After making parents insane from the admissions process, it seems that more and more private schools are then putting the screws to parents by asking them how much they'll donate. And don't think $200 or even $1,000 will cut it: The NY Times begins its story by describing how one woman, whose three-year-old son was at a $21,000/year private school, was approached:
[Rachael Combe] received an invitation from the head of the school to come by for a visit. She assumed the meeting was to discuss how her son was adapting to the school’s curriculum.
Instead, the head of school explained that he was laying the groundwork for a new capital campaign, and that he had already received commitments from various families — some up to $1 million. Would Ms. Combe and her husband consider a gift of “even $25,000 to $50,000?”
That's not all: Apparently, "Schools are mining online data for details about parents’ homes, luxury cars, private planes, stock holdings and donations to other charities. So-called development offices, once the domain of part-time administrators and school volunteers, have been elevated along with the titles of those running them, who are now known as chief advancement officers, directors of philanthropy and heads of strategic initiatives. Heads of school report spending much of their time in search of money, according to surveys." And it's working, since annual giving has risen 268% in the past decade, but it seems that more of the money is coming from the top 5% parents: "The back-of-the-envelope assumption is that families with more than $5 million in assets often give away up to $500,000 annually."
Why do schools need money? Well, tuition (which at some schools is $40,000/year) only covers 80% of school expenses. Combe told the Times that the request for money was a turn-off, because even though she and her husband can afford their son's tuition, they couldn't afford a $25,000-50,000 donation, "It just made clear everything that was making me uncomfortable about New York City private schools." So they moved to Westchester.