Fundraising for Day Schools: Your Message Matters

Private schools, like other membership-based organizations, have a unique fundraising challenge. You are constantly in recruitment mode. 

Even when you’re fundraising mode, you’re still recruiting. And who can blame you? Recruitment is the lifeblood of your work. Without students, there would be nothing to fundraise for! 

But there is a big, huge, massive difference between your pitch to recruit students and your pitch to solicit donations. 

In the former, you are going to showcase the school’s accomplishments. 

You’re going to WOW prospective parents with tales of academic achievement and individualized attention. 

You’re going to highlight the building’s amenities and the unparalleled teachers. 

But in the latter, you have to show vulnerability. 

For fundraising success, you have to give donors a problem to solve. You have to tell them an UNFINISHED story of opportunity. And you have to give them the agency to write the ending. 

The question, of course, is how do you show vulnerability without diminishing your school’s reputation? How do you simultaneously give donors a problem to solve while also projecting success.

The answer is to talk about how an individual student’s life will be changed by a donor’s gift. 

It’s the difference between “Our standardized test scores are tops in the entire state” and “Your gift translates into a student falling in love with the wonder of physics.” 

It’s the difference between “Over the last 20 years, thousands of students have graduated and gone on to achieve advanced degrees” and “When you donate, you ensure that another student feels at home in the classroom, ready to embrace new academic challenges.”

It’s the difference between “Our state-of-the-art science lab was renovated with future learners in mind” and “Because of you, another student will receive individualized attention from a teacher, building a relationship that will last for years to come.”

One story is in past tense. The other is in future tense. That change makes all the difference. 

The change in tense puts an onus of responsibility on the donor. It puts the donor in the driver’s seat to finish the story you have started to tell. You’re opening the door for donor’s to have a true impact. 

And you’re doing this without laying your school’s reputation down. Without hurting recruitment efforts. Without showing weakness.

As you begin to plan your next fundraiser and construct the pitch, take out your latest recruitment brochure. Find the most powerful sentence. Change the tense so it’s future focused. Now, add these three words to the beginning of the sentence: Because of you…

That’s your next campaign theme. You’ve stepped outside of your role to recruit and entered the world of donor-centric fundraising. 

Wait a second!

Wait a second!

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