WEA Member Benefits Foundation Expands Funding for School-Based Mental Health Resources in Wisconsin Schools


Trust-based philanthropy approach connects corporate and philanthropic sectors with school districts.

MADISON, Wis., Sept. 20, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — In 2019, WEA Member Benefits created WEA Member Benefits Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) public charity, developed to support Wisconsin public school employees, their districts, and communities through grants and charitable donations.

In a 2021 survey to educators and district administrators, the Foundation asked, “What keeps you awake at night?”. “Student mental health” was a common response. School districts need additional funding to support and strengthen school-based mental health programming. A missing piece became clear: access to funding.

“The goal was to create and refine a funding model designed to expand private philanthropy support of school-based mental health services throughout the state of Wisconsin,” said WEA Member Benefits Foundation Executive Director Steve Goldberg. “Our foundation would provide funds and develop partnerships to connect districts with corporate and philanthropic organizations to help them advocate for and secure additional funding.”

Starting with a small group of pilot school districts (Racine, Sun Prairie, Appleton, and Watertown) whose existing mental health framework aligned with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s (DPI) state model, the WEA Member Benefits Foundation provided $144,000 of challenge grants to the pilot districts and helped them raise another $871,000 for school-based mental health programs.

These districts have been able to increase student and family access to mental health services by reducing barriers to service such as: cost, time, and transportation. They also report increased engagement in school activities and classes from students they’ve served. With guidance from the Foundation, pilot districts have built district-based teams to pursue additional fundraising efforts.

Racine Unified School District used the Foundation’s guidance to secure a $121,000 city grant and a $35,000 United Way grant to add more onsite therapy staff and to offset health insurance coverage deductibles/co-pays so low-income students can afford treatment. Through their Access to All program, this allowed the district to serve 30 additional students whose insurance deductibles had made treatment unaffordable. Students in Key Club at Racine’s Washington Park High School added their support, by also raising money to help fellow students afford the cost of treatment. 

“This has taught us how to approach local funders — something we’ve never done before,” said a Racine Unified School District Representative.

WEA Member Benefits Foundation developed an academic partnership with the UW Center for Community & Nonprofit Studies (Co-Create team) to evaluate and further develop their school-based mental health pilot project.

In its year two evaluation of the program, Co-Create reported “This pilot has demonstrated growth and promise. The Member Benefits Foundation is well positioned to continue and expand this effort to involve additional districts and funders, all for the benefit of Wisconsin public school students and their communities.”

The interest in and means of funding to support school-based mental health programming within communities is strong, and through their work, the Foundation has been able to be the missing link within these districts to connect them with local funders to build strong partnerships around this shared community priority. After raising over $32,000 at their local golf outing fundraiser last month, the WEA Member Benefits Foundation, Inc. plans to onboard additional districts to their school-based mental health funding model during the 2023-2024 school year.

To learn more, support, and/or donate, please visit weafoundation.org.

About the WEA Member Benefits Foundation, Inc. 

The WEA Member Benefits Foundation, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity supporting public education through grants and charitable donations to public educators, public schools, and the communities they serve. More information can be found at weafoundation.org. 

About WEA Member Benefits

Since 1972, WEA Member Benefits has been helping Wisconsin public school employees and their families achieve their financial goals by providing personal insurance, retirement and investment, and financial planning programs. Learn more at weabenefits.com.

SOURCE WEA Member Benefits