Major Gifts to Private Schools

Updated February 10, 2017 |
Major Gifts to Private Schools
The only way private schools can build their financial security is through gifts. Major gifts offer proof of how deeply many donors feel about their private schools. Their munificence is a wonderful example to others.

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 your specific needs and your imagination. In this video fuUndraising expert Seth Godin gives some tips on successful fundraising.

Finally, and this third reason for giving a major gift ties in with the first two reasons: your donors trust you. You taught them. You taught their children. Perhaps you even taught their grandchildren. Those years of association with your school have built strong bonds of trust.

If you attended a private school and can afford to make a major gift to your alma mater, call your head of school. Ask him about the items on both his public and private wishlists. Discuss these with him or her. Once you get some broad agreement about how, when and where 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. In the meantime, this substantial video explains what is involved in setting up a capital campaign.

Finally, I have written this article with newer private schools in mind. 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 hundred thousand 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. This video shows you how to set up your first major fundraiser.

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.

Chatham Hall
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.

The Loomis Chaffee School
In April 2010 The Loomis Chaffee School announced an anonymous gift of $3.5 million to be used to strengthen the school's financial aid program.

University School
"In September 2016 the school announced that its capital campaign had raised $108 million. Major gifts included $12.5 million from Thomas Temple Keeler Foundation of Lufkin, Texas; $8 million from the Susan and Bill Oberndorf Foundation of San Francisco; $4 million from the estate of the late James Williamson of Canton; $3.5 million from Dan and Marge Moore of Cleveland; $2 million from Estate of the Cannon Family."  From Cleveland.com

Middlesex School
"Middlesex is proud to announce the completion of the Residential Life Challenge and the culmination of the Residential Life portion of the Mx2 Campaign. Thanks to a matching challenge (dollar-for-dollar) from the generous Victor Atkins '63, the school's long-term planning goals with regard to campus life were met with the help of sixty-four generous donors. The goal of the campaign was to increase the availability of boarding beds for current and future students and ensure that every dorm offered an inviting and central common area for students to enjoy. Thanks to the $15 million raised, Middlesex was able to completely renovate Clay House, including adding the Beaton Common Room. Additionally, the challenge raised funds necessary for the construction of Landry House, the School's tenth dormitory. Landry House will be complete and ready for students in September 2016." From the Mx2 Campaign News

Questions? Contact me via Twitter. @privateschl


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FUND-RAISING

Private schools often need to be creative when it comes to funding. This section provides tools, tips and resources on fundraising. Learn more about supporting your school, how to handle major gifts, and why keeping in touch with graduates can benefit your budget.