Fundraising -The Private-Government Schools Gap
10 March 2011 at 12:15 pm
Government Schools in Australia need to become better fundraisers like their private school counterparts, according to Dr. Daniel McDiarmid, CEO of consultancy firm Global Philanthropic.
The revised MySchool website has stirred the proverbial possum that is the funding debate between private and state schools. While commentary focuses on whether total government funding of state schools should increase or private schools decrease, no one comments that state schools should become better at securing private donations. The unspoken and untested assumption is that private schools are able to raise private donations and government schools are not.
Very few people wake up in the morning and decide to give a large donation to the school their children attend or the school they attended as a child. Significant donations are usually the result of a careful request made to a prospective donor by the school’s principal, volunteer leader or Development Officer, as professional fundraisers are often known in schools.
Some private schools raise substantial sums because they have encouraged a culture of philanthropy and they are good at asking for gifts. Many private schools, most Catholic parish schools and most government schools have done little to encourage philanthropy beyond fetes, prizes and sausage sizzles and do not approach gift solicitation in a serious or professional manner.
Will parents and alumni of government schools give substantially to government schools? Some do already, and many more would if encouraged to do so, and were asked properly.
“Other private sources” of income on the MySchool website includes: “donations, interest on bank accounts, profits on trading activities and profits from sale of assets. It includes some private income received for capital purposes, and from school and community fund-raising activities”. These various items are not differentiated, so the exact amount of donations to schools is not known.
Tax-deductibility for donations is one aspect of effective fundraising, and in this respect government and catholic schools have every advantage of their private counterparts. Donations to school building funds, library funds, and approved scholarship funds can be directly tax-deductible for Australian taxpayers, and all schools can use other parties to achieve deductibility for chaplaincy and sports donations. In addition, there is one category of government school, the “special schools” that have superior tax deductibility. A donation to a special school for any purpose is fully tax deductible.
Australian universities, hospitals and research institutes are learning that the patient investment in fundraising capacity will produce significant returns. Some private schools already show good practice in this area, but government schools and most Catholic schools are yet to achieve the larger results of which they are capable. There is much that can be done to improve performance across the whole school sector. In the case of government schools, the stumbling block is the politics that permits no action (such as improved fundraising capacity) that implies that governments do not fund their schools adequately.
There are many Australians—including some of very significant financial capability— who appreciate their government school or Catholic school experience every bit as much as those who went to private schools, and they are prepared to give substantially if asked to do so and asked effectively. Introduction of good fundraising practice would improve all schools and play a significant role in creating a smarter, more generous Australia.