Fundraising efforts robust following funding loss

Chloe Fatsis

The wrestling team needs new mats. The price tag? $8,000 The new volleyball net cranks? $14,000. Football uniforms, not including pads and helmets? $18,000. 

Wilson used to be able to afford things like these, but now, after losing access to over $170,000 in funds, teams must find a way to pay for nearly all of their expenses, including coaches, equipment, and transportation.

In the past, Wilson was able to put money from renting its facilities into a Student Activity Fund (SAF) that was used to fund extracurriculars, repairs, and supplies. But in October of 2018, the Office of the Inspector General audited Wilson and decided that the school could no longer use the SAF. 

When Wilson Tiger Athletics (WTA) Co-President Maria Emanuel heard about the funding loss, she knew she had to kick into action. “My initial reaction [was] like, ‘Oh my God, we have so much fundraising to do,’” she said. “I was going to be ready to have a student walkout.”

WTA, also known as the Tiger Boosters, is trying out two new fundraising methods. First, they want to establish unique fundraising events for each sports team. Natalie Cooper-Berthe, the other WTA co-president, explained that when WTA comes up with a fundraising idea, they try to figure out a team to test it with. 

“We figure out who really needs the money, and who’s got enough people who are organized and dedicated enough to do manage the fundraiser,” Cooper-Berthe said. “And then we call them up and say, ‘We have this idea, we’re giving you this opportunity if you want it. If not, let us know and we’ll move on to the next team.’”  

Take wrestling, for example. They’re going to hold Wilson merchandise sales twice a year. “Who knows how much they’ll make,” Cooper-Berthe said. “Maybe they’ll make $500, maybe they’ll make $3,000, we have no idea. But…this is potentially a really big opportunity. [The Tiger Boosters] could have kept that fundraiser and made that money and we thought, you know what? The teams need it more.”  

WTA also wants to strongly encourage parents to pay a $100 fee when their student joins a team. Cooper-Berthe emphasized that this is not a new development.

“That is something that the teams have actually been managing for years,” she said. “Nobody talks about it, but probably about half our teams have been asking for team dues, sometimes quite a bit, even if it wasn’t mandatory. And they do expect the kids and their families to do fundraising to help pay for team expenses.”  

Nevertheless, some administrators are hesitant to institute this recommendation, even though it’s not a required payment. “I’m very, very, very uncomfortable with it just because I know, having grown up as a student who didn’t have money, what it felt like to be the one on the team who was the scholarship kid,” Principal Kimberly Martin said.

Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh wrote a bill that went into effect on October 1 to help DC public schools get money from renting their fields again. But there’s still a problem. Martin explained that she still doesn’t have access to an account to deposit rental money in.

There were concerns that Cheh’s bill wouldn’t benefit schools because of a stipulation whereby organizations renting a school’s facilities could get a fee waiver if they could demonstrate “financial hardship.” However, that should not be an issue because the legislation functions with a permitting system, in which schools get funding based on the number of permits they grant, and not the actual cost from renting the facilities themselves.

The theater department is facing money issues as well. Almost all of the funding for theater productions comes from ticket sales, which went into the SAF before Wilson lost access to it. Because of this, there was little money for this year’s fall musical, “Matilda,” so Martin thought they might have to cancel the show. But parents rallied and raised the $25,000 necessary for the musical.

In addition to fundraising, Cheh introduced emergency legislation to City Council that would give theater programs access to the money from ticket sales kept in the SAF. The vote was scheduled to take place on October 8, after this edition of The Beacon was sent to print. Since they already raised the $25,000 for “Matilda,” the money from ticket sales in the SAF will be used to help improve the theater department. 

Musical director Karen Harris emphasized how a surplus of money could benefit the theater community outside of the musical. “Bringing in, hopefully, workshops, things that the theater department couldn’t pay for before,” she said.