The annual fund is the bedrock of all school fundraising. Independent schools can use these three tips to help their annual fund planning efforts every year.

This article is part of a three-part series to inspire a reinvigorated annual fund.

The independent school financial model is founded on community, generosity, and philanthropy. Parents, alumni, and friends provide essential support for the core aspects of an independent school education, including: creative programming, robust tuition assistance, inspiring faculty development, and innovative capital projects.

The annual fund is the bedrock of all school fundraising. Beyond closing the gap between tuition and the cost to educate each student, the annual fund provides an important vehicle for the community to support the school’s mission. Through their contributions, annual fund donors develop a more meaningful connection with the institution’s goals and priorities.

For development teams and school leaders, a consistent and reliable annual fund creates the financial stability to make strategic decisions about the future. It inspires confidence in the Board and Head of School and creates a strong pipeline of leadership donors. A successful annual fund allows a school to think beyond the day-to-day finances and dream big.

Given the naturally repetitive nature of annual giving, it is essential to think creatively about your school’s annual fund and develop a comprehensive plan. Below are three key elements of a strong annual fund plan to help your planning efforts every year.

Innovative Theme

You can refresh annual fund messaging and connect donors to an engaging story by developing a unique theme each year. Successful annual fund themes connect directly to the school’s mission and strategic priorities—thus creating a meaningful case for support that is specific to your institution.

When developing a theme, consider the following:

Synthesize this information into a comprehensive theme. Keep the messaging short and succinct—appeals and initiatives should provide the specifics.

Strategic Engagement Approach

Thinking creatively about your donor engagement strategy will help grow your annual fund. Below are suggestions for enhancing engagement:

Creative Partnerships Across Campus

Collaborating with your colleagues in other departments will enhance your annual fund. Connect with faculty members to hear about exciting classroom stories and innovative student projects. Reach out to admissions officers for highlights from prospective family tours and common questions they receive. Attend performances, art shows, athletic games, and debates to gain greater insight into the student experience. Ask the head of school and division heads for their goals and priorities for the year. This insight can be incorporated into your annual fund case for support and collateral materials. It will also allow you to develop timely and cohesive messaging that connects to school events and activities, which will create a more compelling appeal for your community.

These three considerations will help strengthen your annual fund as you close out this year’s fundraising and begin planning for FY23. Stay tuned for two more articles in this three-part series on reinvigorating your school’s annual fund.

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