Why do 913 families make a La Jolla Country Day School education a priority every year? If the Office of Philanthropy can answer that question, our fundraising efforts will be fruitful. To that end, I began asking it on July 1, 2019, my first day at LJCDS, and a common theme emerged. While expressed differently given the person’s experiences and perspectives, each cited that LJCDS educates the whole student and inspires them to be their best self, boosting well-being and achievement.
Faculty know that potential for personal fulfillment and professional success is maximized when a student’s uniqueness is honored and leveraged. At the same time, they know that students must be challenged by a curriculum steeped in academic rigor and other distinctions of an elite independent school. The why, therefore, is LJCDS’s unique brand of an expertly blended traditional and progressive education—the former gives students the necessary knowledge and skills to thrive in a flawed world, and the latter develops their character and personal agency to make that imperfect world better.
An LJCDS education is not inexpensive. It requires two funding streams—tuition revenue and contributed income—because the cost to educate a student is more than what tuition satisfies. As a result, the funding gap per student is approximately $2,000 and is closed with philanthropy. Keeping tuition artificially low and setting the expectation that the school’s community must fill the “gap” is a widely accepted (and even welcomed) financial model for independent schools across the country. Philanthropy is tax-deductible, whereas tuition is not. Culturally speaking, this gap is a place where we as a community can join forces to ensure our students have what they need to thrive in every way possible long after they graduate.
LJCDS is philanthropically supported by six constituencies—parents, grandparents, alumni, faculty/staff, students and friends. In terms of participation, our board of trustees and faculty/staff are the most active, contributing to the 2019-2020 Country Day Fund (CDF) at 100% and 98%, respectively. This tremendous show of generosity reflects their shared gratitude for, commitment to, and confidence in LJCDS’s education model. They value the why and invest in the school’s future.
As we approach LJCDS’s centennial, the Office of Philanthropy will build upon the upward trajectories of CDF and Blue Bash (the annual gala). Major and planned giving programs will be added in 2020-2021 as larger funding priorities are identified. To do this well, we are implementing fundraising best practices, and stakeholders across campus are being tapped as influential partners. All giving opportunities will be designed to enhance LJCDS’s unique brand of education, add lifelong value to an LJCDS diploma and position the school as a community resource in mutually beneficial ways.
LJCDS is on the cusp of something big and exciting. The key to recognizing its unrealized potential is to boldly and unapologetically embody Louise Balmer’s belief that school is life, not preparation for it. How we do that should change as the world changes, and philanthropy, in all shapes and sizes, will help make that happen.