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Independent schools are still an important part of the educational system in the U.S. Like many nonprofits, they have been flexible and adaptable in recent years as they have dealt with the COVID pandemic, higher inflation, and now a softening economy. Independent schools have also had to respond to some key trends that have been taking place in their sector: flat and declining enrollments in some markets; the need to expand programs and modernize facilities; and rising tuition costs, which impact the affordability for many families as the schools strive to maintain their socio-economic diversity. They operate in a very competitive environment.

At the same time, fundraising and endowment management have continued to be focus areas for many schools. Fundraising is taking on greater importance as some schools have built large development teams and diversified their fundraising strategies to include multiple channels including major gifts, planned giving, and online giving. School endowments are more important today as they provide important annual financial support to a school. It is also important to have a quasi-endowment which may provide for more flexibility. In this study, we introduce the concept of the strategic endowment plan as a way for the schools to build their endowments for the future by taking a holistic approach. Many schools are already following strategies that allow them to grow their endowment beyond the portfolio investment returns, and we share some examples.

We also revisit New York State schools as a fresh approach to our 2014 private school study. We note that the observations from this study of New York State can often be applied to schools and other nonprofits across the nation.

Please see important disclosures at the end of the article.

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