About Us

We are a benefit corporation, based in Chicago and working nationally to solve capital and operational funding problems for schools (charter, independent, and public). We also sometimes work with other good social causes needing help.

As far as we know, no other firm in the US offers the unique suite of services and expertise that we do. We intimately know schools and the financial challenges they face, and we have a knack for finding solutions that others fail to see.

We see a wide range of challenging situations in our work.

Our clients have included (for example) – educators wanting to start a new school from scratch, a college-prep high school seeking long-term financial sustainability, a K-8 charter school needing to improve their facilities, a high school that thought they couldn’t afford a new athletic campus, a small college needing new recreational facilities, and a K-8 school facing eviction in 22 months.

See our Portfolio for more information on these and many other projects we’ve worked on.

Our specialty is identifying and securing sufficient funding for capital needs & long term financial sustainability. While the primary objective of this work is to develop a plan for successfully funding the project, in most cases we also provide opportunities to enhance the client’s mission beyond their stated goals.

To do this, we meet with every constituency, observe operations, enjoy the daily flow, and share some coffee with the dreamers and with the pragmatists. We listen. We review programs, budgets, facilities, local conditions, and anything else that might tell us about the client, the project, and the possibilities.

Then we assemble a specialized team to suit the unique needs of every client we work with. This may include research analysts, planners, designers, educators, investment bankers, tax experts, or others. The project team’s initial work typically requires four to seven months to devise, test, refine, and present suitable and feasible solutions.

Our projects and models are at work in 22 states

After presenting solutions for our clients, we offer to stay to implement the plan and complete the project (although clients are under no obligation to retain us for this). We are fully committed to successful project implementation, and our decades of experience in school development bring incomparable value to our clients’ project teams.

When retained to assist with project completion, Equity Schools acts as an owner’s representative and will:

  • retain local staff
  • help secure a site and handle zoning / entitlement issues
  • manage selection of design team, financial advisors, and construction managers
  • work with fundraisers
  • oversee design team
  • provide cost estimating, budgeting, and value engineering

Contact us for more information.

Our Team

We intentionally keep a small staff at Equity Schools which allows us to build a custom project team for each client, and to retain local staff no matter the location of the project. We are family owned and operated which makes for excellent internal communication … and sometimes dry dinner table conversation.

Richard R. Murray

Richard R. Murray

President / Founder

Richard is personally involved in every project, applying his extensive experience in education, finance, law, and real estate. He previously was president of a real estate development company, and he has taught at two public high schools, and at undergraduate and graduate levels.

His own education includes: The University of Michigan (B.A.; graduate research); Loyola University of Chicago School of Law (J.D.); the University of Salzburg (law); and London School of Economics (law).

Richard firmly believes any problem can be solved (unless it violates the laws of physics), and he has been active in a variety of environmental, business, human rights, and refugee organizations. Richard also enjoys carpentry and shooting baskets. He avoids social media like the plague.

Dave Murray

Dave Murray

Senior Project Analyst

As Senior Project Analyst at Equity Schools, Dave provides project management, environmental planning, and creation of assets to support finance initiatives (i.e. presentations, research reports, and analysis). He strongly believes that school should be more fun and he loves working with school leaders to plan and implement enhanced educational environments.

His education includes: Lewis & Clark College (B.A., Environmental Studies).

In his free time Dave is usually found outdoors skiing, backpacking, trail running, and exploring public lands as much as possible. He’s passionate about animal welfare, cooking, and his cat Walter.

George Ross Murray

George Ross Murray

Project Analyst

George is a Project Analyst at Equity Schools, responsible for creating and managing documentation and reports for our projects. An information and political junkie, he is constantly gathering data, market trends, and legislative backgrounds related to our projects.

His education includes: Montana State University (Political Science), and he currently is continuing his education with legal studies.

George is engaged in the Chicago political scene as an active member of the Lakeview community, managing and coordinating local elections. He also frequently volunteers at the Chicago Food Depository and local animal shelters, typically putting in hundreds of hours each year.

Sara Mostofi

Sara Mostofi

Social Media Manager

Sara uses social media marketing tools to create and maintain the firm’s image. She provides the firm’s voice across social channels including Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, & Twitter.

Sara’s education includes: California State University, San Bernardino (B.A., Business Management); Saint Xavier University (M. Ed., Elementary Education).

During the daytime she is an elementary school teacher, but on Saturdays in the winter you can catch her skiing the hills of Wisconsin teaching school age children how to ski for the first time.

John O. Boochever

John O. Boochever

Senior Advisor

As a Senior Advisor at Equity Schools, John provides operational guidance and internal coordination to the firm, as well as expanding our reach into new networks.

His education includes: Cornell University (B.A.); University of Chicago Booth School of Business (MBA); and Johns Hopkins SAIS (MIPP).

John is committed to improving education for students in crisis and is the lead advisor for the Finance Committee of St. Philips Child Development Center, a nationally recognized provider of infant care and early childhood education.

Patti Carpenter

Patti Carpenter

Communications Manager

Patti manages all PR & marketing activities for Equity Schools, where she leverages her extensive experience in public relations to work with media and community leaders on all messaging activities for the firm.

Her education includes: University of Utah (B.A., Journalism).

Ms. Carpenter has worked for both non-profit and business to business companies and was mostly recently the director of public relations for the Natural History Museum of Utah, a stunning facility nestled at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains.

Nonlinear Project Funding

When it comes to capital projects like developing new school facilities or renovating an outdated building, most schools start by developing a wish list. An auditorium, a new gymnasium, an athletic field. Maybe all three?

Then, it’s up to administrators and business officers to figure out how to pay for it all, often leading to scary looking budgets, headaches, and painful cuts from the plan.

In these cases, most schools look to a handful of funding sources that we think of as “linear;” fundraising, grants, tax referenda, and tuition hikes. While these sources are often crucial to the success of a project, we know that in many cases they’re simply not enough by themselves.

Constrained by these sources, many schools wind up postponing their development plans, scaling them back, or abandoning them all together.

Our approach is different in three ways:

Click here for a 3-minute video showing some results of our Nonlinear funding process:

What We Ask

Projects succeed when we work in partnership with clients. This is more than a marketing phrase, we actually work this way and for good reason. We cannot succeed alone. We need clients to work with us, and to be reasonably engaged in their project:

Clear goals for the project and a genuine desire to accomplish them. Our “work product” is the completed project – not just the documents, projections, drawings, and presentations that we produce.

Open to considering the unconventional, to considering “Nonlinear” approaches; not as a last resort but as possibly the best way forward.

This needs little explanation. We limit the number of active projects we accept and so are very committed to the success of those few. We need an honest and open working relationship, while recognizing that most clients have many other obligations and limited time.

We create and offer choices, recommendations, and supporting data so clients can determine the right course. Most projects represent major decisions, and we expect careful deliberation. Nevertheless, conditions affecting each project will continue to change and so we need timely decisions.

If the decision is to move forward, we will work until the project is complete. In return, we seek the same level of commitment to continuing the work uninterrupted if at all possible.