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Support for Christian school foundations in Ontario grows

Written on February 4th, 2008

Person-to-person contact gets results, say directors

After their father passed away last spring a Niagara-area family arranged for memorial contributions to be made to the Foundation for Niagara Christian Schools. The father had been a life-long supporter of Christian schools and had included the foundation in his will so the memorial contribution was a natural way to honour him.

The family says they also made this decision because the foundation is a “great cause”.

There are now four regional Christian school foundations in Ontario. Each has six or seven member schools.

The foundations are put forward as one way to ensure the long-term financial viability of Christian schools.

The London District Christian Education Foundation, created in 1990, describes its purpose as helping to ensure Christian education for future generations.

“The Foundation is a far-sighted solution to the problems of rising costs and rising tuition fees,” states the LDCEF website.

Support for these charitable foundations is growing gradually, according to directors.

“It takes time to plant the seeds and develop relationships. It takes many years for that process to bear fruit,” says Henry Koornneef executive director of the Foundation for Niagara Christian Schools, which was incorporated in 1997. He says they are anticipating the FNCS assets to pass the million-dollar threshold in the short term.

The Niagara foundation is promoted with an annual fall dinner, two or three newsletters yearly, columns in member school newsletters, and presentations at various events when appropriate.

Koornneef notes the foundation aims to reach school supporters of all ages, including the allied professionals in the community who, he says, “are a key component to helping us move forward with their clients.”

The most effective way to raise awareness and garner support appears to be through one-on-one mutual encouragement by people to others in their peer group.

“One person makes arrangements and, because they feel good about it, they encourage someone else to do it as well,” says Koornneef.

The Grand River Advancement of Christian Education (GRACE) Foundation was established in 2001 to support Christian schools in the Grand River watershed. Its goal is to raise $20 million in 20 years for an endowment fund.

Gary VanArragon, president of the directors of the foundation, also notes the growth in support is gradual.

About $400,000 has been allocated to date for the GRACE charitable organization.

He concurs that person-to-person contact appears to be most successful in raising further support.

The GRACE foundation has just launched a newsletter to raise awareness about its existence and value. The foundation’s board of directors includes a representative from each member school and that director is expected to promote the foundation within his or her school as well.

VanArragon says that the target audience for promotional activity has been traditional Christian school supporters to date.

The Central Ontario Christian Education Foundation (COCEF) has been longest in existence of the four foundations. It was set up in 1978 with three member schools, which expanded to seven in 2001. Each school is represented by two director positions on the COCEF board. The total funds held by COCEF has passed $600,000.

With each foundation, the goal is to gather funds in the form of a charitable gift, bequests in wills and trusts, memorial gifts on behalf of a loved one, gifts of real estate, securities, life insurance, deposit agreements and charitable gift annuities.

Endowment funds are established for each member school society.

The planned gifts directed to an appointed school or schools are invested and earnings generated from the gifts are flowed back to the school to provide funds for a range of needs.