Several years ago, the Telluride Mountain School (TMS) Board of Trustees began exploring strategic ways to increase the school’s financial sustainability. These discussions led to the âHonoring the Legacy, Securing the Futureâ fundraising campaign – TMS ‘largest fundraising effort since the initial purchase of its property and building in Lawson Hill. The goal is to pay off existing debt, purchase an adjacent property, provide parking and planned outdoor learning spaces, and establish an endowment fund.
During the initial ‘quiet’ phase of the campaign, TMS planned, trained and launched an International Baccalaureate program in the high school and, in 2017, expanded its campus by purchasing adjacent land, which is currently being developed. development in parking lot.
âWe didn’t have a long-term parking plan other than the area where the kids are currently playing, right in front of the school,â said TMS school principal Andy Shoff. âWe couldn’t make any improvements to our campus until we met our parking needs. “
Two years ago, TMS successfully paid off debt on its current Lawson Hill plant to the tune of $ 1.4 million.
âNow we are able to spend the money we were putting in debt, which was around $ 150,000 a year, directly into operations,â Shoff said.
Testing the waters around financial support during the initial and dynamic phase of the campaign, while raising around $ 3 million, TMS aligned feasibility with major donors to target the appropriate campaign size. Now the school is embarking on one more public final push to end its campaign.
âWe wanted to achieve as many goals as possible without depleting our donor base or making false promises,â Shoff said. âTypically, you want to go about three-quarters of the way in the first phase before you go public with the campaign. And that’s pretty much where we’re at.
The school hopes to raise the last million dollars to support the initial phase of a master plan for the best uses of the campus and finally build an endowment.
âAs part of our master plan, which was part of the campaign process, we thought about what we could do with the extra space and have concept drawings to potentially increase the building area as we plan for growth. of the student body, âShoff explained.
The first step in the master plan is to redesign the planned outdoor learning space directly in front of the school to create an age-appropriate wooded play area that blends into the topographic and naturalistic landscape.
âWe will go through a process of designing these outdoor and planned learning spaces with the school community so that there is input from students, parents, alumni and community members,â Shoff said. . âI hope we will innovate next summer. “
Thanks to the main and follow-up donations from TMS donors, Shoff is happy that an endowment is finally established for the school.
âThe sooner you establish and endow, the better; it’s an investment, âhe said. âIt is an important indicator and tool of financial stability and an opportunity for donors to give even when we are not in campaign time. “
With the goal of reaching $ 500,000 to start the endowment by the end of the campaign, the endowment money will directly fuel operations, faculty development and support families with tuition assistance. .
âBy supporting financial aid and scholarships, the TMS Endowment will help make independent school education more affordable for more students,â said Campaign Chair Patty Arndt. âEndowment funds will also help make our compensation more competitive. “
Arndt acknowledged that TMS had faced donor fatigue against other fundraising campaigns across town and said meeting donors in person during the pandemic had been a challenge.
“As a small and young school, we have what I would call a limited ‘natural’ population – current and former families – on which we generally depend for fundraising,” she added. âSince usually 45% of the student body receives some form of financial aid, this pool is shrinking even more. “
Strategic communications and fundraising consultant Jennifer Pusatere noted that this will be a general endowment, giving the school some flexibility.
âFirst and foremost, the main amount (of the endowment) will remain intact and (the school) will only spend / use the income and, depending on the returns, will only use a specific percentageâ, a- she explained.
The fundraising campaign is in addition to the school’s need to raise funds for its annual fund, which costs between $ 300,000 and $ 500,000 each year, which covers tuition assistance, professional development and offsets the costs associated with experiential education, a mainstay of the school. As an independent school, TMS does not receive support from local, state, or federal agencies. Income and tuition cover only 80% of the running costs of the school, with the rest funded by donors, foundations and grants.
âEach year we get very close to 100% support of the annual fund from the current families, faculty and board,â Shoff noted proudly.
TMS hopes to complete its fundraising campaign this year. To donate, contact [email protected]