Jeff Abke is bringing university-level and private school fund-raising tactics to Perrysburg Schools.
"The overall goal is to seek financial support to rely less on local levies and tax dollars, and we have begun to do that," Mr. Abke said.
In August, the 1996 Perrysburg High School graduate accepted the position as the district's development director, with a $77,000 annual salary. Mr. Abke's first challenge has been engaging with alumni, community members, and businesses, with the ultimate goal of garnering financial support for the school.
An alumni basketball game in December helped Mr. Abke connect with 150 Perrysburg alumni and get updated information to contact them. California, Texas, and Germany are a few of the places he was able to reach alumni - including a member of the class of 1944. The district has 13,000 alumni in its records, and Mr. Abke believes only a quarter of those have correct up-to-date information.
"We want to get them more in the fold and connected to find ways to support the high school," Mr. Abke said.
Obviously monetary gifts are the big goal, but career mentoring and networking between alumni is another way the district is looking for support.
"We're beginning to develop a culture at Perrysburg both internally and externally where Perrysburg is a place to give back," Superintendent Tom Hosler said.
Mr. Hosler said Mr. Abke needed initially to understand what is happening in the district and what the needs of the district are.
The new position designed to find financial backing within the community is new for public schools, but is a familiar tactic for private schools and colleges.
"I think this is very exciting," Mr. Abke said. "From conversations with people within the state I think people are watching us - that is exciting. Perrysburg is on the front edge of this movement."
Mr. Abke has been working for 13 years to generate funds for educational institutions. He has worked with alumni associations at Pomfret School in Pomfret, Conn., Miami University of Ohio, and St. Lawrence University to raise money.
"It's simple, we wanted someone waking up every morning thinking about it," said Walt Edinger, school board member, about fund-raising. "It is not an instant thing for him, but a relationship building process."
Upcoming projects for Mr. Abke includes reaching out to alumni during a Hall of Fame class ceremony, creating an alumni association, creating an alumni directory for career networking, getting donors for the new training and locker room for Steinecker Stadium, and looking at ways to celebrate the 150th Perrysburg High School graduating class, which will be in 2015.
A proposed training and locker room facility needs $2 million in funding for construction costs, and Mr. Abke is working with the athletics boosters to find more donors. About $800,000 has already been raised.
He said it is challenging trying to get people to donate to the schools because because it is typically colleges that ask, not public schools. Mr. Abke said the advantage is high schools and home districts are usually where graduates grew up and where their families are, and there is a deeper connection than with a four-year college.
"I'm excited to be here and think Perrysburg is primed to be successful in this endeavor," he said.
Contact Matt Thompson at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-356-8786, or on Twitter at @mthompson25.
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