Setting a Course for Sustainable Philanthropy
The Role of Boards and Fundraising in Independent Schools
For years Pat Bassett, former president of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), stressed the importance of schools diversifying their revenue sources beyond tuition. In his article “Twenty-Five Factors Great Schools Have in Common,” Pat states schools must “create a financially sustainable future by means other than persistently large annual tuition increases, recognizing that being the best value, rather than the highest price in town, offers the strongest value proposition.” Independent schools recognize that sustainability involves expanding non-tuition revenues and that philanthropy has the potential to be the most consequential component in that mix. With this in mind, Marts & Lundy wanted to compare our knowledge of what makes a successful fundraising board with the reality of board members’ involvement in fundraising at independent schools and how it relates to a school’s fundraising success. Our premise is that alumni and parent donors give more generously when their independent school board is an active, informed, visible and vocal advocate for a school’s strategic vision and fundraising priorities. When this philanthropic environment exists for a school, tuition dominance can begin to ease and the school can chart a more financially sustainable course.