K-12 Schools

Mulgrave School shifts fundraising strategy to support families during COVID-19.


Mulgrave School, an independent day school in Vancouver serving prekindergarten through 12th grade, committed to keeping its school family united during COVID-19—including providing financial assistance to fill in tuition payment gaps. With the right fundraising and relationship solution in place, the school raised $100,000 for its Community Relief Fund in just two months.

When COVID-19 began impacting Mulgrave School—the International School of Vancouver—administrators wrote to families with a commitment to stay united. In practice, that meant shifting to e-learning, virtual events, and a fundraising strategy that made preserving enrollment a top priority.

“Parents have lost their jobs, and they don’t know where their income is going to come from,” said Elizabeth Calderon, assistant head of school. “They know there’s a recovery in the future, but in the meantime, they’re thinking, ‘Not only do I have this uncertainty of my job being gone, but now I might have to take away from my child the place that brings her a sense of community.’”

In just two months Mulgrave School raised $100,000 for its Community Relief Fund and pledged to support any family in need for the coming school year. The school would pay monthly to cover tuition for as long as needed within the academic year—with no requirement for repayment.

“It’s really about showing support for our parents for our community—and demonstrating a tremendous amount of empathy for our neighbors,” Calderon said. “To be able to go to them and say, ‘You can count on us’ has meant the world to them.”

Simplifying Processes

Mulgrave School partners with Blackbaud for several key functions, including fundraising and relationship management, marketing, fund accounting, and both enrollment management and student record management.

Calderon said the shift to Blackbaud enrollment management in 2019 proved seamless for getting students on board. Blackbaud’s student records management solution also reduced paperwork and administrative time by guiding parents through all necessary forms in one central, secure location. That same level of ease and access became critical as fundraising moved virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Blackbaud is so far advanced in terms of how we’re able to quickly access numbers, reporting, donors, and donor patterns,” Calderon said. “It’s been really nice to see how those donors overlap with past capital campaigns and our annual fund as well—and being able to see that story on one screen.”

As Mulgrave’s donations shifted solely online, Blackbaud’s flagship fundraising and relationship management solution, Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge NXT, made it easy to pull in donor data with every payment. And the Credit Card Updater capability within Blackbaud Merchant Services avoided wasted staff time and awkward conversations. As Calderon noted, “You don’t have to make the phone call to say, ‘Oh your card is expiring… Can we get the new one?’”

Culture-Based Fundraising

Looking past the Community Relief Fund, the Mulgrave School team aims to grow its monthly sustainer gifts in 2021. “Anything we can do to make a donation convenient is going to be key,” Calderon said.

Digital communications and marketing assistant Aleah Bowerman, who manages Mulgrave’s online campaigns, said Blackbaud’s marketing solutions simplifies the process of embedding donation forms on the school’s website. In fact, when Calderon attended bbcon 2019—the tech gathering for social good—a speaker pledged to donate to the attendee who made a gift to his or her organization the fastest. Calderon won.

Ease of use, coupled with a deep connection to purpose, will drive Mulgrave’s fundraising efforts beyond COVID-19. “The main thing is to stay true to our culture and ethos,” Calderon said. “If we are a sustainable model for fundraising, making sure the culture of philanthropy is authentic and comes from the community will be key.”

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