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How Private Schools Raise Money

Why Private Schools Ask for Donations

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How Private Schools Raise Money
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Fundraising keeps private schools afloat, as their students' tuitions and fees do not generally cover the full cost of education. But how much are private school parents expected to give, as they are already paying tuition?

The average private school parent makes a contribution to the annual gift amounting to about $1,000. According to a report by NAIS, or the National Association of Independent Schools, the median gift given by parents of students in their over 1,100 schools amounted to $945 in the 2010-2011 school year. Charitable giving to private schools is tax deductible. The median gift at day schools was $897, while the median gift given by parents of boarding school students was $1,191. Overall, 64.8% of parents at NAIS-member schools contributed money to the annual gift, while only 10.2% of alumni did. In addition, 84.4% of faculty in NAIS-member schools contributed to annual gifts. Average annual giving is down from pre-recession levels. In 2007, for example, the average gift by parents in 2007 was $1,199, though the percentage of parents who gave in that year was lower, at 61.8%. The recession has also hurt alumni giving, as 15.6% of alumni gave in 2007, as compared to 10.2% of alumni in 2010-2011.

Why do schools ask for contributions?

Private schools need annual contributions and grants to cover the cost of education. These gifts are usually managed through the development office, and a class parent or parents may be appointed to help solicit funds. For example, in the school year 2010-2011, the median tuition and fees for the NAIS member schools was $19,599, but the median expense per student was $20,768. Without contributions, schools would not be able to survive.

Gifts are also used to cover the cost of providing private school students with scholarships. According to NAIS, a median of 22.8% students in their member schools receive financial aid, and the average grant is $11,174. The percentage of private school students on financial aid has climbed during the recession (for example, about 18% of students received financial aid at NAIS-member schools in the 2007-2008 school year, but the average grant was larger, at $11,974). More and more students are requesting financial aid to be able to stay at their current schools.

How Do Private Schools Raise Money?

In addition to asking for annual gifts from parents, alumni, members of the board of trustees, and faculty members, private schools also host fundraising events. In addition, they have capital campaigns to raise a certain amount of money in a given period to build a new building or cover another large expense and to shore up their endowment. NAIS offers tips for schools to start capital campaigns, including raising money from their trustees before the campaign is announced to the school community as a whole. In addition, NAIS recommends targeting grandparents of current students, who traditionally have more money, and cultivating relationships with parents, alumni, and donors before expecting major gifts. Development at schools revolves around cultivating these relationships. When parents and members of the community value the school, they are of course more likely to contribute to an institution that has meant a lot to their children.

Schools also ask for gifts to their endowments. Some alumni and alumnae give to schools in their wills or provide the schools with other forms of giving. Schools with larger endowments, such as long-established boarding schools, tend to be able to offer more financial aid than can newer schools. Fundraising is a critical part of every school, and the money raised from parents, alumni and alumnae, and other donors supports the schools' current operations and future sustainability.

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