Success Stories

Success Stories: Examples to inspire your funding!

Mt. Pilchuck Elementary, Lake Stevens, WA

Chris Larson
Principal, Mt. Pilchuck Elementary, Lake Stevens, WA

After a book study and a visit to a Leader in Me school, the staff of Mt. Pilchuck Elementary overwhelmingly decided to implement The Leader in Me. The next step was to figure out how to fund it. “I didn’t really know where to go for money at first,” admits Principal Chris Larson. Over the next few months, the funding team worked together to tap into of a variety of funding sources.

The majority of fundraising responsibilities fell to Chris. “I had $10,000 to carry over in my school budget that I put toward the first year.” One teacher helped write grants and they found success with local organizations, receiving $3,000 from a local education foundation and $6,000 from the Tulalip Tribes Charitable Fund.

Chris and a colleague attended many meetings with area organizations—breakfast with the Kiwanis, lunch with the Chamber of Commerce, and a meeting with the Rotary Club. “We wanted the kids to know the leaders of our community and get leaders into our schools as role models,” says Chris. Together they presented information about The Leader in Me process, talked about how their school got involved, and asked for the funding support they needed to make TLIM happen. As a team they raised a total of $4,000 from these local organizations.

As teachers and staff began studying the 7 Habits and using the language in the classroom, students and parents got on board as well. In coordination with the PTA, Chris and her funding team developed creative fundraising ideas. One of the teachers had the idea to pass a hat to put the principal on the roof during the school’s “field day.” In all they raised $3,500—well beyond their expectations. Chris later commented, “A lot of people wanted me on the roof!” Other fundraising activities included renting table space at a holiday bazaar they hosted and turning the old administration building into a haunted house at Halloween. Many students  activities and enjoyed helping the school start The Leader in Me.

Altogether, Mt. Pilchuck’s funding team worked together to raise more than enough money to begin implementation of The Leader in Me. As teachers and staff became increasingly committed to making The Leader in Me work, they were willing to volunteer their time to attend trainings, significantly decreasing the financial burden for the school.

While at first the task of fundraising seemed daunting to Chris and her fundraising team, they soon saw it as a marvelous way to unite teachers, students, administrators, parents, and community leaders in a worthy cause. As each group worked together to bring The Leader in Me to Mt. Pilchuck, each became more invested in helping its students achieve their full potential.


Lee Hamilton Elementary, Ferguson, MO

Dr. Emily Turner
Principal, Lee Hamilton Elementary, Ferguson, MO

Within one month of her arrival as principal, Emily Turner’s school was named a “Focus school” in Missouri. “Focus schools” are identified as a result of low achievement for three years prior, based on state assessments and attendance for students within subgroups. “I came here with The Leader in Me as my core belief system, and I knew these kids needed it,” Emily said. In fact, she set expectations for implementing The Leader in Me early on: during her job interview.

Funding for the first year’s implementation consisted of: (1) Title I federal government monies($16,217); (2) “Focus school” state government monies ($14,931); (3) district professional-development funds ($3,000); and (4) student fundraisers ($2,000). These funds were used to support the training process, pay teacher stipends, purchase materials, and continue professional learning throughout the school year. Most of these funding sources required the school to submit a “school plan” detailing the school’s plan for using the funds, which Emily suggests should be clear, concise, and consistent in explaining the school’s vision and goals. Emily and her funding team were successful because they helped district administrators understand that this wasn’t just afad, but a complete paradigm shift. In her words, “This is who we are and what we are about.”

DeFranco Elementary, Bangor, PA

Braden Hendershot
Principal, DeFranco Elementary, Bangor, PA

Principal Braden Hendershot of DeFranco Elementary knew he wanted to bring The Leader in Me to his school but didn’t know where to find the funds. Working with the local chapter of the United Way, Braden met a local businessman who offered to pay for staff training in the 7 Habits. With this start, Braden assembled a funding team and worked to create a plan to fund The Leader in Me going forward.

They began by working to get business and community leaders into the school to see the changes they were making. “The message to the community is that good things are happening in the school.” Braden worked with his funding team to plan “Leadership Lunches” and “Leadership Days,” which helped create enthusiasm for The Leader in Me with local realtors, businesses, and hospitals. The CEO of a regional bank left one of these events saying “you’ve got to see what’s going on at this school!” The bank offered to host an event at a local facility at which school staff volunteered their time and student presenters occupied most of the agenda. In all about $25,000 has been raised through these types of events.

Instead of simply asking for funding, Braden tries to help others see his vision for the school. “I’ve never said ‘we need your money, please give.’ Instead I say, ‘here is our dream’ and then I put dollar amounts to that. For example, ‘I’d love to bring in outside coaching. It’s going to cost $5,000. I’d love to give the kids t-shirts which will be about $500,” he said. More than anything, Braden’s team decided they wanted the partnership and support of the community. Some businesses have given money and others have been supportive in other ways by providing venues and connections.

Working with the district, Braden and his funding team received an additional $10,000 in funding for the purpose of “reshaping school culture,” which fell within the “School Improvement” portion of the federal Title III Initiative. A grant was written to a local business for $6,000, and a community foundation offered to put money toward Leader in Me coaching. To date, over $45,000 has been raised for the elementary school and support continues growing. Braden often receives calls from business people wanting to visit the school to learn more. The community is now asking “What next? What happens when the kids don’t have this culture in middle school?” Braden’s answer: get The Leader In Me into the middle school. A local partner hospital has already committed $13,000 toward the middle school implementation.

PS 39 Francis J. Murphy School, Staten Island, NY

Tracey Wright
Principal, PS 39 Francis J. Murphy School, Staten Island, NY

In 2012, the staff at PS 39 was looking for ways to improve academic achievement, decrease discipline referrals, and enhance school climate. When a colleague at the NYC Department ofEducation’s Office of Safety and Youth Development told them about The Leader in Me, they were intrigued. Principal Tracey Wright and staff attended a Leadership Day at a local school and met with the administration to learn more about the process. As they began to see the value in The Leader in Me, they turned their focus to fundraising.

The first year, they received a $5,000 grant from the Office of Safety and Youth Development to help pay for staff time and training fees to train all staff in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The funding team also applied for and received a $20,000 grant from the Staten Island Foundation, a private foundation committed to enhancing the Staten Island community in many areas, including education.

To help fund Year 2, they used extra money the school received in its budget due to an influx of students . “People heard about the school and wanted to come,” says Tracey. Community members and local principals increasingly called to arrange for tours guided by student ambassadors to see how The Leader in Me was working in PS 39.

Those who have visited have been impressed by the leadership shown by the students. Since implementation of The Leader in Me, students have formed a “Leadership Club,” raised money to pay for an educational field trip to Philadelphia, and have taken the lead on a variety of humanitarian projects.

PS 39 continues to create a win-win situation for their students and community. Their school motto, "Public School 39: A Bridge to Success," promotes academic excellence in students, instills in them a sense of school pride, and motivates them to become lifelong achievers and contributors to their community.

Silver Springs Elementary, Northville, MI

Melissa Hunt
Principal, Silver Springs Elementary, Northville, MI

It all started when a few teachers decided to pilot The Leader in Me in their classrooms. Their passion was contagious and the parents of students in those classrooms began to see positive changes in their children. Staff and a key group of parents attended “Leadership Days” at other schools, and everyone was excited to see the process in action. Once they decided that The Leader in Me was what Silver Springs needed, they united around a common goal: raising at least $35,000 for first-year implementation.

Melissa and her funding team worked with the PTA to put on a variety of fundraisers throughout the year. One included selling tickets to a local hockey game at which students sang the NationalAnthem. The music teacher initiated the partnership which allowed the school to purchase tickets at a discount and resell them, helping the school to raise over $2,000.

The most effective fundraiser of the year was a community-wide silent auction. Although it was a lot of work, Melissa considers the project well worth the effort: “I wouldn’t take this away from the fundraising experience. If something takes a lot of work to pull off, it’s going to unite a group of parents and teachers and you are going to have those public victories of win-win and synergy.”Parents, teachers, and students contacted businesses and individuals who donated auction items including a vacation, tickets to local sporting events, a wine basket, lunch with the principal, artwork created by the students, and an opportunity to drive a Ford Mustang for a month. Overall the school raised $16,000 through this event.

Other fundraisers included: a “Chili’s® night,” $400; a bake sale, $2,027; a golf outing, $6,500; aLeader in Me book sale, $300; a jewelry sale, $2,900; a fun run, $6,000; and a staff recipe book sale, $200. The money raised from these fundraisers was supplemented by a Rotary grant of$2,500, a private donation of $10,000, and a $2,500 prize for winning the district’s OutstandingCollaborative Outcomes award, for a grand total $49,000 raised during the year.

Throughout the fundraising process, Melissa has seen much involvement from local businesses and community organizations who have become invested in the school’s success. These groups visit the school often to see The Leader in Me in action and continue to support the school in many ways.Silver Springs continues to rely on these partnerships for funding and other types of support as it works to help students become leaders.