8​ ​Trends​ ​in ​Independent​ ​School​ ​Fundraising

In​ ​April​ ​2017,​ ​Linda​ ​Wise​ ​McNay,​ ​Ph.D.,​ ​of​ ​Our​ ​Fundraising​ ​Search,​ ​and​ ​John​ ​Marshall, assistant​ ​head​ ​for​ ​development​ ​of​ ​Wesleyan​ ​School,​ ​conducted​ ​a​ ​survey​ ​of​ ​almost​ ​400​ ​heads​ ​of school​ ​to​ ​measure​ ​trends,​ ​challenges,​ ​and​ ​opportunities​ ​in​ ​independent​ ​school​ ​development​ ​and fundraising.​ ​The​ ​results​ ​were​ ​surprising​ ​and​ ​significant​ ​and​ ​shared​ ​with​ ​attendees​ ​at​ ​the​ ​October SAIS​ ​(Southern​ ​Association​ ​of​ ​Independent​ ​Schools)​ ​conference.

The​ ​average​ ​school​ ​respondent​ ​was​ ​a​ ​54-year-old​ ​day​ ​school​ ​with​ ​an​ ​average​ ​of​ ​2,353​ ​alumni. About​ ​half​ ​the​ ​schools have​ ​less​ ​than​ ​500​ ​students,​ ​58%​ ​are​ ​K-12,​ ​and​ ​62%​ ​have​ ​a​ ​budget​ ​less than​ ​$10,000,000.

Eight​ ​trends​ ​emerged​ ​based​ ​on​ ​information​ ​provided​ ​by​ ​the​ ​161​ ​SAIS​ ​schools​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Southeast who​ ​responded​ ​to​ ​the​ ​survey.

1.  Head​ ​of​ ​school​ ​fundraising​ ​experience​ ​exceeds​ ​tenure.
     The​ ​average​ ​head​ ​of​ ​school​ ​respondent​ ​has:
  • 7​ ​years​ ​of​ ​experience​ ​as​ ​head​ ​of​ ​his/her​ ​current​ ​school.
  • 10​ ​years​ ​total​ ​experience​ ​in​ ​his/her​ ​current​ ​school.
  • 11​ ​years​ ​of​ ​experience​ ​in​ ​all​ ​his/her​ ​headships.
  • 14​ ​years​ ​total​ ​experience​ ​in​ ​fundraising.
2.  Most​ ​heads​ ​have​ ​major​ ​gift​ ​experience.
  • 7%​ ​of​ ​heads​ ​of​ ​school​ ​responding​ ​have​ ​never​ ​solicited​ ​a​ ​large​ ​gift.
  • 56%​ ​of​ ​heads​ ​of​ ​school​ ​responding​ ​have​ ​solicited​ ​gifts​ ​up​ ​to​ ​$500,000.
  • 28%​ ​of​ ​heads​ ​of​ ​school​ ​responding​ ​have​ ​solicited​ ​a​ ​gift​ ​of​ ​$1​ ​million​ ​or​ ​more.
3.  Development​ ​Committees​ ​are​ ​under-utilized.
  • 21%​ ​of​ ​schools​ ​reporting​ ​do​ ​NOT​ ​have​ ​a​ ​Development​ ​Committee.
  • 6%​ ​of​ ​schools​ ​reporting​ ​have​ ​a​ ​Development​ ​Committee​ ​which​ ​NEVER​ ​meets.
  • 22%​ ​of​ ​schools​ ​reporting​ ​have​ ​a​ ​Development​ ​Committee​ ​which​ ​meets​ ​to​ ​receive reports.
  • 48%​ ​of​ ​schools​ ​reporting​ ​have​ ​some​ ​Development​ ​Committee​ ​activities.
  • Only​ ​3%​ ​of​ ​schools​ ​reporting​ ​have​ ​giving​ ​and​ ​getting​ ​required​ ​for​ ​Development Committee​ ​service.
4.  The​ ​annual​ ​fund​ ​is​ ​critical​ ​to​ ​balancing​ ​the​ ​budget.
  • Respondents​ ​raised​ ​an​ ​average​ ​of​ ​$920,757.
  • The​ ​median​ ​was​ ​$350,000.
5.  Email​ ​is​ ​the​ ​most​ ​popular​ ​fundraising​ ​tool.
  • Email​ ​is​ ​utilized​ ​by​ ​86%​ ​of​ ​schools​ ​responding,​ ​followed​ ​closely​ ​by​ ​direct​ ​mail​ ​and personal​ ​solicitation.​ ​Online​ ​fundraising,​ ​events,​ ​phoning,​ ​and​ ​texting​ ​are​ ​also​ ​tools employed.
  • 50%​ ​of​ ​schools​ ​offer​ ​monthly​ ​giving​ ​as​ ​an​ ​option​ ​and​ ​6%​ ​have​ ​tried​ ​crowdfunding with​ ​mixed​ ​results.

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My Favorite Story From This Year’s SEMC Conference

super hero fundraiser

Stuart Horodner, Museum Director of The University of Kentucky Art Museum, and I presented a session on How to Be a Fundraising Superhero for Your Museum! in Charlotte at the last SEMC meeting. We began as usual with introductions to see where all our attendees were from and the positions they held. A young woman on the front row piped up and said in her intro, “I came to your session last year and I had only been on the job for 2 weeks. I went back and did everything you had said to do, and I got my first million dollar gift! I came back to see what you had to say this year.” The room went wild!

I had no idea what this woman was going to say, and it made me feel so good to hear her story. This is exactly why I do what I do. I want to help my clients and friends be successful in meeting their fundraising goals. And that is why I wrote a book for my arts and cultural clients entitled: Fundraising for Museums: 8 Keys to Success Every Museum Leader Should Know.

We had a great session. In case you missed it, much of the same material can be found at the link above.

You, too, can be a fundraising superhero for your museum!



It is the little things . . .

  • It’s remembering a volunteer’s birthday or a child’s name. It’s correcting the spelling of a name or noting a spouse’s special interest. It’s reading the newspaper and congratulating someone on a new job or promotion.
  • It’s writing personal notes regularly to say thank you. It’s remembering the anniversary of a gift or a death. It’s using a live stamp and hand addressing the envelope. It’s using the philanthropy stamp on your personal mail.
  • It’s being the fourth person to take a phone call from a man who sounds like he’s drunk and turning that call into a $100,000 gift. [Read more…]