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Reply To: Pro’s / Con’s of your school’s fundraising structure

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Paul Dennett
Forum Participant

Hi Merryn,

As we are still in start-up mode, I’ll talk in general terms from my experiences at other organisations and as a consultant. I don’t think there is total agreement about what constitutes best practice, but to me it sounds like you are already pretty much there in terms of what I’d consider to be the best overall structure.

Separate Foundations create extra work and costs (compliance, reporting, administration, auditing) and can also create a risk of misalignment between the priorities of your Board/Executive and those of the Foundation trustees. I’ve had direct experience at a former employer of a multi-million dollar bequest nearly being hijacked and distributed to other organisations by trustees wanting to exercise their independence. So I am 100% behind the decision you took to dissolve yours. In contrast, the School Committee model gives the Board full control over the funds, ensuring alignment with their strategy. It also makes you more nimble, smoothing the way to make changes to the Committee structure and composition, if for example a new appointment doesn’t work out as planned.

I’ve found that issues have been mostly likely to arise where there has been a lack of clarity about the role of those serving on committees. In particular it helps to make a very clear distinction between governance versus fundraising roles (reinforced by explicit Terms of Reference and by strong ongoing Chairing, to prevent drift). It’s quite hard to find individuals who can operate at both levels effectively and simultaneously. I’ve found it much easier to find people comfortable playing an ‘oversight’ role, and more challenging finding those willing to roll-up their sleeves and play an active part in fundraising. Where you have a mixed group, the ‘doers’ can get frustrated with other members who they feel aren’t pulling their weight, and may in turn become less inclined to help. Unfortunately I’ve yet to see the reverse happen, where the doers inspire the others to play a more active role!

Consequently, you may even look to have as many as three ‘committees’ within the school involved in supporting fundraising:

1. The School Board (or a sub-committee) – responsible for strategic oversight and review; consisting primarily or exclusively School Board members

2. A Fundraising Committee (aka Campaign Board etc) – responsible for giving and getting, including peer-to-peer asking and fundraising event organisation; comprising primarily of parents and alumni

3. A Development Advisory Committee – responsible for being a sounding board and source of intelligence for the Director of Development, and for championing fundraising among their peers to help build a culture of philanthropy within the school; comprising a mix of teaching and support staff, plus potentially a couple of students.

I hope these thoughts are helpful, and look forward to seeing what others experiences have been. Give me a call if you want to delve deeper into any of this – it’s all very much on mind right now as we need to settle on our own way forward!

Best wishes, Paul
Director of Development, Queenwood School

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