Funding Private Christian Schools in Today’s World
The Mission of Casper Christian School is to partner with the home and the church to provide students with Christ centered academic excellence that equips them to serve Christ in the world.
This is our mission– now, how do we make it happen? There is so much that goes into this, I can’t cover it all in one writing. Prayer, for us, is always the first thing we talk about because without prayer and going to the King, nothing works. Funds are the next thing we need and how do we do that?
Funding a private Christian School is one of things that fall under the umbrella of advancement director at Casper Christian School. This will not always be the case, however, when a school is developing, a balance has to be maintained when it comes to growth in departments. Many schools start with one person because, with a school, we need teachers and lots of other things, so we have to have a balance in how we hire, especially in the beginning.
One of the greatest challenges facing Christian schools today is ensuring income is at least equal to the operational costs of implementing the mission. It’s a simple equation:
Income – Expenses = Positive Number
Unfortunately, this challenge is not that rare in our world today. Unlike our nation, schools don’t have the luxury of incurring large deficits year after year. While there are lots of tools and guidance to help schools deepen the Christian and educational aspects of their missions, there is little available to school leaders to help run the business of the school. This often falls on the board of directors and the marketing and development department, along with accounting, of course.
There are actually very few schools that can balance their budget with tuition income alone. Fewer than five percent of private schools in the United States manage this feat. Most schools that manage to balance the budget with only tuition income often do so at the expense of faculty salaries and/or vital maintenance to school facilities. It is very rare that tuition covers a school’s operational expenses. In the case of Casper Christian School, it covers just under half of what it takes to educate one student per year which is approximately $13,000 for our school. Click here, https://casperchristianschool.org/tuition-rates/ to see the tuition schedule for CCS. Every school probably varies a little and according to Average Private School Tuition Cost (2023) (privateschoolreview.com, the average national tuition for private school is around $15,000.
So, what are the solutions?
A frequently suggested solution by business leaders is to simply raise tuition to a level that will cover all costs. “Isn’t that what a business would do if costs were exceeding revenue?”. Unfortunately, raising tuition usually results in a lower enrollment rate. Less diversity in socio economic groups is also a bi-product of this.
The only viable answer for most schools to achieve a healthy, thriving Christian school mission is to add a secondary source of income. This secondary source can be a variety of things. Some schools do things like leasing unused land to local businesses or operating resale shops. Many schools have begun building foundations that will generate income to support the school. This is through a group of business people willing to invest, a wise long-term strategy, but it requires time to build.
The most common means for schools to address the additional finances needed for healthy operations is annual fundraising. This is a reasonable and sustainable means to make the financial model work. Let’s start with answering the question, “why should every school raise annual funds to support operations?”. Aside from the obvious—because most of them need it, is the most viable option. The heart of fundraising is telling a story that speaks to people’s hearts’. This is how their passion is discovered and in what area of giving. Everyone wants to give to their favorite cause. They want to give because that cause appeals to them on a deeper, visceral level. It makes a difference in not only their lives, but a group of worthy people’s lives will be the better for the contribution.
Fundraising revenue is the most dependable and sustainable revenue stream that exists! How can I say this? Because facts and history support that statement. Philanthropy in the United States has been tracked accurately and consistently for the past 50-plus years. Since the early 70s, giving has increased year over year, outpacing inflation with only a few exceptions. Those exceptions were the market crash in the late 80s, the housing crisis in ’07-’08, and the COVID-19 pandemic in ’20. In all three exceptions, philanthropy declined only slightly (less than 4%). Moreover, these slight dips in philanthropy were largely the result of corporate and foundation giving. In those crisis years, giving from individuals did not decline. History has shown us many times that, in tough economic times, people continue to support missions that are important to them. The only organizations that experience a decline in fundraising revenue are those who stop asking. Sometimes asking is the scary part. Things can decline and we listen to the world instead of the results year over year. Keep asking! What is the worst that can happen? The word NO?
Fundraising revenue is ‘hard,’ sustainable income and should also be part of a healthy school’s operating budget. This then begs the next question: what is the best way to do it?
The quick answer is with honesty and sincerity.
- To fully fund our school’s mission and ensure we are fairly compensating our faculty and staff, we require a secondary source of income. This fulfills the part of the budget not covered by tuition.
- One secondary source of income available to all Christian schools is annual fundraising.
- Fundraising helps our school to operate in a growth mindset so we can continue to help students grow in all ways in Christ.
- Fundraising is the difference between a bare-bones Christian education and a transformational and growing educational experience for our students.
Private Christian schools are a direction from the Lord, placed on the hearts of resilient and dedicated people. The Lord sets them on this path that is anything but straight. God guides and expects our faith and obedience. A wise man once said. “It isn’t about the destination, its about the journey” (Ralph Waldo Emerson). The journey is long yet rewarding and will show the fruits of our labor in our student’s Christian education and ability to live and lead for the glory of God.