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
Several private schools have received major gifts over the past several years. For purposes of this article, we shall define a major gift as one hundred thousand dollars or more. In addition to highlighting the generosity of the donors, we also want to illustrate how the gifts are being used. But before we begin looking at some examples of donors and their gifts, you are probably wondering why people would want to give large sums of money to their schools in the first place.
The main reason your wealthy graduates can and should give major gifts to your school is the simple fact that they know your school. They understand its mission. They appreciate the foundations which their school gave them for success in college and in their careers and adult lives.
The other reason why your graduates will be more sympathetic to your asking for a major gift is that you have kept in touch. Besides your Annual Appeal and the regular alumni events which you hold, you have sent out e-newsletters at least once a semester. Your potential major donors know that the hockey rink needs replacing. They understand the need for endowing teaching positions. They are sympathetic with your determination to develop a strong financial aid pool so that you can diversify your student body. They know that one of your fondest hopes is for the building of an arts center with practice studios and a theater. Well, you get the idea. Your wishlist is only limited by
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