Raising Money for Your School

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Raising Money for Your School
Raising money for the newer, small private school is a job for professionals. We examine the three major components of private school fund-raising.
In this tough economy raising money for non-profit organizations like private schools has never been tougher. For purposes of this article our focus is not on the older, more established schools such as Exeter, Hotchkiss, Middlesex and so on. These schools have long histories of successful fund-raising behind them. Instead our focus here is on the thousands of much smaller, much newer, less financially strong private schools which serve communities all over the United States.

First of all, let's break our fund-raising into three distinct sections and understand what it is that you are trying to achieve with these critical but separate fund-raising objectives.

1. Annual giving
2. Capital campaign
3. Endowments

Annual Giving
Annual giving has to be something which every private school encourages constantly all year round. Here's a brief outline of how annual giving works..
  • Budget an amount which you need to help balance your budget.
  • Announce a target of at least 20% more than what you need to allow for shrinkage and unexpected events.
  • Divide that up into 12 monthly allotments. These monthly allotments can differ according to how your forecasting is done. For example, you might project a higher total for the month which has Reunion Weekend or some other annual event which draws in lots of your alumni and other supporters.
  • Put your annual giving information on a secure page on your website so that your supporters can give anytime they want to without having to write a check or speak with somebody.
There's much more to successful annual giving, of course, than what we have outlined above. But hopefully you are beginning to see the need for hiring a professional development person to take care of this and the other fund-raising chores on a daily basis.

Capital Campaigns
Capital campaigns are different from annual giving in the sense that they are one time fund-raising efforts. For example, if the school needs a new dining facility, the cost of the project will probably be too much to include in your operating budget. In any case that's not good financial management either. Let's assume for this example that the new dining facility is going to cost $250,000. You might plan to raise those funds over 3 years. Obtain pledges and outright gifts to raise the funds needed. You will need two or three individuals to make challenge gifts of $10,000 or more to encourage others to give. A
capital campaign can also draw from sources like foundations and corporations outside the school community.

Once again, managing a successful capital campaign requires daily supervision and attention to details. Hire the necessary professional staff to make it all happen efficiently and effectively.

No matter how long your school has been around, you are going to have alumni and alumnae who will want to remember the school in their wills. Those gifts may come from individuals who wish to avoid the limelight during their lifetime. Then, after the will is read, you realize how much the school meant to dear Millie who has left your school $100,000 for the
endowment fund. She lived a quiet life after she retired from her job as a 3rd grade teacher. But she never forgot how your school gave her such a great start in life.

As you can see, fundraising, even for a smaller, newer school than say Lawrenceville or Chicago Latin, is a major undertaking. It needs daily attention from skilled professionals. A headmaster or directress will certainly have to be on hand to close and announce the bigger gifts. But there really is no way the head of a school can handle fund-raising as a full time

Fund-raising is critically important for every private school. Building up a loyal following of supporters will help your school weather the inevitable tough times ahead. Loyal supporters are the best advertisement which your school can have.

Examples of Private School Fund-raising

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