The Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation is less than halfway to its $4 million goal with just five months left in its fundraising campaign, but officials say they remain optimistic about reaching the target.

The foundation had raised $1,831,906 as of Jan. 15, including received gifts and pledged money, according to executive director Linda Greenberg. The funds will help in covering a variety of school costs through the district-wide Vision for Student Success program.

Greenberg updated the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board of education on her agency’s latest figures during its Jan. 20 meeting.

Her report to the board highlighted a recent bequest of about $450,000 from Judi Lynne, the third-largest gift in SMMEF history.

“We are very grateful to Judi Lynne and her estate for that amazing, amazing gift,” Greenberg said.

Greenberg noted the assistance of local attorneys Sonya and Bruce Sultan, who have promoted the education foundation to their estate planning clients.

She added that there are ongoing conversations with other philanthropists and that major donations often take longer to secure than small gifts.

The fundraising deadline is June 30.

The school board was also presented with detailed data regarding the education foundation’s $4 million drive.

More than 2,000 people have donated or pledged money so far, Greenberg said.

About 45 percent of the money in the current campaign has come from SMMUSD families, 32 percent is from community members, 8 percent is corporate contributions and 4 percent is donations from foundations. Events and investments yielded the remaining 11 percent.

Greenberg said she’s planning to develop the foundation’s corporate partners and expand the bond between the school district and the area business community.

The SMMEF director reported that about one-fifth of district employees have given to the campaign so far. That figure topped 66 percent at the management level.

Board member Maria Leon-Vazquez expressed concern at the low rates of giving among certificated and classified district staff, calling them “dismal” and urging better participation.

Meanwhile, less than 23 percent of SMMUSD families have contributed to the current effort as the district continues adjusting to a centralized fundraising model.

According to the education foundation, VSS money funds instructional assistants and literacy coaches as well as art instruction for every elementary grade, additional class sections for middle and high schools, professional development for teachers and discretionary grants for school-specific enrichment programs.

“Families are starting to make the connection that SMMEF money funds local programs,” Greenberg said.

The foundation also expects a boost through its annual benefit concert Feb. 7, when Colin Hay, Stephen Bishop and Venice will join district music students at Santa Monica High School’s Barnum Hall. The event has pulled in $100,000 in previous years.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Greenberg said. “But I’m optimistic that we will make our goal.”

Contact Jeff Goodman by phone at 310-573-8351, via email at jeff@www.smdp.com or on Twitter.

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