Featured Grantee Partner: Educational Enrichment Foundation
Interview Series: Transformational Grantmaking
- What are three interesting things people don’t know about your organization?
When the Educational Enrichment Foundation (EEF) was founded in 1983 to provide resources for TUSD teachers seeking to enrich classroom curricula, it was the first foundation for a public school district in Southern Arizona — and Ron Barber was the first board chair!
EEF estimates we touch 6,500 TUSD students a year through our many programs. We assist in many more ways than the holiday shoe shopping excursions Tucsonans enjoy hearing about on local newscasts in December. The needs in TUSD are broad, and our programs reflect that.
EEF receives no funding through TUSD’s budget — we independently raise resources through donors and grants to enrich students within the district. All TUSD employees are able to contribute to EEF through a TUSD Payroll Deduction process, a tradition that has been in place for over twenty-five years — last year donations by TUSD stakeholders accounted for 8.5% of EEF’s revenue. We are proud that teachers and support staff appreciate the value of supporting EEF.
- What are you most excited about that’s happening at your organization?
Collecting and analyzing data has become a reality for EEF and its staff in the last four years. After understanding it was a good idea to keep teenagers busy after school with extracurricular
activities, 25 years later EEF’s Interscholastic scholarship program is still strong and is recognized in our community as a program that works. Local foundations, including the Women’s Foundation, recognize the value of enriching, and even empowering public school students to become engaged in their school community, an activity tied to achievement and continuing education.
Also, a recent grant collaboration with six other school district foundations has caused excitement and the notion that arm-in-arm with other organizations, it’s time to “think big” and increase and expand the impact of assisting school-age children across Tucson.
- How has a grant from the Women’s Foundation transformed your organization? Is there something you now do differently?
Immensely. Based on a Women’s Foundation grant awarded to EEF in 2012, we implemented an “exit interview” following up with students whose sports and fine arts fees we’d paid in order to inquire about their plans after high school. The data collected, through contacting recent graduating seniors, revealed that not only was the graduation rate 30% higher among kids in EEF’s program, but 85% of those graduates were enrolled in college, compared to a 54% statewide college enrollment rate.
Also, a very pleasant and unintended consequence that came from speaking directly with former TUSD students has been the relationships we’ve cultivated with some of the kids. Keeping up with their challenges and successes validates how we spend our days at EEF. We have even engaged a couple of those students as interns at EEF!
- How has your organization grown stronger, increased its impact, or changed, because of your partnership with the Women’s Foundation?
As I have mentioned, the award of a grant from The Women’s Foundation in 2012 was the impetus for EEF’s introduction to solid data collection and analysis. Data revealed what we knew all along, and gave us a voice to send the message that investing in kids is smart and will build a stronger community as those kids graduate and move on to college, then enter the workforce prepared for self-sufficiency. Both the EEF staff and board can thank the Women’s Foundation for the philanthropic model that examines a problem in the community and measures the success and impact of programmatic assistance, directing future assistance. In EEF’s case, the problem is a low graduation rate, resulting in future low incomes. We’ve measured the success of our program and using the Women’s Foundation model, we don’t stop here. We provide that information and begin collaborations with other district foundations in order to expand.
- How did you first hear about the Women’s Foundation and their grants?
EEF has been connected to the Women’s Foundation for many years. We received a grant to fund Advanced Placement fees for high school girls about 15 years ago. And of course Tucson is, as we all know, a place of one degree of separation, not six. Several of EEF’s longtime supporters have wisely supported the Women’s Foundation as well. Tucson’s philanthropic community is so wonderfully woven together, due to the wisdom of leaders in our community who have been raised to value and support many causes that strengthen Tucson.
- What keeps you up at night when thinking about your organization?
I worry that some of the children who received shoes today won’t stay in school. I worry that we are not doing enough to help the public connect the dots between students succeeding in school and young adults succeeding in the world.
- What do you see ahead for women and girls in Southern Arizona?
I see a bright future ahead for women and girls. Tucson is known to cultivate strong women leaders, some of whom have played a huge part in the direction of policy change that impacts women. And with organizations like the Women’s Foundation that empowers others as change makers, small organizations like EEF are inspired to observe, review, and expand assistance to school age girls.
- And finally, is there anything else you would like to add about how the Women’s Foundation helps you in fulfilling the mission of your organization?
Research published by the Women’s Foundation is invaluable to small organizations like EEF. We turn to that research, citing it frequently when making the case with potential donors and grant makers that an investment in school-age Tucsonans is a smart and wise investment. I think every grant writer in Tucson uses that data and we owe WFSA a huge hand for that. I can’t imagine not being able to rely on numbers from our own community to help us tell our story.
Pam Francis is Executive Director at the Educational Enrichment Foundation, an organization founded by Tucson’s community and business leaders in order to support the students and teachers within Tucson Unified School District schools.
Special thanks to Women’s Foundation volunteers Gabriela Cervantes and Liz Levine for interviewing this organization and for serving as guest editors.