Like most parents in the independent school world, you may have noticed that benefit season has descended upon us with all of its glitz, glam, paddle-raising, raffle tickets, and more.
All across our city, schools are renting out beautiful event spaces and throwing glamorous parties to wine, dine, and celebrate their families, of course, but it’s also for one very big, often very important reason: to make a request.
Benefits often include a raffle and/or auction of highly-coveted items, ranging from theater tickets, spa treatments, sports memorabilia, and even vacation packages. There is also generally a reverse auction to directly benefit the school. More on that later.
If you’re new to this world, stick with us. While the whole concept may seem a little foreign or overwhelming, leaving questions of what to wear, how to bid, what to bid on, and how much to spend, the benefits of such an evening will overshadow any pre-event anxiety and confusion.
As independent schools operate on a not-for-profit model, they rely on the generous donations from within and outside the community to fully function and offer an unparalleled educational experience for each child.
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “But I already knew all of this and I already donated to my school’s Annual Fund.” And to that, we say: That’s fantastic! However, there’s a big difference between donating to an annual fund and contributing to your school’s annual benefit.
Donating to the annual fund supports day-to-day operations of the school. The nuts and bolts that keep the school running. Funds can go toward anything from paying the electric bills to staffing the technology cart with iPads or ensuring that the floors are cleaned at the end of each day.
A benefit is the time for a school to dream big, considering a major enhancement to make to its facilities or its programming that will directly and immediately benefit the community. While donating to a school’s annual fund is contributing significantly to the day-to-day, participating in your school’s benefit allows you to have a direct and immediate impact on a much-needed initiative or transformation.
Perhaps your school would like to make enhancements to its music program and needs additional instruments and training. Or maybe the security system needs updating or an overhaul. Perhaps your school, like ours once did, would like to provide a summer study fund for faculty to expand their horizons and bring their findings back to their classrooms in the fall. Benefits may even raise monies for structural enhancements, new wings, buildings, green spaces, maker spaces, and more.
And at the end of the day, what that means is more for your child.
So before you stuff your suit jacket or dress back into the closet, consider what attending your school’s benefit will do for not only your school community, but the community at large. By participating, whether by dropping a single raffle ticket into a jar or raising your paddle for a predetermined sum, you are contributing to the betterment of your child’s overall social and educational experience.
Benefits are more than just a chance to dress up and celebrate. It’s a display of community and involvement and pride. And, you know what they say: Donating has social and emotional benefits as well. Often just knowing that you sacrificed your time or finances to help others, especially for a cause you believe in, can give you a greater sense of satisfaction and purpose in life.
So as we all await those brighter days and the warmer weather that’s to come, consider putting a spring in your step, at the very least, by donning that tie and those fancy shoes for a good cause. Your children.
Alissa Riccardelli is the Director of Communications at The Caedmon School. She previously worked staffing high-need NYC public schools through the NYC Teaching Fellows program, and taught in the English Composition and Creative Writing departments at Manhattanville College.