Q&A wIth Chief Development Officer Rima Zaitoon
Q: First, welcome to King’s Academy! Can you give me an idea of your background and why you chose to join King’s?
A: Before coming here, I spent quite a bit of time doing fundraising for schools and universities, including Yale University and my alma maters, International College (IC) and the American University of Beirut (AUB). I grew up in Lebanon and then spent about 30 years living in the United States, so I am happy to be coming back to work in the Middle East.
I decided to come to King’s because it is an amazing institution. It started from scratch, and it has accomplished so much in six years. I met some alumni at an event in Boston, and I was inspired by how much they love the school. It’s a sign of a great place when the graduates are so happy and can’t wait to go back to visit.
Q: Where has funding for King’s traditionally come from?
A: When the school first started, there was a global outreach to the people who would benefit from such an institution in the region. Friends of His Majesty King Abdullah II and friends of the school’s trustees stepped forward to help realize this vision and to bring the best in American education to the region. Individuals from these different circles gave very generous gifts that made the creation of this institution possible. In the future, parents and alumni will play an important role. Various parents have already been very generous over the years.
Q: Why should a potential donor consider giving to King’s?
A: The cost of educating a student at King’s greatly exceeds the cost of tuition. As a new school, King’s does not have a big endowment to sustain its activities. In fact, tuition accounts for less than half of the operating budget. So there is a need for funding to support day-to-day costs and to sustain the Academy’s commitment to excellence.
King’s is a worthy cause because it is a unique educational institution in the Middle East. His Majesty has brought the best of the American prep school education home to Jordan. An education at King’s is not only about classroom learning; it’s also about life learning: building relationships, becoming a global citizen and developing leadership skills.
Giving also opens doors to students who wouldn’t be able to afford a King’s education without financial aid. When His Majesty founded the Academy, he wanted talented young kids from all walks of life to be able to enroll regardless of their financial means.
Q: What are the biggest development challenges King’s faces, and how do you plan to overcome them?
A: Our biggest challenge is that King’s is a young school, which means we do not yet have a large alumni body that gives back financially. But fortunately the Academy has wonderful parents and a committed board of trustees with a great network. Another big plus is the support of His Majesty’s Deerfield Academy classmates from the Class of 1980, who have already made very generous gifts.
For those who aren’t already affiliated with King’s, the school’s story is compelling. The value of the school and its importance to the region and its people are tremendous. Just have a look at the amazing graduates out there.
Q: It seems like these obstacles are not insurmountable. What are your near-term and long-term goals?
A: Our immediate goal is to reach out to our very generous donors to thank them for what they’ve done and show them where the school is today thanks to their contributions. Meanwhile, we plan to raise spendable gifts that will support day-to-day operations, financial aid and capital projects.
Our longer term goal is to lay the framework for a major fundraising campaign. We plan to gradually grow the endowment, which will provide a reliable source of income in perpetuity. As our alumni graduate from college and begin working and giving, their gifts will be an important part of achieving this objective.
Q: King’s alumni haven’t yet graduated from university and may not be able to make large monetary gifts. How can they help out with development efforts?
A: Alumni can play a very important role in networking. Having them attend events to talk about their experience is a great help to us. When I hear recent graduates talk, it makes me want to give them all my money! Their passion for King’s makes them great ambassadors and fundraisers. They are already thinking of how they can give back, but their resources are limited. Of course, we accept gifts large and small, but the best way young alumni can contribute at this point is by representing King’s well and being mentors to fresh graduates.
Q: So if I’m a young alumnus or a friend of King’s and I want to give, where would the money go?
A: If you’re interested in directing your gift toward a specific initiative, we will gladly welcome it. The needs are many!
The most critical areas in need of funding are financial aid and the operating budget, which includes maintenance of the facilities and grounds that our students use. Curriculum development and faculty support are equally important. This is a new school where the biggest revenue source is tuition. If the entire operating cost were passed on to the families of our students, tuition would be prohibitively expensive.
Financial aid is also a priority because 45 percent of our students receive some form of assistance and yet there is no reliable stream of revenue to support this program. This percentage is pretty high compared to similar schools of this size. Last year the Academy gave over $4 million in financial assistance to students.
As a relatively new institution, King’s offers plenty of naming opportunities through which it can recognize the generosity of major donors. As you walk around campus, you will see names of donors whose gifts have supported the construction of buildings and classrooms. There are also opportunities to name programs and faculty chairs. There’s nothing we’d love more than to recognize people who have been generous to the school in this way. No matter how you give, the money will go to one of the many great causes at the school.
Q: You’ve convinced me: I want to make a gift! How do I go about doing that?
A: You can contact the Development Office either in person or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and make a gift via check, cash or wire transfer. Keep an eye out for future mailings!