others and had a deep passion for supporting their Happy Valley community. Their gift to the Happy Valley School Endowment Fund honors one of Dean’s favorite sayings, ‘Save something for tomorrow.’ Through their generosity, they have assisted in providing for the education of tomorrow’s students who will reap the rewards for generations to come,” says Linda Bingham, Trustee of the Dean and Mary Barnes Trust.

Michelle Stewart, the current superintendent says, “The Barnes family’s gift, combined with the gifts of past—and hopefully future donors—helps ease the burden on parents and our annual fundraising goals. Thanks to the fund’s increased annual dividends, the school administration has allocated funds to support aides for each classroom.”

Lisa Fraser & Rachelle Lopp

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Taking the long view towards a school district’s fiscal health is prompting other local school districts to open endowed funds with the Community Foundation. When she was superintendent for the Loma Prieta Joint Union School District, Lisa Fraser helped open the Loma Prieta Future Fund in 2019.

“There are programs that state funding falls short,” Lisa says, “like art and music programs, the teaching garden, and other extracurriculars that build the high quality, holistic education our public school students need.”

Every year, Lisa—now retired and a member of the Community Foundation’s Board of Directors—sees school communities rally together to fundraise to cover program costs. “It can get exhausting and stressful.” What would it be like, she wondered, “if a school could build an endowment where the principal was high enough that the dividends matched, even half of the fundraising that parents were having to do? It would ease the burden in the long haul.”

An endowed fund is a permanent savings account where the donor’s initial investment earns interest. While the principal amount cannot be spent, the earnings generated by the principal can be used to provide long-term, reliable financial support.

Rachelle Lopp, the co-founder of the Loma Prieta Future Fund, speaks to the importance of endowments to local schools, saying, “if you invest that $10,000, it will give a little bit this year and it’ll give a little bit in 10 years, and it’ll give a lot in a hundred years. It’s growing and it’s giving continually. It’s a wonderful opportunity to make a gift that will last beyond you.”

Credit: Bonny Doon Elementary School

A Bright Light for the Future

Rachelle emphasizes that giving to a school’s endowed fund doesn’t distract from annual fundraising efforts. She notes that like the Barnes family, “Long time community members and alumni parents still care deeply about the school years after their children have graduated. Many want to donate towards the long-range health and the future of the district, and get excited about not just annual expenses, but that long-term investment. Making sure that the district is healthy for years and years to come is a very different ask than, would you give a hundred dollars to the home and school club so that we can buy drum sets?”

Endowed funds can also provide school administrations peace of mind in the case of community emergencies. Mike Heffner, the superintendent of Bonny Doon Union Elementary School District, which survived the CZU fires of 2020, is deeply thankful for the Bonny Doon School Future Fund. Established in 1998, the fund annually reinvests the dividends to keep building the principal. It’s the sense of security, he says, “even as we’re weathering a crisis. It gives us a little bit of room. If we keep making good choices along the way, we’ll see that endowment grow.” He knows that one day the fund will come to fruition and “take the burden off our tiny community for fundraising. It is such a bright light in our district’s future.”

Trusted Stewards…For Today & Tomorrow

At the Community Foundation, we’re honored to steward the community’s generosity so that it can benefit Santa Cruz County for generations to come. We manage endowments for dozens of local nonprofits working with a diverse and professionally managed investment portfolio coupled with our commitment to ensuring sustained impact.

Lisa says, “We chose to work with the Community Foundation rather than a private financial institution. It’s reputable and an easier and more personal interface—not to mention that the Foundation is 100% dedicated to the health and well-being of our community! To me, and the rest of the school board at the time, entrusting our endowment to the Community Foundation was absolutely the right way to go.”

Learn more about agency endowments

Save for the future