Mission: RAFT (Resource Area For Teaching) believes that hands-on teaching is the best way for students to learn. RAFT transforms surplus materials donated by local businesses into interactive learning experiences for students in math, science, technology and art, providing teachers and community groups with creative tools to enhance education and promote hands-on learning.
Results: RAFT is an innovative nonprofit (501c3) pursuing the advancement of hands-on learning in our schools. It was founded in San Jose, California in 1994 as the creation of Mary Simon, who continues to lead the organization.
The RAFT programs serve 10,000 teacher members at the two sites. The organization operates on a $3 million annual budget used to operate programs and subsidize teachers, providing needed tools for teaching, and professional development opportunities.
* Hundreds of Innovative Idea Sheets, tied to CA state standards are posted on the RAFT web site,
* 50,000 classroom kits (assembled by volunteers) are provided each year for state-standard aligned activities.
Target demographics: Pre-K through 12th grade teachers. Many children learn best through the exercise of tactile and kinesthetic senses. RAFT provides hands-on teaching tools for over 800,000 students throughout the Bay Area.
Direct beneficiaries per year: 7.500 teachers throughout the Bay Area
Geographic areas served: Greater San Francisco Bay Area with affiliates in Sacramento, CA and Denver, CO
Programs: RAFT collects the surplus items from local businesses and transforms them into learning materials in math, science and art.
RAFT also offers professional classes for teachers to improve their hands-on teaching skills. 600 teachers come to our facility each week to gather supplies and learn new teaching techniques.
From the very beginning of RAFT, when it was an idea in Mary Simon's wonderful brain, until today when we're working on ways to make the RAFT magic available to the entire world, I've been an enthusiastic, willing participant in everything RAFT does. I've been on the board almost since the beginning and have led two Capital Campaigns, chaired the board and supported all efforts. RAFT is one of the best nonprofits I've ever seen based on it's mission and exciting vision, plus it's creativity in executing that mission. In addition, it is managed in a fiscally responsible manner, enabling a reserve of at least a year's worth of expenses.
I'm a long-time board member of RAFT, having heard of the idea when Mary Simon first thought of starting a nonprofit that would enable teachers to use materials from community businesses to implement hands-on math, science and art projects in their classrooms. When Mary first came to me, I was running a management support organization called the Nonprofit Development Center, helping nonprofit staff and boards to improve their management and leadership skills. We at the NDC thought Mary's idea was so good that we helped her in every way we could to learn what she needed to know to run a nonprofit (Mary was a math teacher by profession). RAFT is now one of the most successful nonprofits in the San Jose area, having set its sights in expanding to reach all educators in the Bay Area, then California and finally nationally. It will happen because of one person's amazing vision and dedication to supporting and enabling excellent teachers and teaching. The beneficiaries are the children who, as we all know, are the future of the country.