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BHS Development Group to Expand its Fundraising Model

By Mattias Hoz

If you’ve participated in any sports or music programs, joined any clubs, or even taken classes at Berkeley High School (BHS), you’ve been directly helped by the Berkeley High School Development Group’s (BHSDG) generous financial support. Each year, the BHSDG continues to grow its base of support and donations, and it plans to do the same over the coming season. 

BHSDG was created in 1991 by a group of parents concerned about funding cuts to BHS. Today, the BHSDG is an organization run by local parent volunteers that aims to fundraise for and support BHS. 

BHSDG is a crucial fundraiser for all of BHS’s many extracurricular programs, such as sports teams, clubs, and music groups. The group raises money for BHS through special fundraising events, business partner sponsors, and direct donations from individuals. 

Most recently, the BHSDG held its 15th annual fundraiser at Cheeseboard, a bakery/pizzeria in North Berkeley last week, where attendees paid fifty dollars per ticket for the event. All proceeds went to fund BHS programs. Jessica Hilton, the BHSDG’s co-president, explained that “Other fundraising events include the Mrs. Dalloway’s Weekend (from November 9-11), the Business Partners Luncheon, and our Spring Match Campaign.” She added, “We also have a dedicated team of board members working on reaching out to the community by working with our business partners. In the past two years, we have been able to create a sponsor level of business partners, and we are hoping to add more of those sponsors this year.” These community sponsors receive recognition for their support of BHS and contributions to the community that they call home.

Donations made directly to BHSDG in the 2018-19 fundraising season made up more than half of the organization’s total revenue of $352,000. This was a 10 percent increase from the total fundraising done in 2017-18. BHSDG also acts as the coordinator for donations made to specific learning communities, departments, and programs. The recipient schools and programs determine how they can best spend these funds, which support a wide range of educational enrichment activities. They also provide teachers with the ability to purchase expensive, yet vital classroom materials. Over $250,000 of last year’s donations and revenue went directly to these donor-directed purposes.

Hilton offered a detailed account of how BHSDG is structured and how it receives its funds. “Our board is comprised of BHS parents, BHS alumni, past parents, and current students. We like to have at least two student representatives, ideally a junior and a senior. This year, our representatives are Bennett Thompson and Kai Kai Spencer, and we encourage rising juniors to apply to become one of the Development Group’s student representatives this coming spring.”

Hilton continued to explain the donation process. She added, “Each year we have expanded our number of donors, which is a very positive sign for the support BHS is receiving, and with these donations, we fund every classroom teacher at BHS, Independent Studies and BTech with up to $300 for classroom supplies.” Hilton added, “We also accept grant applications from teachers for additional funding on a monthly basis.” 

Karl Kaku, an English teacher in Berkeley International High School (BIHS), shared his positive experience with funding from the BHSDG. He also expressed his extreme gratitude for the grant, saying, “I really enjoy having the grant — it’s a luxury.” He shared how rare grants like this can be, “Never before in my career have I worked at a school where teachers have access to funds like this … I feel very lucky to receive three hundred dollars a year to use in my classroom. I personally use the money for supplies like easel paper, markers, a speaker, and anything else that I need when teaching.”

Students in other classes are also reaping the benefits of the BHSDG’s funding. Students who took Advanced Placement Chemistry last year did not have to carry a textbook around all year. They instead received Kindles with online access to a digital version of the textbook, all paid for by the BHSDG. 

Hilton concluded her explanations by sharing more about how the BHSDG works effectively at BHS; “The best assistance we can receive in continuing to fund BHS is from donations by students’ parents. These help greatly.”

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