BSM uses donations in order to improve experience


Muriel Ruppert

BSM spends money on internal improvements, like the parking lot.

As a private, catholic school, BSM can not rely on governmental funding; it must support itself. Tuition makes up a large part of the yearly intake; however, it cannot fill all of the costs of the school. The rest of these must be made up in donations, both small and large. Recently the school has received an anonymous donation of one million dollars, which begs the question: how are these large donations procured?

Within BSM’s economic development department, there is a group of people working specifically on getting such donations to fund large projects for the school. Rebecca Kolis is the Chief Advancement Officer and coordinates all gifts, large and small. She is often the first contact with donors and continues to be in communication with them throughout the process. Dr. Ehrmantraut also is involved, mostly with the large donations and to speak with potential donors about the school. Michael Charles, the Advancement Director, as well as a team of volunteers who comprise the Steering Committee and the Board of Directors, are also involved with the donations. Though they are behind the scenes, they work diligently to guide the use of donations, as well as contact, keep in touch with, and thank donors. “It’s important to…always be talking to people,” Kolis said.

Not every donation is a million dollars. There are many ‘smaller’ donations that are given behind the scenes that do not get as much press. From monthly donations, to donations of tens of thousands of dollars or more, BSM is receiving regular support from its community. “Some families have done more than we thought, some…couldn’t do as much, but they want to be involved….It doesn’t matter if it’s 20 dollars or a million dollars; it definitely helps,” Kolis said.

For a large donation, such as the million dollar one, the process can vary dramatically. Most of the time, a person or family who is already donating to the school regularly is asked to donate more for the purpose of a large project or school addition. First, someone must make contact with the person or family in question to see if they would like to donate. It can take just one conversation to convince them that BSM is a worthy recipient of their assets but, more often, it takes a series of conversations, visits, and tours to show them the school’s finer points. “There is kind of a science to it,” Kolis said.

I’m always telling the story of how that impacts our students and how that plays out over the course of the future

— Dr. Adam Ehrmantraut

The financial department conducts meetings with potential donors, schedules tours, and organizes group presentations. The campaigns themselves require the participation of administration, teachers, parents, and students. There are brochures made with pictures of students and videos with footage of classrooms and testimonials. These types of activities create a sense of community within the donors. “With this campaign, we did events where we showed a video and we talked about how it will change the school,” Kolis said.

Dr. Adam Ehrmantraut, the president of BSM, is also involved in this stage of the process. He talks extensively with families who are seriously considering a donation to express what the money could mean to the school. “Any time we sit down with someone who is considering making…a significant gift to BSM, I’m always telling the story of how that impacts our students and how that plays out over the course of the future,” Ehrmantraut said.

In the end, every dollar is designed to improve the student experience.

— Dr. Adam Ehrmantraut

Once a donor is committed to donating, they must fill out the accompanying paperwork. Part of this includes documenting how they would like the money to be used, how they would like to contribute, and over what period of time. During this process, and even after the donation is made, the donors are in frequent contact with the school’s financial department. “No matter how much you’re asking for…it can feel a little nerve-racking, but you also feel good about what you’re asking for,” Kolis said.

The use of the current million dollar gift, and others involved with the most recent campaign, has already been outlined. The donations will go a long way towards improvements and upgrades to the facility, training for the teachers and employees, and the school’s endowment. “In the end, every dollar is designed to improve the student experience,” Ehrmantraut said.