As a community we need to focus our attention on growth and opportunity for Upper Darby Schools in the face of all the budget cuts. On Tuesday, April 9th, I presented to the UDSD School Board a list of revenue generating options they currently have available to them to help bring funding into the School District. Due to the limited time we are allotted to present public comments, I was unable to share all the information I was able to collect, so I want to share it here in an effort to support this change in what I feel is a positive direction for school funding.

I understand that historically the idea of advertising in schools has been a touchy or possibly unpleasant subject in that school districts are concerned with appearances and parents are concerned with protecting children from undue influences, but given the current economic conditions we are all facing, we need to change our mindset and be open to new ideas on how to save vital academic programs that are at the heart of this community. If an ad campaign can save our most special programs, keep a nurse in a building full time or bring back some librarians it is worth investigating further, in my opinion.

UDSD is in a unique position to offer potential marketing opportunities to vendors given the size of our student population and our proximity to a major city. This is an untapped resource and based on what other school districts in Pennsylvania and across the country are offering has the potential to bring in hundreds of thousands – and perhaps even millions – of dollars into our schools.

All advertising can be controlled and limited to messages that are consistent with a school’s philosophy. Advertising can be further directed to messages that are age appropriate and geared toward school children. The District would control what is advertised and how it will be presented. Clearly there are ads that can never appear in or near a public school setting like alcohol, tobacco, sexual content, political or religious messages. One school District in Pennsylvania has limited all their advertising to only ads that relate to health, education, nutrition or student safety with no direct product endorsement allowed. This seems to be a reasonable request and one with which I believe potential vendors are willing to agree.

Here is a list of opportunities in our District:


Consumer Reward Programs

We should add links on the District website to any opportunities we have available to us:

  • The Giant A+ Program allows principals to register their schools so when parents shop at Giant and use their rewards cards, their schools earn cash back rewards. Each principal in the District should be provided that contact information to set up these accounts no later than August 2013 for the 2013-2014 school year.
  • Box Tops for Education  allow schools to collect box tops to earn money. I believe that some of the schools currently are enrolled in this program, but we want to ensure that all the schools are participating by adding the link on the front page of the UDSD website. All program opportunities should be universal throughout the District.
  • Labels for Education  is a program that supports schools that collect UPC codes and bottle caps to earn points to be redeemed for arts, athletic and academic merchandise. Only some of the District schools are currently enrolled in this program, so we need to support all the schools in this area as well.

Funding for Supply Lists
The District should select one of these venues, and then encourage all teachers to register with these sites before the next school year begins:


Internal Marketing Publications

  • The School Newsletters that are distributed each month could offer sponsorships.
  • Schools offer a Yearly Calendar as a fundraiser that displays the best aspects of the school community, emphasizing the teachers and programs that make their school unique. This presents a terrific opportunity for corporate sponsorship and ad space revenue.

District-Wide and School Events 
Sponsorship of both district-wide and individual school-sponsored events would be another area we should consider to help offset costs of these events. Some Home and School Associations already obtain sponsorship for their Home-and-School-sponsored events, so efforts could be expanded to school-sponsored events.

  • At the District level, this would include the Art Show, for example.
  • At the school level, this would include club meetings and special events scheduled throughout the year.


UDSD Website
All vendors that currently do business with the School District should be invited to advertise on our website possibly at a discount in consideration of their current commitments to the District. Additional ad space should be sold to a number of vendors, possibly with a focus on technology and education for a start. All alternative funding opportunities and sponsorship opportunities, like the ones listed previously, should be easily accessible on the UDSD website, preferably on the front page. This will allow outside vendors to gain necessary information quickly and allow for sales to process efficiently.


School Districts in PA are already allowed to advertise inside of buses, so there is no reason to not start looking into this immediately as a source of funding the cost of bus transportation.  Currently, Upper Moreland School District expects to generate $25,000 annually from a fleet of 50 buses. Parkland School District in Allentown began their trial run that they believe will generate $150,000 for a fleet of 150 buses. This kind of revenue would offset a significant amount of the costs for transportation as they were presented by the District in the recent Penn Project Forums.

Currently in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania we cannot advertise on the outside of school buses. The current legislative trend in the nation appears to be moving away from these restrictions to allow School Districts to make up for the tremendous budget losses they are facing. New Jersey is the most recent state to pass this legislation allowing ads on buses. For the states that have allowed advertising outside of school buses, it has proven to be very profitable generating sales in excess of hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the term of the contracts. One media expert in the arena estimates that 100 buses could generate an average of $500,000 over a 4 year period.

Sports Fields

The athletic fields of Upper Darby School District are an obvious and available location to sell advertising to be displayed. Other school districts in this State and across the country have been doing so for years to with no adverse impact to the student body. In fact it is the advertising income that allows many programs to still exist that would be long gone without this added income.

In Pennsylvania, Parkland School District sells field markers for fees ranging from $1000 to $2000, for a 32’ by 96’ ground banner display. They invite vendors through their website links where vendors can view each playing field’s layout and see how the ads will be displayed.

Other states have reported contracting multi-year combination deals with larger vendors (ex., banks) that resulted in one $500,000 deal for advertising displays on the athletic fields and the website. One school in Pennsylvania allowed a local insurance company to put a sign on their stadium and set up tables at games to sell policies, which generated $5000 for the school. In another district a local auto dealership donated a pickup truck with accessories worth $35,000 for the right to display advertising on the truck.

School Property

Selling ads in the schools is probably the most controversial idea for funding programs, but I think we need to open up the conversation to at least consider it. Not only could this revenue fund threatened programs and services, a well organized and controlled ad campaign would provide a good alternative to more tax increases, as well.

To reiterate from what I mentioned above, these ads should be contained to positive messages that will not unduly influence the students in a negative way. One school district in Bucks County that has implemented ads in their schools is not allowing straight-product endorsement and, instead, requires them to include a message that supports a school’s message. Pennsbury School District limited all ads to ones that must relate to health, education, nutrition or student safety. They have one display for an ad from” Discover the Forest” on a wall in an elementary school that that tells kids to unplug from their electronic games and explore mother nature in person. Pennsbury’s Superintendent estimates that they will bring in $425,000 annually with their campaign.

The Upper Darby School District should look at its most valuable assets when considering advertising and the one place that has the greatest possibilities for the largest funding opportunity is the High School’s Performing Arts Center. So many different communities come together to share in the unique programs the PAC has to offer, and from a vendor’s perspective this has a tremendous ad value. We should be looking at corporate sponsorship of this facility, preferably one with a music or arts institution. We could also look to local universities who may be interested. I read recently that Los Angeles School District just contracted for corporate sponsorship that they believe could generate $18 million for their District. I am not saying we would generate that amount of money, but it is the larger potential sponsors that have the largest amount to spend on a highly visible and popular space.


Another new trend in school funding alternatives is name branding. This is an innovative idea that allows schools to implement financially successful programs previously utilized by private companies. This involves the school district creating a marketing campaign for their school which can add some initial costs, but the end result is to generate more revenue in the long run while promoting the schools to new audiences and potential new students to want to come to the District.

The Centennial Schools in Bucks County is looking to raise more than $2.5 million by June 2014 with their branding/funding programs. One thing that they did was to trademark their school name and mascot and then entered a licensing agreement with Modell’s Sporting Goods to sell their school apparel bearing their trademarked logos. The school then gets a 20% cut for each item sold. Having a central location to purchase school items would help support the school community on more than one level.

In another example of how to market a school, the Bedford Area School District’s Superintendent has created a video presentation explaining why the District has proactively chosen to brand and market their District.


I recognize that these ideas are not going to be receptive to all, but we really have no alternatives in light of the fact that we are losing more funding each year while costs are increasing. We must seek new options to look for means to support public education, given the current economic stresses our public school systems have been made to endure. How schools are funded has changed dramatically in recent years and it does not seem to be getting any easier to keep them not only alive but more importantly thriving.  In order for us to be able to keep the programs that not only are necessary academically, but close to our hearts, we must ask our community’s representatives, both locally and in Harrisburg, to pursue these alternative funding streams. The health and survival of our public school system seems to depend upon it.





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One Response to Accessing New Funding Streams to Save Our Programs

  1. Rachel Mitchell says:

    In these tight times we must be open to other sources of revenue. I agree with you that the advertising must “be controlled and limited to messages that are consistent with a school’s philosophy.” Our school district should be on the front lines of these potential opportunities.

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