Thursday, May 5, 2011

Funding Gaston Day: Tuition, the Annual Fund, and Capital Campaigns.

As many of you know, Gaston Day School is involved in a Capital Campaign, the "It's All Good!" Campaign, to raise $3 million to fund capital improvements, capital reserves, and our endowment. I am thrilled to tell you that, so far, we have raised about $2.4 million toward our goal. And we are now going to the broader parent body to ask them to consider giving to this effort. As a part of our conversations with many prospective supporters in the campaign, people often ask, "How does this money relate to tuition dollars and the annual fund?" This is such a fundamental and important question that I thought it's worth an explanation from the headmaster's desk.

Tuition is the principle way that Gaston Day funds its operations. Tuition dollars account for around 95% of all the annual operating dollars that we use to pay for everything at Gaston Day. The other 5% of our annual operating budget comes from two places: the annual fund and earnings from the school's endowment. The annual fund allows us to use peoples' generous contributions to produce income that otherwise would have to come from tuition. It is a tax-deductible, voluntary way for us to keep our tuition as low as possible. Without it, tuition increases would be higher, parents would have to pay the increase, and they would get no tax deduction.

Gaston Day School also has an endowment valued at just over $2 million. These monies are invested at the Community Foundation of Gaston County and produce roughly $100,000 a year in income for Gaston Day. Again, this is money that we use to maintain our buildings and pay for scholarships. We only spend partial earnings (roughly 5%) of the money in our endowment and never touch the principle. Again, without this money, we would have to charge more in tuition to replace these funds.

Capital campaigns are a final way that we fund Gaston Day. We have a major capital campaign every 5-7 years. Usually, we set a goal of several million dollars to be used to pay for capital needs and also to grow our endowment. Gifts to the capital campaign are voluntary (like the annual fund) and generally larger in amount. Pledges to the capital campaign are typically paid over a four-year period because of their large size--so donors are able to split their gifts into several payments. The typical Gaston Day family will only have the opportunity to participate in a capital campaign once or twice during their childrens' years here.

As I mentioned, capital campaigns are voluntary, but they are also absolutely necessary. Independent schools, like Gaston Day, simply lack the ability to fund their many capital needs without occasional capital campaigns. Those who give generously to capital campaigns are really helping to fund the school so that it can educate all our children. Those who do not give anything to the capital campaign are depending on others to pay for an important part of the cost of their own childrens' education.

Thankfully, Gaston Day has many generous parents, former parents, and alumni. These people deserve our profound thanks because they help to pay for all our childrens' education. They also deserve our assistance and participation in capital campaigns at an appropriate level, which of course depends on each family's particular financial circumstances. It is part of the responsibility of attending an independent school.

Giving away money is always a serious matter and, honestly, it can be difficult, even for a good cause. At its best, however, giving to Gaston Day brings a sense of ownership and, yes, satisfaction. Hopefully, donors experience the joy of giving to a cause that is going to make their children's education better.

We are so grateful to parents who enroll their children at Gaston Day and provide us with tuition. Others go one step further and give to the annual fund each and every year, and to occasional capital campaigns every five to seven years. We give our thanks to them as well for their generosity in helping Gaston Day succeed in its mission. We are doing our best to be faithful stewards of the gifts you entrust with us, and to give your children the best education possible.