In recent conversations with independent school clients, Schultz & Williams (S&W) has noted growing concerns about rising tuition costs and declining enrollment. These trends are especially apparent in the lower grades and, therefore, have the most impact on our K-8 schools.

As tuition income typically accounts for at least 80% of independent schools’ revenue, recent decreases in birth rates across our area are legitimate cause for concern. Our Board and finance committees look to development staff for solutions to these waning tuition figures. They reason that raising more money will help schools become less tuition-dependent. In fact, some schools with large endowments will not suffer, but smaller schools with lean endowments may well have trouble keeping pace.

The lesson here is that you must continue—and yes, increase—your efforts to raise endowment funds. One good way to do that is to focus on planned giving. Even a few bequests realized each year can make a significant difference to your school’s budget. If you do not have a planned gifts program in place, you should start one now.

If you are in a capital campaign or planning one, it’s vital that you make raising funds for endowment, particularly for scholarships, a part of your capital plans. Your alumni will understand the importance of this for the future health of the school. For your older, most loyal—not necessarily most wealthy, but most loyal—alumni, this is the perfect gift to your school!

Our colleagues at ADVIS (Association for Delaware Valley Independent Schools) have just completed a comprehensive, enlightening survey of significant enrollment trends that they will present at two upcoming conferences. Go to
http://www.advis.org/professional-development-events
for more information or contact Barbara Kraus Blackney, Executive Director. If you are an ADVIS member, your school should have already received the statistics that form the core of this survey.

When enrollments drop and tuition costs continue to spiral upward, there will be more pressure on development staff to go well beyond annual giving fundraising and you will need to respond. Inspire your donors to invest in your school’s bright future with gifts that extend beyond their lifetime. Get started now. Even if you’re just beginning an attainable, responsible plan to create more endowment, you can help provide great reassurance to your trustees, alumni and parents during uncertain enrollment cycles

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