If you attended a private school and can afford to make a major gift to your alma mater, call your head of school. Discuss it with him or her. Once you get some broad agreement about how your gift can be used, then work out the legal and financial details with your advisers. The estate planning and tax consequences of a major gift are far too complex to be left to chance.
If you are a fund-raiser at a school, assume nothing. That shy 3rd grader who became a school teacher and never married just may surprise you. On the other hand the 8th grader who became a famous Wall Street trader may or may not have the means your school teacher alumna has. Cultivate everybody who attended your school. If they live far away from the school, Facebook and Twitter will keep them involved if you use those social media imaginatively and tastefully. A monthly email and an annual mailing via snail mail will complete the communications side of things. We'll look at some of the other things a private school can do to raise money in a separate article.
Finally, this article is aimed at newer private schools. The old, established New England prep schools have legions of alums and remarkable endowments. On the other hand, a private school started only a decade ago needs some inspiration and guidance. You may not receive a major gift of a million dollars in your first year of active fund-raising, but if you approach fund-raising professionally and realistically, your efforts will yield solid results over time.
The Lawrenceville School
The Lawrenceville School received two major gifts in 2010. $60 million was bequeathed by Mr. and Mrs. Henry C. Woods. Mr. Woods taught English at Lawrenceville for 34 years. Not only were the Woods generous to Lawrenceville after their deaths but also during their lifetimes. They had already given the school $10 million for various purposes. Their final gift will be used for a variety of purposes including faculty support and financial aid.
Judith-Ann Corrente and Willem Kooyker gave Lawrenceville $5 million to establish The Corrente Endowment for International Travel. This focused gift will allow Lawrenceville students regardless of their families' financial means to experience international travel as part of the school's educational activities.
In October 2009 Chatham Hall received a gift of $31 million from the estate of Elizabeth Beckwith Nilsen. Ms. Nilsen graduated in 1931. Her gift was the largest a girls' school had ever received. It will become part of the school's endowment and will be used for general purposes.
Phillips Academy Andover
In 2008 Oscar L. Tang gave $25 million to The Academy as part of the school's capital campaign known as The Campaign for Andover. It will be used to support various programs including the Academy's need-blind admissions program.
In 2010 Donna Brace Ogilvie announced that she was pledging $5 million to the capital campaign. These major gifts echo the munificence of the original founders, the Phillips Family.
Loomis Chaffee School
In April 2010 Loomis Chaffee School announced an anonymous gift of $3.5 million to be used to strengthen the school's financial aid program.