This past week I sat in a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees. The group was discussing future plans for the school and as is often the case, fundraising was central to the conversation. At one point, a Board member who is also a parent said, “I think there are a lot of strong messages coming out of this school population. People are coming forward and making sustained leadership gifts in ways we’ve not seen before. It gives me great hope for the future of the school.”

I could not have scripted such a moment! And, it made me, as the director of development and alumni relations, quite proud.  This past year we launched a new leadership gift initiative — The John Harris Circle — a giving program that has shown immediate, positive results at other independent schools.

It’s simple—we’ve approached our parents, alumni, former parents and friends and asked them to make a minimum $1,000 gift this year to the Academy Fund and to pledge forward the commitment for the next four years. We ask one time (and only one time!) for this commitment, and send pledge reminders in the subsequent years.

The best part is that donors do not feel “nickel-and-dimed” because they are only being asked once per year to support the Academy Fund, and at the same time, we’re able to better budget because we know how much additional revenue is coming in through gifts in the next four years.

We set a goal to reach 80 new John Harris Circle donors by June 30 — we’re currently at 68 donors and growing. Trustees, parents from every grade division, faculty and staff members, and even alumni parents whose children graduated 25 years ago have become members of The John Harris Circle. I’m proud of this collective effort by our community to step up and become leaders and stewards for the long-term sustainability of the school.

It’s a strong message indeed.

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