Frequently Asked Questions

What role does philanthropy play at Menlo School?

Thanks to the diligence and planning of the School’s administration and Trustees, Menlo is financially stable. The culture of philanthropy at Menlo is very strong and the community is very generous. Menlo relies on philanthropic contributions to fund a portion of the operating budget. Philanthropic contributions allow Menlo to provide the facilities, faculty, program and aid that make it a diverse community and one of excellence.


What is the Menlo School Annual Fund?

Menlo’s Annual Fund directly impacts every aspect of the School, and is the “margin of excellence” in all that we do. The School depends on the Annual Fund to contribute approximately 10% of the annual operating budget, which translates to $3.8 million this school year. The Annual Fund is also a tangible representation of Menlo’s powerful community culture of philanthropy. In 2017-2018, 99.0% of our current parents and 99.9% of faculty and staff supported the Annual Fund last year, showing that they believe in the School and want to make a difference in each student’s Menlo experience.

Gifts to the Annual Fund ensure that Menlo can:

  • Develop new academic initiatives
  • Expand offerings in academics, arts and athletics
  • Equip students, faculty and coaches with the resources they need
  • Enhance professional development opportunities for faculty and staff
  • Fund technological innovations
  • Attract and enroll the best students regardless of their financial means


What does the bulk of Annual Fund money go towards?

The Annual Fund, like our operating budget, primarily supports our faculty and our programs. 75% of Menlo’s operating budget goes to salary and benefits . This is in line with the national average. The Annual Fund supports all the operations of the School including the financial aid program. Menlo has awarded aid in the amount of $6 million in 2017 - 2018. About 22% of the students are receiving financial aid this year.


How do Menlo’s athletic and arts programs benefit from the Annual Fund?

Menlo’s athletics and arts programs are fully funded by the operating budget at a level which allows them to be excellent without need for additional fundraising. The Annual Fund is critical to that.


What is Menlo’s endowment? What is the draw on that endowment and what does it fund?

Menlo’s endowment is currently $45 million. Menlo’s draw is 4% of the past three years average value. Endowment (and other income) represent 7% of the operating budget. Funds from Endowment are used to fund financial aid, programs, and faculty support.


Why does Menlo have an Annual Fund rather than simply make tuition higher?

The Annual Fund helps us to keep our tuition at a level of affordability that promotes a diverse student body and to maintain a tuition that is competitive with our peer schools. All gifts to Menlo are tax-deductible.


We hear other schools talk about a tuition “gap.” What is Menlo’s “gap”?

The “gap” is the amount of the operating budget that is funded by the Annual Fund. That amount is approximately $4,800 per student.


Why is our leadership level at $5,000?

A leadership level of $5,000 ensures financial sustainability and flexibility for Menlo in the future. The $5,000 level is in line with peer and feeder schools. Finally, the portion of the operating budget contributed by the annual fund is approximately $4,800 per student. In order to be part of the Leadership Club we ask that you show leadership by giving more than the per student contribution.


We are not able to give at the leadership level; will our gift make a difference?

Absolutely! Every gift matters. The participation of our entire community is critical to the success of our work. Every student benefits from the Annual Fund. Community support for the Annual Fund reflects the strong culture of philanthropy at our school. Participation is a metric which is used nationally and most easily signifies confidence in the school. Strong parent participation can be an indicator for foundations and other organizations, who are considering a gift to Menlo. Our goal is to reach 100% every year!


We give to the School in so many other ways; can our gift of time count towards participation?

Menlo would not be the same School without the incredible gift of time and talent from our parent community, however, the School relies on parental support of the Annual Fund to achieve our goals and keep tuition as low as possible and competitive with our peer schools. A participatory gift of any amount is appreciated.


What happens if we raise more than the goal for the Annual Fund? How are the extra funds used?

Funds raised also give the school flexibility to offer more aid or take advantage of a programmatic opportunity that may present itself over the course of the year.


When is the next capital campaign?

Menlo is currently in the quiet phase of its fourth capital campaign with equal priority towards transformative capital projects and endowment.


Menlo asks us for money in many ways. How do we prioritize?

There are three primary ways that the Development Office asks for support from the community:

  • Annual Giving to support the operating budget each year.
  • Capital giving for facilities and endowment.
  • Live and Online Auctions to support the financial aid budget.

The school relies on the Annual Fund to support the operating budget each and every year. We ask that all families participate in the Annual Fund and hope that each family will make Menlo their top philanthropic priority.


I am a Menlo alumnus/a and a current parent. Should I make my gift to the Annual Fund or to the Alumni Endowed Scholarship Fund (AESF)?

The Annual Fund and the AESF are both critical annual fundraising efforts. The Annual Fund is a current use fund that supports the operating budget each year. The AESF is a permanently endowed scholarship fund, funded through annual gifts each year. While we ask current parents to make the Annual Fund their top giving priority at Menlo we ask that parents who are also alumni will consider allocating a portion of their gift to the AESF.


Senior parents have already given so much, why is it important to give in the senior year?

The Annual Fund provides funds for this year’s operating budget. The goal can only be met with support from all families. The Annual Fund is a community effort, every student benefits so we hope every family supports at a level that feels comfortable for their family.


How do I make my gift?

You can make your gift or pledge either online at, by check, wire transfer, donation of stock or through your employer’s matching gift program. Gifts are tax-deductible.


Does it matter when I make my gift?

Yes. A gift or pledge made early in the school year is a great advantage to the School because it enables us to know how much money will be available to support the School’s budget. The goal is to have all Annual Fund commitments in by November 30, 2017. Pledges must be paid by June 30, 2018 and the Development Office will send a pledge reminder to you in the spring. We ask that matching gift pledges be submitted to employers by March 31, 2018.


Menlo’s Budget

Q. How do I know that Menlo spends its money effectively?

A. The Board of Trustees provides careful oversight of Menlo’s budget. Menlo’s spending reflects its priorities and is benchmarked against other independent schools. Because great teachers are what makes a great school, Menlo makes faculty compensation a high priority and employee compensation and benefits are 75% of Menlo’s operating budget. Menlo’s faculty compensation ranks first against our independent school benchmark group but its tuition and endowment rank in the middle. Given Menlo’s great breadth of programs in academics, athletics and the arts, that is a strong indication that Menlo’s management of its other expenses is very effective and efficient.

Q. How does Menlo’s faculty compensation compare to that of other School’s?

A. Menlo benchmarks itself against 19 other Bay Area independent schools. Against that group Menlo’s faculty compensation ranks first.

Q. Menlo’s tuition is really high. How does it compare to other independent schools?

A. Against our tuition benchmark group of 19 other Bay Area independent schools, for the 2016-17 school year, Menlo is 7th in tuition and mandatory fees after Nueva, Bay, Castilleja, Lick, Harker and Drew.

Q. How big is Menlo’s endowment and how much does it contribute to the budget?

A. Menlo’s endowment as of 6/30/16 (the most recent date for which benchmark data is available) was $40.4 million but for a school of Menlo’s size that is much smaller than we need. The per student value of the endowment of $49,430 placed Menlo 9th against our endowment benchmark group after Castilleja, Lick-Wilmerding, San Francisco University HS, Branson, Crystal Springs, Cathedral School, College Preparatory School, and Sacred Heart of Atherton. We should be first which would require an endowment of at least $100 million.

Q. How does Menlo’s Annual Fund compare to other schools?

A. Against our benchmark group in 2015-16, Menlo’s annual fund per student was 4th after Woodside Priory, Crystal Springs, and Castilleja.

Q. What does Menlo spend money on besides compensation?

A. In 2017-18 Menlo will spend $9.2 million or 25% of its operating budget on all the other costs of running the School. For example, Menlo spends approximately $600,000 to $1,000,000each year on each of the following categories of expenses:

  • Supplies including classroom, athletics, arts and facilities.
  • Transportation including our bus services and moving kids to games and other off campus events.
  • Lunch which comes out to over $5 per student per day.
  • Technology equipment and services including software, servers, faculty/staff/classroom computers, software, cloud services, internet access, network equipment and services and our enterprise systems.
  • Electric, gas, water and telephone utilities.

In addition Menlo incurs expenses for insurance, safety and security, repairs and maintenance, printing and many other smaller categories.

Menlo strives to keep non-student facing expenses as low as possible so our dollars are focused where they should be. Our ability to compensate our teachers at the highest level when our revenues per student are in the middle of our benchmark group is a strong indication of our efficiency.