Close this search box.
Partnerships Charities Community Organisations Governance Fundraising Funding Associations Finance

Collaboration and coordination key to school-community partnerships

3 min read

According to a new survey by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), schools, philanthropic foundations and the not-for-profit (NFP) organisations that mediate between them are becoming better aligned in terms of the resources and expertise schools seek and philanthropics can give, but a disconnect remains when it comes to the professional learning that is essential to capacity building in schools.

Consistent with ACER’s previous Leading Learning in Education and Philanthropy (LLEAP) Survey Reports, the latest report reveals that more than half of Australian school leaders have never sought philanthropic support, while four out of five have only sought such support once or twice. Only 1 per cent of school leaders believe they have expertise in working with philanthropics, while 90 per cent are new or inexperienced when it comes to seeking philanthropic support.

Addressing the knowledge gap

The LLEAP 2013 Survey Report reveals two key issues if philanthropics and schools are to work together to build stronger school-community partnerships. The first is how to address the big knowledge gap.

According to the LLEAP 2013 Survey Report, fewer than 50 per cent of schools generate additional education-related funding from philanthropy or NFPs. Most schools generate funding through school-based events, but only 14 per cent do so through their own online donation platform, and only 10 per cent do so through online crowdfunding platforms.

Too many school leaders lack the knowledge to attract additional philanthropic funding, directly or indirectly through a NFP. Some believe that philanthropic support is only available for schools in particular sectors, despite the fact that most philanthropics support schools across the state, Catholic and independent school sectors via an eligible NFP partner.

Most school leaders say they do not know how to collaborate with organisations that can access philanthropic support. Most are also unaware that philanthropics are sources of information and can bring groups together. One way to address that is by providing schools with information to address such gaps in understanding and to encourage organisations to ‘broker’ relationships between philanthropics and schools.

Improving collaboration

The second key issue is the disconnect between schools and philanthropics when it comes to professional learning. What is needed is a more sophisticated approach to collaboration so that schools and philanthropics can work together to identify and provide the kinds of support that benefit students – particularly disadvantaged students – the most.

More sophisticated collaboration between schools, NFPs and philanthropics can help schools and groups of schools better understand and gain access to philanthropic financial and in-kind support. Better coordination can also increase the potential to scale up programs that philanthropics support, and to share resources and knowledge.

The key is to identify successful examples of top-down and bottom-up change that makes it easier for schools to access community resources. Previous information gathered through LLEAP indicates there is broad support for top-down change through a national philanthropy in schooling fund to help address some basic knowledge and tax-related barriers.

The good news is that bottom-up change is also occurring, as schools and philanthropic foundations form new community partnerships to deliver improved outcomes for students. Many examples of such bottom-up change have been recognised in the past five years through NAB Schools First – a partnership between NAB, ACER and the Foundation for Young Australians – that provided more that $20 million to schools to promote and recognise highly effective partnerships. Bottom-up change has also been recognised through the endorsement by the nation’s education ministers of the National School Improvement Tool to support the development of school-community partnerships as one of nine domains of school improvement.

These and other forms of top-down and bottom-up collaboration and coordination can help philanthropic foundations and schools work together to respond to existing and emerging areas of need, especially for students in schools and communities facing disadvantage.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Next Up