Relentless fund-raising, be it for the annual fund, the spring benefit or the latest capital campaign, is as much a feature of private schools as small classes and diverse offerings. But with schools hitting the upper limits of what they can charge for tuition, consultants, parents and school heads say the race for donations has become notably more intense and aggressive.
Schools are mining online data for details about parents’ homes, luxury cars, private planes, stock holdings and donations to other charities. So-called development offices, once the domain of part-time administrators and school volunteers, have been elevated along with the titles of those running them, who are now known as chief advancement officers, directors of philanthropy and heads of strategic initiatives. Heads of school report spending much of their time in search of money, according to surveys.
The biggest change is the sophistication of the data available, and how schools can use it. Before a campaign begins, consultants interview 40 to 50 of the school’s top prospects to determine their level of interest in a campaign and how much they might give (a “feasibility study”). The consultants also try to measure a school’s philanthropic capacity (a “capacity analysis”).