The theater manager for the Corvallis School District went in front of the school board last week to try to get a tentative green light for an idea she’s pursuing: To sell the name of the main theater at Corvallis High School to raise money for an endowment.
Elizabeth Wyatt’s idea is that selling the naming rights to the theater could help to offset her salary and pay for theater equipment.
Board members raised some concerns but signaled general support for the idea.
This sort of request is something that board members and others involved with our schools are going to be dealing with increasingly in the future, as school finances get tighter and tighter. It’s a good idea for the trustees and administrators to get ahead of the issue now.
Here’s why: With the Corvallis School District looking at a potential budget shortfall of some $4.5 million for its next budget year, you can bet that programs such as the performing arts and athletics are going to have to get increasingly creative about finding different funding sources.
It makes sense to consider the sale of naming rights to various district venues as one of those different funding sources. Having facilities available for renaming gives those venues a fundraising option that typically is not available to other school organizations — and, considering the increasingly crowded nature of our fundraising landscape, that’s not a bad thing.
In a way, it’s not that much different from the city of Corvallis selling ad space on the sides of its buses. As you may recall, last year we offered a quick and relatively easy two-part test for city officials to use as they considered expanding the type of advertising that’s allowed on the buses.
With our tongues planted just a little in our cheeks, allow us to offer a variation of that two-part test to school administrators deciding whether potential donors are suitable to have their names plastered across stadiums and theaters and lunchrooms and what have you:
The first part of the test: Does the proposed name appear to fall within generally understood community boundaries? (This would allow the school district to reject inappropriate names, or names that might appear in juvenile telephone pranks.)
The second part of the test: Has the check cleared the bank?
We hate to sound overly mercenary, but there’s no point in being coy: The goal is to raise money for programs that might not be funded through taxpayer dollars. Ideally, we’d figure out ways to leverage those private dollars into a continuing source of funding for these programs.
If we make progress on that goal, the next question might even be tougher: How should the theaters at Corvallis and Crescent Valley high schools — all of which were built or renovated with money from a voter-approved levy — fit into the community’s master plans for the performing arts? Answering that question to everyone’s satisfaction might make this fundraising issue seem like a snap.