Every Gift Matters

By Jennifer K. Burns P’19, Assistant Head of School: Advancement & External Affairs

   Jenn and her son, Jason Burns '19.

$1.8 billion. That’s BILLION, with a “B.” A number so large that it’s tough to wrap your mind around it, to really understand what that number means and can do. And Michael Bloomberg gave it away. Just handed it to his alma mater with one goal — to make education at that institution accessible for all, regardless of their income level or ability to pay.

The generosity and the vision staggered me. As someone who has worked in administration at independent primary and secondary schools for over a decade, I paused for a moment and thought about what it would be like for an institution to not have to worry about their admitted students having the ability to pay, not to have to constantly wonder what the Financial Aid budget would rise to this year. You see, folks in education want everyone to have access to a quality education and having to take into account socio-economic factors often feels unfair to us, even as we realize that the budget has to balance each year. Now, thanks to the generosity of one person, one institution no longer has to have that internal dissonance … ever again.

Such is the power of philanthropy. Certainly, gifts like Bloomberg’s are noteworthy for their size and impact… but it’s important to remember that Mr. Bloomberg didn’t start his philanthropy at this level. Every gift matters. And while overall charitable giving is up — American individuals, estates, corporations and foundations gave a total of $410 billion to charities in 2017, according to the Giving USA 2018 report, a $20 billion increase from the previous year — the number of households that give to charity is decreasing. That means that fewer people are making gifts to the causes that they care about.

Today, I make the case for the non-mega gift. Don’t get me wrong, if I get a phone call tomorrow from someone who wants to discuss a contribution that starts with a “B”... I’m taking that call. But those feel somewhat magical for most institutions.

It’s the everyday Annual Fund gift that keeps our organizations going. The one that demonstrates commitment to an organization and allows us to keep the lights on today, and feel confident in planning for tomorrow because our solid foundation of supporters believe what they do matters. At Solebury, we’re a small school — each year, only about 50 individuals join our alumni ranks. And yet, among our donors last year, I was astonished by the number of individuals who had been giving for decades and what their cumulative giving meant for our school.

So maybe your gift to the organization you love isn’t $1.8 billion. So what? Don’t let that stop you or be an excuse. Your gift matters. Regardless of its size, your gift can change lives. It can help find a cure for disease, advance research, preserve history, protect the environment, provide an education, and so much more. Don’t let this moment pass you by and don’t miss the opportunity to make a difference.

Finally, best wishes during this season of giving and light. Enjoy every remaining moment of 2018 and may the New Year bring bounty, opportunity, and joy to you and those you love.