Whether it’s a nursery school or an Ivy League institution, everyone in the field is wrestling with the fact that schools cannot continue to increase tuition at the current rate or no one is going to be able to afford it. There are concerns that, on the current trajectory, only the wealthiest families will be able to afford independent schools. The current spike in tuition is not sustainable and every single board is or should be struggling with this issue. Macro-economic factors affect fundraising for schools as much as they do any other segment of the economy.
Most parents prefer to send their children to a school that is diverse racially and socio-economically. Educators know they need to make the independent school experience affordable to a much broader group. The point of financial aid is to enrich the community. Very poor people can get financial aid relatively easily while the very rich don’t need it. This leaves a large pool of families in the middle-income brackets for whom $35,000 a year for tuition is unthinkable. And yet these families have a great deal to offer a community.
There was once a time when donors gave out of the generosity of their hearts. But as competition for charitable donations has increased, so have the expectations of donors. Donors want to know what’s in it for them, or what’s in it for their child. They want accountability attached to their donation. To a greater and greater extent, institutions need to be able to demonstrate a donor’s "return on investment" in a very clear and concrete way. If you ask someone for money, you better be prepared to share with them financial information such as information on how your endowment is being managed, or information on how much your performing arts center is going to cost, and what are the lead certification standards that you're meeting. You need to be able to answer such questions and provide such information and expect donors to demand that level of accountability.
All of us are solicited to support charitable causes all of the time. All of us have the opportunity to be philanthropists within our means. This means that donors are becoming much more sophisticated. For example, donors do not want to see fundraisers spend money to solicit donations from them. Ten years ago, one might produce a fancy, full-color brochure for fundraising purposes. Today, donors are aware of the cost of fancy brochures and do not want to see the money spent in such a fashion. Be very respectful of the donors and their level of understanding.
The technological tools available to professional fundraisers have advanced in terms of communication, data management and prospect research. Along with advancements in the “science” of fundraising have come significant advancements in the “art” of fundraising. Successful development professionals are always seeking new ways to keep their supporters engaged in their institution and new ways to express appreciation for their support. The “old boy network” is no longer a valid platform for an effective fundraising program.