Beginning in November 2012, The Blackbaud Idex of Online Giving published a new specialty index focused on K-12 independent schools was launched and will be updated monthly going forward.
The Blackbaud Index of Online Giving found that online giving grew 17.6% at 132 independent schools for the 3 months ending September 2012 compared to 2011.
Research by National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) found that for the fiscal 2012 school year, annual giving averaged $1,149 per student at the more than 1,400 private, nonprofit schools that are members of the Association.
While that average was up from $1,119 in fiscal year 2011, it still remained below the $1,573 average in fiscal year 2008, before the economy collapsed in the fall of 2008. The data from Blackbaud showing independent schools are outperforming nonprofit giving overall and online confirm that K-12 trend and “may be a harbinger of a pretty good year,” said Patrick Bassett, NAIS president.
The importance of online giving and overall fundraising in the independent school sector continues to grow. NAIS president Patrick Bassett points out that “Tuition at private schools has been growing three percentage points a year, on average, over the rate of inflation for 50 years, although the pace of tuition growth has moderated in recent years. The market is finally getting the message that it’s not sustainable to raise tuitions three points beyond inflation every year.”
Kimberly Kubik, director of advancement at Shady Hill School in Cambridge, MA, said a growing number of independent schools in recent years have begun experimenting with shortened versions of their annual fund drives. Instead of drives that last nine months, those schools have asked donors to give to the annual fund in a five-week or 100-day drive.
At Shady Hill School, which in its last fiscal year raised $1.65 million in total annual giving, four families have made anonymous challenges, pledging a total of $100,000 if the school can secure pledges or annual gifts from 100% of parents within 100 days.
Because alumni and families account for different shares of annual fund giving, respectively, depending on whether an independent school is grades K-8, K-12 or 9-12, fundraising tactics may differ based on a particular school’s mix of donors, said Kubik, who served as senior leadership gift officer at Milton Academy, a K-12 school, and as director of the annual fund at Deerfield Academy, a 9-12 school.
But what makes for effective fundraising is the same at all schools, she said. That includes conducting research on parents and understanding where they work and live, and their interests, and capturing that data and getting it into the school’s fundraising database.
Independent schools have been growing their online giving programs for several years now. The ability to target particular donors combined with the convenience of online giving has proved to be a powerful combination. Over time, the importance of online giving will become key to the long term success of fundraising programs at independent schools.