It’s a different way of supporting Christian schools and some myths must be dispelled, says Koornneef
It takes patience to develop support for a Christian school foundation, according to Henry Koornneef, executive director for the Foundation for Niagara & Hamilton area Christian Schools (FNHCS) and fully qualified Certified Financial Planner.
“This is so very different from what our Christian schools have been doing for decades in the area of fundraising,” Koornneef points out.
“There are many different options that individuals have and it’s important to allow time for supporters in many cases to also work with their other professional advisors.”
He adds that when it comes to supporting Christian schools through a foundation, it’s not a matter of simply writing out a cheque for a certain amount.
“A special trust relationship must be developed and this cannot be rushed.”
FNHCS is also working to dispel certain misconceptions about who should be supporting Christian schools through a foundation. One of these misconceptions is that planned giving is just for the wealthy.
Koornneef points out that everyone can have a role to play, each according to how they’ve been blessed.
“No one can take it with them, so we also all need an estate plan,” he says. “If all supporters included a bequest or other suitable planning gift the eventual blessings for our schools will be significant.”
The primary objective of FNHCS is to grow endowments that will support its member schools with an ever-increasing additional source of annual revenue – in perpetuity.
Although the foundation is a separate legal entity it is still owned by the member schools.
“The schools are the actual members and therefore the foundation has a responsibility and is committed to not compete for the same fundraising dollars,” Koornneef says.
FNHCS is encouraging its supporters to make planned giving arrangements as part of their estate planning or otherwise. To date, however, the majority of the foundation’s current assets of approximately $900,000 have come from school supporters who are alive and well. But these contributions have been unsolicited and have not deflected any financial support from the member schools, according to Koornneef.
The director explains that planned giving or legacy giving is not just about planning one’s parting gift.
“An increasing number of people have realized the benefits, specifically the tax-savings benefits, and experienced the joy of also ‘sending it ahead,’ knowing that their gift will be managed and/or preserved such that it provides long-term support for the school or schools of their choice.”
In terms of the annual general endowment earnings gifted annually to the respective member schools, the school boards have full discretion as to the use of the funds.
The foundation also has an ever-increasing number of special funds, including named endowments, memorial endowments and several donor-advised funds where intended uses have been pre-determined by the donor or suggested by the donor on an ongoing basis.
“All designations must generally be approved by the foundation board and in some cases by the respective school board to ensure it encompasses the mission and vision of both the foundation and school,” says Koornneef.
Each special fund includes a provision that should the original intended need be met fully or no longer exist in the future, the foundation board, in consultation with the respective school board, can alter the intended use.
Since its inception in 1998, FNHCS has disbursed hundreds of thousands of dollars to its member schools. Not all has come from endowment earnings. As a public foundation it is also allowed to facilitate flow-through gifts to its member schools.
This has taken place in a variety of ways, including several gifts of appreciated securities as well as a $250,000 capital campaign pledge that is currently being received by one of the member schools by means of five annual $50,000 gifts.
“This donor was seeking an extra layer of anonymity but was also intentional through this act in helping provide additional exposure for our foundation,” says Koornneef.
In terms of endowment earnings, to date these contributions have not been large, relative to the overall size of the school operating budgets, according to Koornneef. But the schools always welcome a contribution in any amount.
He adds that the amounts to be gifted this fall are much larger than they were even five years ago and will continue to grow each year forward.
In Koornneef’s view, FNHCS is well on its way in terms of becoming a strong financial support for its member schools “but at the same time there is still much more to do.
“For the long-term financial viability of our schools it’s time to be bold, not complacent,” he says.
To learn more about FNHCS, visit www.foundationniagara.ca.
Note: The foundation is in the process of changing its name from the Foundation for Niagara Christian Schools to the Foundation for Niagara & Hamilton area Christian Schools.
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