An Extraordinary Campaign Gift

Martin Roper, Susan Littlefield and Headmaster Steve Hinds

Martin Roper, Susan Littlefield and Headmaster Steve Hinds

Susan Littlefield, a Vice President of Meadowbrook’s Board of Trustees, and her husband Martin Roper -- parents to Christopher (class of 2015), second grader Peter and fourth grader Thomas -- were one of the first couples that we talked to about the current capital campaign, way before it was even titled “Imagine More,” back in January 2015.  After we reviewed the goals of the campaign -- $25 million for the new Academic Center, $5 million for financial aid, and $5 million for the Steve Hinds Faculty Support Program -- the couple responded quite clearly:  they would make an immediate and significant gift, and they wanted to keep it unrestricted.  

A few weeks ago, Director of Advancement Janice Thompson sat down with Susan and Martin to once again thank them for their extraordinary gift.  She also wanted to find out why they chose to structure their campaign commitment the way that they did, and what motivated their philanthropy.  

She asked them:  there are many specific ways that donors can choose to make an impact on this campaign, both in the building and endowment areas.  You gave your gift very early in the process, and you chose not to target any one of those “buckets.”  Can you tell me a bit more about that?  

Martin: we made this commitment in recognition of what Meadowbrook has meant to our family’s lives over the past 11 years.  We trust and have faith in the governance structure and leadership of Meadowbrook to allocate the money because they see the best uses of the gift for current and future generations.

Susan:  I feel very comfortable that the team that drives the school will use the money in a very effective way, will continue to make it an exemplary organization for my kids, for their classmates, and for future generations of students.  We love the different campaign goals -- the new building, the endowment initiatives -- and we understand that many people like to see the specific impact their donations have on the school.  But we wanted to give Steve and the leadership of the school as much flexibility as possible in the use of our gift.  

Janice asked:  how has this perspective of trust developed over the years since Christopher joined the JK class in 2004?  

Susan: we certainly didn’t come in considering the overall management of the school -- we knew its reputation for rigorous academics, and were impressed with Steve’s passion for the school when we interviewed with him, a passion that we didn’t necessarily see in other headmasters.  Over time as we’ve watched how the school is led, how it has changed, how the curriculum constantly changes, and how our teachers “know, love and challenge” all three of our boys more and more with each passing year, our dedication has just grown along with it.  

Martin:  at first we were very impressed with Steve and with the teachers.  But as we’ve gotten more involved, through various committees, and now with Susan’s being on the board, we’ve  seen firsthand the changes Susan is talking about.  I’m a numbers kind of guy, so I’ve watched projects like the new gym, the MacDowell Center, the new fields -- along with the increase in teacher support through programs like the MLI and other professional development -- from a capital perspective with amazement and admiration.  I’ve seen that this investment has been made by the school and by past donors for current and future students, and it hasn’t come from the Annual Fund.  

Tell me more about that -- how do you feel your gift fits in with past and future campaigns?

Martin:  by the time Peter graduates, we will have been at Meadowbrook for 17 years.  Usually a family is at the school for just one campaign, and that’s true for us.  We came at the tail end of Pillars (the last capital campaign) so we weren’t heavily involved with that one.  When we thought about our Imagine More commitment, we thought about those 17 years, and came up with a number that we thought was a good one to recognize that entire span -- almost like an amortization.  

Susan:  those buildings that Martin was talking about earlier, we know that they were made possible by donors before us, and our kids benefited from them.  The fields across the street just came on-line when Christopher started using them for sports.  He had a classmate from a family who named the new gym.  We feel like we can do our part to advance that past trend for future classes of students.  

At $35 million, this campaign is by far the most audacious in Meadowbrook’s history.  Can you comment on that?  

Susan:  It’s right for Meadowbrook to be ambitious. It’s a school at the top of its game, it’s had tremendous leadership, Steve has created an incredible legacy and an incredible team at the school. The campaign has the right set of goals. They are going to enhance the school community as well as how teachers teach.  

Martin:  Unless you set ambitious goals you’ll only achieve the ordinary.  As Susan says, the school is at the top of its game, able to attract an incredible array of students, parents, administrators and faculty.  We should seize the opportunity if we have the opportunity to cement that for the future.  These chances come cyclically -- they don’t come every year or even every decade -- there is an opportunity here for a very ambitious project, and we should take it.

One last question.  You really stretched to make this gift.  Should others as well?

Susan:  We’ve seen other people stretch over the years.  They’ve really done a lot, and we thought it was appropriate for us to do that, too.  To follow others’ lead.

 

Martin:  We’ve decided to focus our philanthropy toward three or four organizations, and we think Meadowbrook should get a reasonable share of that decision.  As parents we are all still growing our careers, and when you think about it, we’re always stretching, whether we’re buying a house or starting a new company.  These decisions -- these commitments -- might feel like a stretch now, but they won’t feel like that in five years’ time.  They will become a natural part of what you think is important. We are very happy to stretch and support Meadowbrook’s current success and future potential.

 

Annual Funds and Capital Campaigns: Compare and Contrast

At this time of year, when we celebrate many different kinds of holidays, and when many people think of giving back, non-profit organizations often ask their members to consider supporting them with a donation.  

This is what we do at Meadowbrook.  From November into December, we send letters to everyone in our community -- current and past parents, grandparents, alumni, faculty, friends -- to participate in the Annual Fund.  

We also just launched the Imagine More capital campaign last September.  

Many people have asked us:  what is the difference between the Annual Fund and the campaign?  Should we split our normal year-end gift to the Annual Fund so some of it goes to the campaign?

To answer that question, let's first start with the Annual Fund.

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At Meadowbrook, tuition covers roughly 80% of our total costs in any given year.  The rest of it is covered to a large part by fundraising -- mostly through the Annual Fund.

Contributions to the Annual Fund, then, support every aspect of the Meadowbrook experience -- from faculty salaries to professional development to technology to textbooks to utilities and facilities.  In a very important way, the Annual Fund makes Meadowbrook the wonderful experience it is for our students.  

Every year our costs increase -- mostly driven by our commitment to keeping faculty salaries within the top three of our competitors, reflecting our mission to know, love and challenge each child through our amazing teachers -- and tuition costs rise to address them.  It is vital that our Annual Fund increases every year in a commensurate way, as it is embedded in our operating budget.

Now, capital campaigns are similar to the Annual Fund in that they involve fundraising.  But while the Annual Fund supports every aspect of the Meadowbrook operating budget, campaigns have targeted goals, usually divided between endowment and building projects.  The Imagine More campaign's overall goal is $35 million:  $25 million to build a new Academic Commons and Lower School, and $10 million to add to our endowment.  Please see the home page of this site to see more details about these vital goals.  

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In addition, campaigns are different from the Annual Fund in that they tend to be cyclical:  they tend to last 3-5 years in duration, with years -- sometimes many, sometimes few -- between them.  In contrast, Annual Funds are conducted yearly and regularly.

At Meadowbrook, our Imagine More campaign is part of a long-term and carefully planned facilities and endowment program -- the natural result of our strategic plan as well as past campaigns.

So what do we advise our donors when we talk to them about the campaign?  We say:  first, please don't decrease your normal Annual Fund gift.  In fact, you may even consider increasing it slightly throughout the duration of the campaign and beyond, as it is part of our annual budgeting process.  Indeed, our biggest goal for the Annual Fund is to encourage 100% participation from all of our current parents.  

When you think about the campaign, think about our two goals -- to increase our endowment and to build the building that our children need to learn in today's classrooms -- and see if any of the campaign's initiatives speak to you.  And think about how you might want to make a special one-time contribution -- payable over several years if it is convenient -- to help the school move into the future. 

If you have any questions about any of our fundraising initiatives, please contact Janice Thompson, Director of Advancement, at jthompson@meadowbrook-ma.org.  

Thank you!

A history lesson from the Head of School

Dear Meadowbrook parent,

By now you’ve heard the news:  Imagine More is an audacious campaign.  It will transform our campus and our financial underpinnings, paving the way for us to prepare our students for an ever-changing future.  

Since our launch event in September, many people have asked me:  where does this campaign fit into the history of the school?  Where did it come from?   

As I’ve said countless times:  I’m a history guy.  You can’t ask me questions like that without my wanting to give everyone the complete context!  And I thank each and every one of those people who asked me the question -- because it gives me the opportunity to tell you all the story.   

The school's first capital campaign ("Meadowbrook 500") after the school was built was launched as far back as 1977; this campaign seeded the school's first significant endowment and built the current Lower School building.  In 1989 the Campaign for Meadowbrook added to the endowment and built the Grinker Gym.  A similar campaign was launched in 1996, increasing the endowment and building the current Library.  In 2000 the school raised $8.5 million to build the Middle School and the building that is now called The Vinik Family Center.  The last complete campaign was launched in 2006; the Pillars of Excellence campaign provided $18 million to build the MacDowell Center, the soccer fields on the other side of Farm Road, and increase the school's endowment.  In short, almost every square foot of our current students' facilities has been created for them through past giving.  In addition, today’s tuition rates are at the mean compared to our peer schools even though student/teacher ratios continue to be low, and our programs are robust and innovative; this is all due to 40 years of endowment and Annual Fund fundraising.  A few weeks ago I was talking with a couple about a campaign gift.  They said it best: “we keep talking about the future of Meadowbrook, and we really should -- that’s what this campaign is about.  But in reality, our kids today benefit from what yesterday’s families built for us.  We get that.”  

So what about the more current history of the Imagine More campaign?

The seeds of Imagine More were planted all of three years ago, when the Board of Trustees and I started taking a close look at our campus.  Even with all the improvements, there were storm clouds.  Some of inner workings -- electric, gas, etc. -- were old, and we had to think about whether we should replace them.  When the Middle School was built, it was planned for smaller class sizes than we had now.  When we added a classroom for Mandarin, we had to carve it out of the faculty room!  We were clearly “bursting at the seams.”

At around the same time, the Board initiated a new strategic planning process.  This might be letting you in on some inside baseball (!), but back then there was some debate about the scope of our plans.  The last strategic plan had been approved in 2010, but it was an updated version of an older plan.  Should we just keep updating the existing plan, taking into account some minor changes on campus?

Then something fascinating happened.  We knew we wanted to move fast on the plan -- after all, that’s the Meadowbrook way! -- but the trustees, in their infinite wisdom, stopped the process.  They were reading the same media stories we were, and many of them, working in industry, could see firsthand:  the world for which we are training our children is not only different, but almost unrecognizable to the one we inherited.  Schools, corporations, universities -- so many of them were adapting to this new world.  There were new ways of thinking, of learning, of collaborating with each other, of defining and solving problems.  What better time to stop for a moment, go out into “the market” and learn about all of these advances?

So we spent the spring and summer of 2014 going on “environmental scans” -- groups of faculty, alumni, parents went to California, New York, Connecticut, and of course even here in Boston in our own backyard.  We talked with K-8 schools, companies like Facebook and Google, some new models of for-profit schools, and universities like Harvard, MIT and Stanford.  We wanted to know how they foster collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, and flexibility.  

And we came home, totally fired up and excited.  Filled with ideas for Meadowbrook.  We quickly came to the realization:  our plan for the campus, our plan for our strategic direction, just couldn’t be mere updates on the past.  To serve our students, both current and future, we need to transform our facilities.  We knew we had the curriculum already.  Our EurekaLab lessons taking place across all subjects, our outdoor education, our performance groupings, our long-held belief in hands-on learning -- it was all here.  We just didn’t have the space.

So the master plan and the strategic plan came together in a beautiful symmetry, both centered on our excellence in learning, teaching and community.  In those plans you can find the seeds of our campaign goals.  And in our campaign goals you can see the natural next step of all of our fundraising initiatives that came before.  

I couldn’t be prouder to be leading this charge.  Beyond the decision to create the Meadowbrook School in 1923 or to add a Middle School in 1998, this is the most important decision in our community’s history.   The rear view mirror having been aligned, it is time for us to drive forward into a most promising future.  

With gratitude,

Steve Hinds

Ami and Will Danoff name the new Innovation Center with a groundbreaking campaign gift

Jonathan Schmid, Meadowbrook's Director of Innovation and Technology; Headmaster Steve Hinds; Ami Danoff; Meadowbrook Board of Trustees President Tom Grape; Will Danoff -- in front of where the new Academic Commons and the Danoff Family Innovation Center will be located.

Jonathan Schmid, Meadowbrook's Director of Innovation and Technology; Headmaster Steve Hinds; Ami Danoff; Meadowbrook Board of Trustees President Tom Grape; Will Danoff -- in front of where the new Academic Commons and the Danoff Family Innovation Center will be located.

When Steve Hinds launched Imagine More: The Campaign for Meadowbrook at a well-attended, festive event held at the school on September 26, 2015, he announced that a small group of donors had already seeded the campaign with a total of over $12 million.  These early commitments were instrumental in our ability to reach the public phase of the campaign, and at the kick-off we thanked all 40 of these Meadowbrook supporters who built the foundation of this audacious initiative.  

One of these early and very transformative gifts came from Ami and Will Danoff, parents to Amelia (class of 2013), Andrew (class of 2015), and 7th grader Zan.  We are pleased to announce that the Danoffs have chosen to support our STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) program by naming the Danoff Family Innovation Center at the heart of the new Academic Commons.  

“Meadowbrook means the world to us,” Will said.  “We never could have imagined what a wonderful effect being part of the Meadowbrook community would have on our family. Our children have grown up here, and we have all made lasting friendships here. We have seen first-hand how the Meadowbrook mission of ‘knowing and loving your child’ has nurtured, molded and excited our children, and how each of them has had outstanding but different experiences. Our kids have loved their teachers, all of whom have nurtured them and been  great role models for them.  Ami and I are delighted to say thank you to the entire Meadowbrook community with our gift.”

The Danoff Family Innovation Center will house EurekaLab curriculum: hands-on design thinking, where students use empathy to identify issues and create and test solutions.  The Danoff Family Innovation Center -- which we are certain will come to be known as “the Danoff” -- will be used by every Meadowbrook student, JK-8.  Situated behind a curtain wall of glass adjacent to the new central rotunda, its constant buzz of activity will inspire all students and teachers to reach a new level of creativity.  

The Danoffs had a choice for what space they wanted to name in the new building and in the Lower School.  They were in agreement: “We have given our gift to name the Innovation Center because we are inspired by Meadowbrook’s embracing of the change in all aspects of education, but specifically technology.  We live in a time of enormous technological advancement, and we are really enthusiastic about helping Meadowbrook create a space where students and teachers can use technology to create and learn together.”

The Danoffs are proud to be one of the first families to commit to the Imagine More campaign.  “Capital campaigns are vital to all schools,” they said. “Meadowbrook is blessed with a smart and dedicated faculty which embraces new ideas in teaching. We need to ensure that our buildings are equally flexible and open so that teachers and students learn in the best environment possible. I hope that everyone will give in their own unique way so they can feel good about contributing to the progress and future of Meadowbrook.”

Will, the portfolio manager of the Fidelity Contrafund,  is a member of Meadowbrook’s Board of Trustees and co-chair of the Investment Committee.  Ami is a former Putnam portfolio manager.  

There are many ways that others may make an impact on the Imagine More capital campaign, including other naming opportunities in the new building and on endowment funds.  For more information, please call Janice Thompson, Director of Advancement, at 781-314-9203, or email jthompson@meadowbrook-ma.org.  

Meadowbrook Gathers Together to "Imagine More"

Oh what a night we had last Saturday, when the Meadowbrook community gathered together to officially kick off the new capital campaign. Imagine More: the Campaign for Meadowbrook was launched amidst a crowd of over 300 parents, alumni, past parents, and grandparents. Guests were given opportunities to build a wall-sized Lego mosaic of the Imagine More logo, and doodle on digital whiteboards with images and words highlighting their dreams for the future of Meadowbrook.  All to the tunes of a live band led by Seth Rosenbloom ‘07 and Stephanie Merinoff ‘08, fabulous food, and even a signature cocktail (the “Imagine More-tini”).

During the evening Steve Hinds, Board President Tom Grape, and Campaign Co-Chairs Kevin Callaghan, Jenny Seeman and Kent Weldon, spoke to the group about our audacious plans for this capital campaign, announcing that our goal is to raise $35 million: $25 million for a new Academic Commons, renovated Lower School, and Middle School classrooms, and $10 million for endowment in support of faculty and financial assistance.  Guests were encouraged to talk with faculty and JP Fine, Co-Chair of the Facilities Committee and John Tyler, member of the Facilities Committee, about the building models that were hung in various gallery areas of the room. Three videos, courtesy of Mike Scafati, beautifully outlined the reasons behind the campaign, our new building projects, and endowment goals.  

Many guests told us how much they enjoyed the evening, and how excited they are about this wonderful fundraising initiative.  Be sure to explore the Imagine More microsite to see the videos and learn even more about the campaign! 

 

Meadowbrook to Launch “Imagine More” Campaign on September 26

The Meadowbrook community will join together on Saturday, September 26 at 6:30pm to celebrate the beginning of an exciting new chapter in our school’s history. Imagine More: the Campaign for Meadowbrook will help secure the future of our school by raising critical funds for both endowment and a building project that will transform the center of our campus. Current parents, faculty, alumni, grandparents, and parents of alumni are all welcome to join us in the MacDowell Center as we collectively look to the future and dream big for Meadowbrook students of today and tomorrow. If you haven’t yet, please RSVP by sending an email to Donna Harper. See you there!