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5 Tips on Managing Private School Endowments

Strategies for Small Schools

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5 Tips on Managing Private School Endowments

Invest wisely!

Photo © Pam Roth
Here are the top ten American private schools ranked by size of endowment. Scan it and ask yourself how your school measures up. Then cogitate on the fact that Harvard University's endowment stood at $26 billion as of June 30, 2009.

1. Phillips Exeter Academy...$850 million
2. Phillips Academy Andover...$770 million
3. St. Paul's School...$442 million
4. Hotchkiss School...$382 million
5. Deerfield Academy...$305 million
6. The Peddie School...$300 million
7. Groton School...$224 million
8. Choate Rosemary Hall..$217 million
9. Woodberry Forest..$203 million
10. The Lawrenceville School..$200 million
Source: Boarding School Review

How to Build an Endowment

Note: This article is aimed at small to medium size schools. It's a series of talking points designed to help you get the ball rolling at your particular school. I recommend that you seek advice from a development professional.

Why do we need an endowment?
Every school needs endowment funds. Endowment funds are not part of the school's regular operating budget. These are funds which can be used to fill in the inevitable gaps and shortfalls which every school faces in its financial operations.

1. Seek gifts to endow faculty and programs.

Donors respond well to requests for gifts for a specific purpose. For example, endowing support for faculty positions or academic or athletic programs.

2. Seek gifts to endow scholarships.

Tuition fees are often beyond the reach of many well-qualified candidates. Scholarship funds help bridge that gap and make a private school education a reality for deserving students.

3. Seek gifts for named opportunities.

Many donors respond generously to the idea of having an athletic or other facility named in honor of them or a family member. Always make sure that the gift includes enough principal to cover operating expenses of the facility whenever possible.

4. Appeal to the entire school community.

Alumni, parents and friends all have a stake in your school. You just never know when something you say or do will resonate with your community in a way which will lay the foundations for substantial giving.

5. Start them young.

If you can get recent graduates to donate to the school's annual fund, then you will have laid the foundations for substantial giving in later life.

Development work never stops. Sometimes the least likely donor candidate will be just the one to surprise you with a major gift because the school's message and mission were so indelibly ingrained in that young soul. My final word of advice: always ask for a sacrificial gift. Put another way, if your donor candidate has a net worth of 100 million, then don't waste your time asking her for $10,000. Plan your strategy carefully and you will get what you want.

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