Running a Private School
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
1. Conduct a Rigorous Situation Assessment
Know the Board's Appetite for Change
Document the Way Things Work Today
- Prepare a detailed description of every major functional area.
- Include everything from the administrative functions through to the academic functions.
- Identify who is responsible for the functional activity, the activities being managed, the way the activities are managed, staffing, and budget.
Putting up posters and holding rallies for student council president are not generally considered a violation of the 'no politicking' provisions of the law. Internal or with in the bounds of the school community activities are acceptable. Read Rules for Exempt Organizations During an Election Year for further guidance.
In an election year where emotions are running high and record numbers of young people are being drawn into the process, you need to be very careful that your school complies with the law. Make sure you state your policy clearly in the school's handbook. Enforce that policy. The last thing you need is for somebody to file a complaint with the IRS and put your tax-exempt status in jeopardy.
Schedule A of Form 990 gives you a place to document your 'lobbying' activites or lack thereof. Remember: your school's membership in NAIS and other regional independent school organizations can be construed as 'lobbying'. Generally the amount spent on memberships is relatively insignificant when compared to your overall expenditures. Just be certain to record those memberships
Step 1: Initial Meeting
During our first meeting with the client, we review your organization regarding the position to be filled. We also seek to understand the organization's environment, which includes learning about the culture, norms, philosophy, history, work atmosphere, and personalities of the people and community this person will work for and with, as well as coming to know what causes individual success or failure at this organization and thoroughly understanding the vision of the organization. If confidentiality allows, we spend time with the supervisor and peers of the position in order to determine the management's style and personality. Since our goal is to find someone in whom the community will have confidence, both in ability and in style, this part of the process is crucial.
HEG next prepares a Position Profile that describes the client organization, details the nature of the position, the key issues facing the new leader, and the qualities and experience possessed by the ideal candidate. This document, once approved by the client, serves as the primary instrument to communicate the opportunity during
1. Does one person have control over all of your accounting functions?
2. Are two signatures required on checks over a pre-determined amount - say, $500?
3. Are checks ever pre-signed?
4. Are your bank accounts consolidated so that your book keeping accurately reflects the school's true financial position?
5. Is there petty cash lying around?
6. Are different people assigned to the deposit and account reconciliation functions?
7. Do you have a purchase order system?
8. Does your committe review expenses and supporting vouchers carefully and frequently?
9. Does an outside auditor review your books annually?
10. Do you run background checks and speak to references before you hire?
Some schools find it difficult to implement standard business practices. Even when they do, they can find it even more difficult to stick to those practices. Be careful of the trusted old employee who's been there forever and resists your updated business procedures. Reassigning him or her to some other function and bringing