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A Developing Story

Written on November 29th, 2016

Business people attending a seminar.

The Christian School Foundation and the OACS partnered together to host a Development Conference at the end of October. Here is a quick summary of what was presented, what was helpful, and what we may do differently at our second annual development conference scheduled for October 25th, 2017.

At this year’s conference, we spent the morning addressing the following two key questions together in a large group session: 1) What is happening in the broader independent school sector in Ontario and Canada? and 2) Are these same trends evident in the Ontario Christian school scene – and in your school? Why or why not?

Dr. Deani Van Pelt from the Fraser Institute kicked the day off by presenting some of the Institute’s findings from their recent in-depth study of some independent school trends in Canada. Dr. Van Pelt helpfully honed in on the Ontario scene so that we could more easily assess if the prevailing trends in independent school enrolments across Canada were consistent with what our schools were experiencing ‘on the ground’.

The next session kicked our day into high gear as Mr. Michael Van Pelt (President of Cardus, a Christian ‘think tank’), presented data that he and Ms. Audrey Roorda (Financial Services Coordinator at the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools) had mined, largely from the schools represented at the conference. Some of the implicit and explicit questions Mr. Van Pelt put to the group included: “Other independent schools are growing. Is yours? Why or why not?” and “What message does your pricing communicate about your school and its quality?” and “With your current tuition structure, who are you actually subsidizing? Is that really your intention?”

These are key questions that need to be addressed as Christian schools in Ontario have ‘grown up conversations’ around the financial structures they have inherited from earlier days. Are these structures really the ones that best position our schools to thrive going forward?

The afternoon featured three repeated sessions, of which each attendee could choose two. The three offerings were intended to empower attendees with some ideas on how to adapt to a changing environment and a changing donor profile.

First, Ray Hendriks, along with Karen Tilstra from Dunnville and Dawn Streutker from Woodstock, shared information from the Niagara Association for Christian Education (NACE), and tackled the topic: “The Annual Drive 2.0 – How We Pushed Our Annual Drive to the Next Level.” Essentially this dealt with how different giving patterns and a changing donor base influence how we ask for support for our annual drives.

A second afternoon offering was led by Henry Koornneef, the Christian School Foundation’s Executive Vice-President and Certified Financial Planner, regarding the ways a partnership between your local Christian school and the Foundation could play an important role in helping your school thrive into the future. Again, the impact of changing giving patterns and an increasingly sophisticated donor base was highlighted, as Henry explained how the Foundation opened up more ways in which schools’ supporters could bless their schools.

Tony Kamphuis, the Foundation’s President & CEO led the third afternoon session, in which he explored the role of the school leader in development. He implored school leaders to not look on these areas as ‘hopeful add-ons’, but to recognize that as vision-casters for their schools, they have an essential leadership role to play in marshalling the financial resources that will see their schools thrive into the future.

What will we do differently at next year’s conference? The intention is to keep the day for which the conference is planned consistent, by having it stay on the Wednesday just prior to the Edifide Teachers’ Conference in October. We are looking at other local venues so that we can better accommodate a larger group. We intend to bring in an outside keynote speaker to address topics around enrollment and finances. We will ensure that the breakout sessions are relevant and helpful, so that school representatives feel empowered and supported as they tackle their challenging work.

What is certain is that each school should arrange to have some representation at the next annual Development Conference, on October 25th, 2017. You won’t want to miss it!