Most Christian schools employ an Annual Fund effort. Generally, an Annual Fund is defined as, “a catch-all term for fundraising activities that are designed to stimulate regular giving. It encompasses activities such as telephone campaigns, direct mail, e-appeals, inserts in alumni magazines, adverts and web-based appeals.” It is based on the concept that every year the school needs funds to operate and meet its basic needs. It is “needs” driven. The simple underlying message is, “we need money, please give it to us every year.” There are often specific needs or projects identified, but it is not usually driven by the compelling God-given vision and mission of the school, assuming they have been discovered and articulated.
The problem with the Annual Fund approach is that it ignores the most important principles of fundraising and donor motivation. Worse, it is not Biblically aligned.
31 ‘So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
We are not supposed to chase after what we “need.” God knows what we need, and He will meet those needs. We are supposed to chase after God, His purpose for our life and His purpose for our school. We are to place Him first, even in our fundraising efforts.
Annual Funds are inferior because:
- Donors give far more to a compelling vision than to a need, or a project. God’s design.
- Donors want to change the world, not help a school meet its operating expenses.
- Donors want to fund the “why” a school exists, not the “what” they do. God’s design, again.
- Donors don’t really want to build a playground, they want to impact the world for Christ. They want to know how the playground will advance God’s plan for the school.
- Donors get fatigued when they are asked for money to keep the school’s doors open every year, or to meet what they consider to be basic needs.
So, what is a better approach? IGC believes an Annual Giving Plan is not only better, but Biblically aligned. To fully understand the superiority of an Annual Giving Plan one must first understand the view of the potential donor – usually a parent of a student at the Christian school. Parents of students in Christian schools:
- Believe tuition is expensive. They are right. The average Christian school charges between $4,000 and $10,000 per student, per year. This is a lot of money for the average family.
- Do not realize it costs more to educate a child at their Christian school than what the school is charging. Simply put, tuition does not cover the cost of education.
- Believe the school like all other services they purchase, charge enough to cover the cost of delivery.
- Don’t usually understand the real purpose or the “why” the school exists. They therefore view the school as a “fee for service.”
An Annual Giving Plan is governed by the Biblical principles of fundraising and is designed to address the views of parents. It is an annual effort and continuing strategy that consists of communicating to the school community:
- the true cost of educating a student at the school
- why the school fundraises
- how the school’s tuition and performance compare to other schools, including non-Christian private schools in the area
- why the school fundraises as opposed to raising tuition
- what vision and mission aligned needs the school is raising money to meet
- how much money is being raised for each need in the context of the school’s vision and mission, and why these needs must be met
- how meeting these needs advances the school’s God-given vision and mission
- the school will conduct fewer fundraisers and focus its energy on a few annual needs to advance the vision and mission
- how successful the schools’ efforts are in raising money for each need
- how the donor’s contributions impacted student lives and expanded the Kingdom
- that the donors are valued
The strategy involves taking the annually established vision and mission aligned prioritized list of school needs and developing a funding plan to raise the needed funds through two (2) major annual efforts. The key to success is a clear link between the compelling God ordained vision and mission of the school, the annual identified needs and a vision and mission aligned funding effort.
Most Christian schools strive to:
- Maintain affordability for and accessibility to all qualified students
- Provide a high-quality Discipleship infused education
An Annual Giving Plan helps achieve both of these objectives. It is an intentional strategy employed for these reasons:
- Donations allow the financially blessed to voluntarily give back to God and those otherwise blessed to give according to their means.
- Donations provide donors with economic benefit not available from tuition payments. Donors receive a tax benefit not usually available for tuition payments.
More importantly, the strategy is Biblical:
35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
If we are blessed when we give, then if we do not share the God-ordained vision and mission aligned needs of our school with potential givers, we rob them of a potential blessing.
18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
When a Christian school discovers God’s vision for its very existence (the “why” it exists), identifies the needs it must meet to realize that God-given vision and effectively communicates the compelling vision linked needs to its potential donors, the Holy Spirit moves, and the needs are met in abundance.
Without a vision the people perish, but with a vision God moves in a powerful way. His will is fulfilled, the school thrives, the Kingdom is advanced, and He is glorified. It is not about the money. It’s never about the money. It’s not even about the need. It is about the God given vision and mission being realized by clearly identifying why the need, if met, will advance the compelling God inspired vision and mission!