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.

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.

Richard R. Murray

Our Expertise

We 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.

Richard R. Murray is the president & founder of Equity Schools, and he is personally involved in every project the firm undertakes. Murray’s own experience includes extensive work in real estate, finance, law, and education. He previously was president of a real estate development company.

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). He has published with Seton Hall University School of Law, and he has taught at two public high schools, and at undergraduate and graduate levels.

Mr. Murray has been active with a variety of environmental, business, human rights, and refugee organizations.