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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