Editor's Note: I asked John Gulla, the Executive Director of the E.E. Ford Foundation to answer some questions about the Foundation's work specifically, and independent school philanthropy in general. I am grateful to him for his thoughtful responses. Rob Kennedy
JG: One does not have to read Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century, though I do strongly recommend it, to understand the challenges of late-stage capitalism and the concentration of wealth. Half of the world's wealth is now controlled by less than 1% of the population. Put another way, the wealth of the top 1% equals the wealth of the other 99%. Viewed slightly differently, fewer than 100 individuals own as much as the poorest half of the world's population. This is not the place for a discussion of how this has come about or the challenges it represents, but I think that the data provide a prima facie case for the increasing role of Private Foundations in the years ahead.
RK: What was Edward E. Ford hoping to accomplish by establishing his foundation?
JG: The current mission of the Foundation is to "strengthen and support independent secondary schools and to challenge and inspire them to leverage their unique talents, expertise and resources to advance teaching and learning throughout this country by supporting and disseminating best practice, by supporting efforts to develop and implement models of sustainability, and by. . .read more
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
Raising money for non-profit organizations such as private schools has never been tougher or more complicated. A series of major disasters both at home and abroad can have a negative impact on fundraising efforts, so connected has our global community become. However, the advantage private schools have is their built-in donor pool. Alumni and alumnae, parents, grandparents, and friends comprise this group of past, present and future donors. The trick is to figure out how to get them giving consistently and in line with their financial resources.
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. These are schools which rely heavily on their top administrators and small support staffs to handle all the development and fundraising needs. These dedicated people are, for the most part, experienced professionals who believe in what they do. They also know that their donor base has significant potential, although just how large that potential is unknown. Even more, vexing is figuring out how to reach those donors capable of making major gifts.
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