Fitz Nonprofit Consulting has been fortunate to work with over a dozen private and independent schools. One of the great challenges for these schools is fundraising.
Parents of students are the no greater cause than investing in their child.
However, engaging current parents as donors is a challenge. Why? Because they are already paying tuition (often at college tuition rates) for their child to attend school. It is not intuitive to also make a donation. Many parents will wonder why tuition isn’t higher if they need to make a donation on top of their tuition payment.
We’ve heard this question over and over from parents: if there is a “gap” between the cost of tuition and the cost of their child’s education, why not just charge the full amount instead of fundraising?
When private schools present their fundraising needs as a “gap”, they are less likely to have success. What donor is going to feel compelled and have their heart strings tugged on to give to a “gap” in funding?
Instead, I encourage schools to position their annual fund as dollars raised for school activities beyond the education that the tuition covers. This could be sports, a high-tech science lab, a new library, a theatre program or extra curricular activities. A school could also focus on raising funds for scholarships as this will resonate with parents who pay the full tuition amount – they want all students to have the same experience and education as their kids regardless of economic status.
Utilize your school’s back to school nights and in one-on-one meetings to address these concerns directly with parents.
Beyond parents, there are many other groups of potential donors for an independent school to engage with giving to their annual fund. According to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS):
- 96% of Faculty/Staff are annual fund donors
- 14% of Grandparents are annual fund donors
- 9% of Current Parents are annual fund donors
- 8% of Alumni are annual fund donors
- 3% of Parents of Alumni are annual fund donors
It is no surprise that the group that has the highest giving percentage is the individuals who are working alongside students day-in and day-out. Faculty and staff see the need firsthand as it is very close to their heart. It is not a hard sale. When making an ask of your school’s staff and teachers, have a peer ask them. It comes across as genuine and makes it feel like a team effort.
Grandparents tend to give because they may be in a better place financially and there is nothing more important than there grandchildren. Hosting a day for grandparents to come onto to campus is a wonderful opportunity to have the students connect their grandparents directly to their education and why it is important to support their school.
Ideas for increasing your school’s annual fund
- The Academy of Our Lady of Peace created a strategy to increase giving from their current families through incentivizing their students to give by offering prizes for any gift made (to increase participation) and gifts over $25 (to increase the overall financial giving goal). In 2017, they had over 60% giving from current families/students for a total of $80,000 (140% increase over 2016’s amount raised).
- Cathedral Catholic High School solicited parents via their children through a personalized hand written note on the annual fund appeal. The mailed asked included a school mug asking parents to help “fill our cup”, making a donation in lieu of buying a cup of coffee.
- If you are in a capital campaign, use this strategy from Colorado Rocky Mountain Schools to preserve your annual fund while surpassing your capital campaign goal.
- Check out the independent and public schools that Fitz Nonprofit Consulting has worked with over the years.