The SparkNotes Guide to Financial Aid and Fundraising

Kassandre Kallen

June 15, 2022

    Your school is doing more to meet students where they’re at than ever before. In this unstable economic environment, you must take proactive steps to ensure your school stays competitive during enrollment. Take action to ensure that you’re not sacrificing the biggest line item on your income statement, tuition.

    According to figures from the National Association of Independent Schools, tuition costs have increased by over 37% in the last decade.  

    According to the same figures, the median average of students on financial aid is 26.7%, with these students receiving a median financial aid grant of $19,240 per student. For your school, the median financial aid amount as a percent of budget expense is 13.9%. 

     As the country enters a recession, household spending will remain selective, potentially endangering the gains private schools made in enrollment over the last few years. The cost of private education and the looming economic uncertainty is pricing students out of private school, reiterating the need for robust financial aid packages. 

    In this market, demand for financial aid has increased by 23.31% over the last decade. And what’s even more eye-opening is that the actual median value of financial aid grants during that same period has increased by 72.19%, according to NAIS figures. 

    Hope is not lost. When it comes to attracting new students and retaining current students, your school has several strategies available around financial aid and fundraising.  


    Rethink Financial Aid 

    To remain competitive in this environment, your school needs to reframe how it presents financial aid and tuition. When you proactively approach tuition and financial aid, you can increase student counts, build diversity, and work on creating sustainable revenue streams with mission-appropriate families. 

    The biggest thing your school can do today is to examine its current financial aid packages and reconsider if they’re best meeting the needs of your student body and the students you’re looking to admit. 

    If your school has several merit-based awards, consider if those can be reclassified to meet students with needs. Offering too many merit awards limits the impact the awards can have. Because merit awards generally are given by donors to meet the needs of specific student types, consider revising your donor policy to have all donated funds go to a general financial assistance pool instead of a merit-based award. 

    When your school recategorizes its financial aid, it allows you to minimize the impact on your operating budget while making decisions to support new income. Increasing the general financial aid pool can help you enroll more students and capture more revenue. 

    Other strategies to maximize tuition exist in A Whole School Strategy to Sustainable Revenue Streams for K-12, Private, and Independent Schools.  


    Telling Your Story  

    Your school is unlike any other. When it comes to financial aid, communicating with external stakeholders and donors can occasionally be challenging, but receiving the donations and creating a new revenue stream is worth the effort this creates.   

    So how do you start these conversations? 

    1. Define your goal

    • Define what you hope to achieve and ensure your team is aligned on the goal  
    • Create an outline with a clear timeline to keep your team on track 
    • Goals can have many shapes and varying complexities, but defining them beforehand is the easiest way to have stakeholder buy-in 

     2. Outline your strategy

    • After defining your goal, it’s time to outline the process 
    • No one strategy makes achieving a goal possible. Look at the strengths of your school, and think about how donors will relate to them 

     3. Create clear Key Performance Indicators

    • Keep your team motivated by creating a clear set of goals 
    • When your school has a set goal, and you can create milestones, you embrace transparent communication 
    • KPIs can encompass a variety of things like increasing year-over-year enrollment growth, recruiting new donors, or even generating new income  

     4. Create an action plan 

    • This takes your strategy and ties it to your performance indicators  
    • Your action plan will lay the foundation of what needs to be done, who will do it, and when it needs to be done

    5. Have the conversations

    • Once you have your action plan complete, it’s time to get board approval  
    • Be prepared to answer questions and explain the reasoning behind your strategy and Key Performance Indicators 

    Once you have your board’s approval, congratulations, it’s time to launch your campaign and tell the world what makes your school as unique as it is. 

    Having conversations around financial aid and fundraising can be intimidating, but your school can accomplish anything when you follow the SparkNotes guide to Financial Aid and Fundraising. It never hurts to have a technology partner that wants you to succeed by your side. Community Brands is committed to helping our schools reach their goals and meet their unique missions. That’s why we offer multiple tuition management and financial aid solutions designed to meet the specific needs of our various schools and their families. 

    Meet SSS and TADS. SSS helps your school employ a more established financial aid methodology designed by schools for schools. TADS has powerful, cloud-based tools that allow your school to create the perfect tuition and financial aid program for your school’s unique needs. Learn more about SSS and TADS today.  

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