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Aspen's Blog

by Mallory Sussman, Development Manager

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) defines philanthropy as a voluntary commitment to the common good. With this in mind, in 1993, CASE created a set of parameters to guide the relationship between a philanthropist (or donor) and a non-profit organization, known as the Donor Bill of Rights.[1] This bill of rights is comprised of ten tenets, addressing: the donor's right to information (on an organization's mission, governance, capacity, financial statements), assurance a donor's contributions are utilized as directed, the donor's right to privacy, donor acknowledgement and recognition, and the donor's open-ended opportunity to ask questions and receive prompt and truthful responses throughout the donation process.

When these rights were established, sharing an organization's mission meant making a phone call, sending a mailer, or attending an event – a person to person or a person to print interaction. Getting the word out about a cause was both time-consuming and costly. Obtaining an organization's financial statements was only possible in print, upon request, and often required a trip to the organization's headquarters. These rights were defined twenty three years ago, prior to the proliferation of the internet. The evolution of technology has significantly reduced barriers of donor access to information and has standardized non-profit practices regarding information sharing. As a result, many of the applications of the Donor Bill of Rights have become outdated.

However, the themes upon which these rights were created remain relevant today:

Donor Bill of Rights (CASE et al, 1993)


1.To be informed of the organization's mission, of the way the organization intends to use donated resources, and of its capacity to use donations effectively for their intended purposes.

Donor Education

Organizational Capacity

2.To be informed of the identity of those serving on the organization's governing board and to expect the board to exercise prudent judgement in its stewardship responsibilities.


3.To have access to the organization's most recent financial statements.


4.To be assured their gifts will be used for the purposes for which they were given.


5.To receive appropriate acknowledgement and recognition.

Donor Recognition

6.To be assured that information about their donation is handled with respect and confidentiality to the extent provided by the law.


7.To expect that all relationships with individuals representing organizations of interest to the donor will be professional in nature.


8.To be informed whether those seeking donations are volunteers, employees of the organization or hired solicitors.


9.To have the opportunity for their names to be deleted from mailing lists that an organization may intend to share.


10.To feel free to ask questions when making a donation and to receive prompt, truthful and forthright answers.

Donor Education

Many of these themes have become standards of practice in the non-profit space and are necessary for a successful development program. Donors must develop both an understanding of and a trust in hard work an organization is doing to make the world a better place. And donors must be treated with kindness as they strive to do good by lending their support.

We take these ideas to heart at Aspen, but we do not stop at a linear Donor Bill of Rights. We view our relationship with our families as a fluid one, with a singular goal: a brighter future for our children. In Rethinking and Revising the 'Donor Bill of Rights' the DeBoskey Group redefines this relationship, between donor and organization, as a strategic partnership, grounded not in rights, but in principles: mutual consideration, transparency, flexibility, confidentiality, and clarity, where both parties are providers and beneficiaries of each tenet.

This shift is pronounced: no longer a bill of rights, to be observed and upheld for the primary benefit of one party (the donor) by another party (the organization), but a slate of ideas that assert a different, more equitable balance of responsibilities as donors and organizations strive to achieve a common goal, together. In other words: "donors and nonprofits should expect... that the relationship between donors and nonprofits is a partnership – where each party's needs and expectations for achieving internal and external objectives are considered."

Ultimately, at Aspen Academy we know that the third leg of our stool, community strength and service, is not possible to achieve with a linear perspective. So, we adhere instead to our core values: do good, work hard and make the world a better place. We strive to apply these values at every opportunity – including our relationships with our families, faculty and staff, and community members. We offer an abundance of resources on the programs we run, from our newsletter and website to print and social media. We take the time to engage our families over coffee and at community events. We disclose our audit results each fiscal year. We acknowledge the incredible support of our community via the annual report, the Investing in Excellence bulletin board and banner, through giving societies and Annual Fund Thank You Week (coming up October 24-28!). And while we take pleasure in serving our community to the best of our ability, we hold our families accountable and we ask them to do their part.

[1] The text of the Donor Bill of Rights was developed by the American Association of Fundraising Counsel (AAFRC), Association of Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), and the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), and adopted in November 1993.

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by Corinne Hancock, Aspen Youth Leadership and Service Coach

Fall is here! The air is cool, the sun is bright and the landscapes are gorgeous. Walking and biking on the Highline Canal with my family while enjoying great conversation, laughter, connection and natural beauty is one of my favorite activities. This can also be a mindful activity to remind ourselves and teach our children to be in the present moment. To truly make a conscious effort to stop every now and again and really pay attention to where we are, what we are doing, what we are feeling, and what we are experiencing. Stopping and consciously engaging our senses when outside can relax both the mind and the body. It also deepens our connection to our children and the natural world.

I've always loved being in nature. It's when I feel an almost instantaneous sense of calm and peace, coupled with an intense awareness of being alive. I love sharing this experience with my children. It's also where I feel happiest and most at ease and sharing it with my family brings me a great sense of joy. Spending time in nature has healing and restorative power. Being outdoors increases well-being, helps alleviate stress and anxiety, promotes creativity, assists with recovery from mental fatigue, helps restore attention, boosts the brain's ability to think, and engages the senses.

Simple mindfulness exercises incorporated into familiy activities such as hiking and biking are an easy, enjoyable, and surprisingly effective way of being more mindful and building more connection. Allow yourself to feel grounded, connected, and supported and share it with your family. Allow yourself to become really aware of where you are and who you are with. Breath in, connect, feel, and enjoy! Happy Fall!

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By Nicole Kruse, 8th Grade Language Arts Instructor and AEI Coach

One of the many benefits of sending your son or daughter to Aspen Academy is the unique opportunity they have as an 8th grader to work with a mentor while writing their business plan. In years' past, some of our Aspen parents have reached out asking to participate in the mentor program, while most mentors have been sought out by Aspen staff requesting your time and wisdom.

As adults, many of us have mentors in our lives that have helped us shape our ideas, gain confidence, get a fresh perspective, meet people, and learn more than we ever could have on our own. Mentors push us beyond what we ever thought we were capable of doing. They give us an outlet to share ideas in a safe place. They help us grow, not only as leaders and entrepreneurs, but as human beings. Those of us with mentors understand the benefits of having a mentor (or two, or three!) in our lives.

As a teacher, I have had the opportunity to mentor hundreds of young adults and I've learned so much about them- about their fears, their accomplishments, their passions, their hesitations, their strengths, and their weaknesses. But most importantly, I've learned how to listen, how to guide and how to lead in a way that isn't preachy or demanding or arrogant. I've learned how to give back in the absolute best way- to our future.

Unique opportunities here at Aspen aren't just for your kids. You, as a parent at Aspen Academy, have the unique opportunity to be a mentor to a young person. Our students want your guidance, your wisdom, and your leadership. You all have distinctive gifts to share. If you are interested in signing up to mentor an 8th grader or have any questions about the process, please email me at:

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by Corinne Hancock, Aspen Youth Leadership and Service Coach


In Leadership class students begin to dive deep into Stephen Covey's 7 Habits. Their first habit of focus is Be Proactive! This habit reminds us that we are a product of our choices; that we get to be in charge of how we think, feel, and act. Our basic nature is to act, and not be acted upon. As well as enabling us to choose our response to particular circumstances, this habit empowers us to create circumstances. Take Initiative, Be Proactive!

The lessons students take part in will help students to:

  • Develop motivation and help students to take pride in their work.
  • Act responsibly toward self, family, school, community, nation, and the world.
  • Show initiative and entrepreneurialism.
  • Use unique talents and abilities to full potential.
  • Think about choices; be accountable and responsible for actions and results, and understand that choices affect others.

Things to think about and discuss at home:

What does it look like to be proactive in your everyday life? Share with the young person in your life what you do as an adult to be proactive and have them share what it looks like for them to be proactive. Maybe ask them what they think about this quote. "A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes." -Mahatma Gandhi

A great resource:

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by Mallory Sussman, Development Manager

reinvesting-in-enterpriseOver the past couple of weeks the Advancement Office has worked with the 8th grade students on their legacy gift while offering them an introduction to philanthropic terminology, strategy and purpose. This process began with a visit to leadership class to talk about what a legacy gift is, why it is an important part of building community strength and how their choices can enrich the lives of future Aspen Academy students. The class was then presented with four opportunities to consider for their legacy gift. Together we walked through each option, exploring the potential impact of their choice. At the conclusion of our conversation our students selected their legacy gift.

The Class of 2017 Legacy Gift will bare their name, represent their spirit and bring to life the vision of Aspen Academy: as a national learning model, and with a mindset towards entrepreneurial innovation, we develop and inspire extraordinary leaders who make a positive and lasting impact. Aspen Academy's 8th graders have whole-heartedly embraced this opportunity and elected to Reinvest in Enterprise by investing in Bear Student Enterprises (BSE).* The Class of 2017 has chosen to renovate Bear's Café, reimagining the café's business plan and brand, building the business case for equipment upgrades including a new mobile coffee cart and a state-of-the-art sound system, and redesigning the layout of and entrance to the café.

Unlike traditional legacy gifts - that are often completed at or after graduation - this year's 8th grade class will be leading in the creation of their legacy. The development team is working closely with Director of Upper School, Katie Becker, Aspen Entrepreneurial Institute Coach, Nicole Kruse, and STEAM Coach, Chris Lazartic to implement this hands-on program in collaboration with our 8th grade cohort leaders, Eric Peterson (Bear Student Media), Corey Sampson (Bear Student Store) and Brooke Steedly (Bear's Café) to ensure every single 8th grader contributes their time and talent to this effort.

Utilizing design thinking, our BSE cohorts will assess the needs and opportunities for enhancements in Bear's Cafe, throughout their exploration our 8th graders will be challenged to think through the implications and impact of each of their decisions: If we build a cart with Y dimensions how will we need to reconfigure this space – will we need to re-arrange chairs, order new furniture or expand doorframes? If we utilize X material, how does that impact our brand aesthetics and our costs? If we place our sink on the left side, how does that impact our ability to efficiently serve our customers or clean up? If we install a refrigerated display case how will we be able to diversify our offerings; how will that impact our bottom line and our ability to deliver a high quality experience? How can we position the cart and furniture to optimize the flow of traffic, while leaving a comfortable gathering space for our customers? Should we make additional upgrades to the space, such as installing a state-of-the-art sound system to enhance our customer's overall experience?

Our 8th graders will work through these opportunities, provide recommendations and have a real say in all of the renovations we will be conducting in the space.

We are thrilled to partner with Carts of Colorado, a family owned and operated full-service cart and kiosk manufacturer headquartered here in Greenwood Village, to offer our 8th graders this incredible hands-on learning opportunity with industry experts.

A legacy gift is an important component of a successful development program – it offers our community an opportunity to celebrate and commemorate the accomplishments of our 8th grade class. A comprehensive fundraising approach works to directly support an organization's mission, vision and values and integrates all organizational stakeholders (from parents and students to faculty and staff) throughout the process. While an Annual Fund, like Investing in Excellence, aligns with Aspen Academy's mission; the 8th Grade legacy gift aligns with Aspen Academy's vision. At their core, both efforts serve to elevate the student experience and enrich the Aspen community at large.

*To learn more about Bear Student Enterprises, our 8th graders' student-run businesses please contact Aspen Entrepreneurial Institute Coach, Nicole Kruse, at

To learn more about the 8th Grade Legacy Gift please contact Development Manager, Mallory Sussman at

To make a contribution please visit: and click the Donate Now button.

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by Mallory Sussman, Development Manager

Aspen Academy's 2016-17 Annual Fund campaign, Investing in Excellence, has officially launched. We hope you received your annual fund brochure and have had the opportunity to connect with a member of the Annual Fund committee.

In case you have not, here we will discuss what an annual fund is and how our Annual Fund, Investing in Excellence, supports Aspen Academy's mission to inspire and develop excellence in academic growth and performance, character and leadership and community strength and service.

An annual fund is the cornerstone of our fundraising activity, aiming to support critical needs of our community. Annual fund contributions are typically unrestricted – allowing us to allocate these funds towards the areas and programs of greatest need. Unrestricted gifts to Investing in Excellence support three areas:

  • Academic Programs and Technology for our students
  • Professional Development for our faculty and staff
  • Financial Aid for our deserving families in need

The benefits and impact of supporting our annual fund are endless! If you are particularly passionate about one of the three areas outlined above, you can chose to restrict your gift designation. All contributions to Investing in Excellence (both unrestricted and restricted) are 100% tax deductible.

In addition to supporting these areas, an annual fund introduces families to the act and art of giving, while serving as a stepping stone to higher levels of support (such as making a promise to Building the Future, our Capital Campaign).

A successful annual fund will utilize a variety of opportunities to connect with families: from our Investing in Excellence brochure, to personal calls from our Annual Fund committee members, to direct mail and e-appeals, shout outs and updates in our newsletter, and tracking our progress via our Annual Fund banner (have you seen it in the Kiss'n'Go lane?) and our giving tree (in the lobby).

Our annual fund committee, Co-Chaired by Steve Pougnet (Julia and Beckham, 5th Grade) and Jackie Watters (4th Grade), is comprised of parent representatives from each grade level. These parents earn their volunteer hours by soliciting their peers. Like the fund itself, committee participation serves as a stepping stone to higher levels of servant leadership here at Aspen Academy. Several members of our Board of Trustees began as parent volunteers on this committee.

Moreover, an annual fund is an opportunity to connect with members of the community, to rally together to achieve 100% participation from our Board of Trustees, our faculty and staff, and our families – promoting loyalty to and investments in Aspen Academy and keeping our students and their best interest front and center.

We are so proud to have 100% participation from our Board of Trustees and our faculty and staff – now it is up to you, Aspen parents and the community at large to join us!

To learn more about Investing in Excellence please contact Mallory Sussman.

To make a contribution please visit:

Additional Resources:

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by Nicole Kruse

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to attend the Celebration for Young Entrepreneurs through Young Americans. Children as young as six can enter this competition that searches for the best youth-owned businesses in Colorado. As I made my way around the room speaking with the young entrepreneurs and looking at their products, I noticed some common trends that are worth sharing.

  1. Keep it simple. The best products at the competition were simple ideas that fixed a problem. For example, one young lady created Reading Goal Bookmarks. These bookmarks have a die cutout at the top that grabs the desired amount of pages you want to read by a certain day. Simple, yet brilliant.
  2. Practice the pitch. These young men and women were incredibly well-spoken. If they were nervous, it wasn't evident. They spoke confidently and clearly to a room filled with adults. They had their pitches memorized and perfected.
  3. Know the product. I drilled these kids about their products and they had answers for everything. It was obvious that they knew their products inside and out.
  4. Passion is key. All of the kids sold their products because they believed in what they were selling. They knew their products were awesome, and it came through in their presentation.
  5. Integrate social Impact. Every product and business had some element about it that gave back to the community, donated funds, helped others or used recycled materials.

If there was ever a time for your son or daughter to develop an idea, it's now. If nothing else, the fundamental skills that go into creating and developing a product or business are life skills that we are attempting to instill in every child who passes through these hallways.

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by Mallory Sussman, Development Manager

Friday, September 23, 2016

Welcome to Aspen Academy's newest blog series on development. Each week we will offer information on development strategies and best practices, share updates from Aspen Academy's development office, and discuss current trends, terms and tactics in philanthropy. At the conclusion of each blog post we will also include references and resources for continued learning.

As in any area of practice, development has a language of its very own. More than simply terminology, development language serves as both a utilitarian and theoretical tool to frame our discussions around giving, and can have a very significant impact on the outcome of our efforts. The language of giving is more than a glossary of vocabulary words; the language of giving holds a space - full of passion, possibility, and inspiration – to demonstrate commitment to a cause you care about.

Today, we will explore a few common terms: development, fundraising, solicitation and advancement, examining their distinctions and application here at Aspen Academy.

So what is development and how is different from fundraising?

While the two terms are often used interchangeably outside of a development office, they represent two uniquely intertwined concepts:

Development is relational in nature: we spend time getting to know Aspen families and students, learning about their desires for their education, their communities and their futures. We work with our faculty, staff and leadership to identify areas of need, opportunities for growth, and creative ways to channel our resources in support of Aspen Academy's mission. Our advancement staff works diligently to strengthen our transparency and communication around the outcomes and impact of our efforts. By igniting passions and inspiring loyalty amongst our community members, we successfully raise the funds necessary to serve our school today and prepare our students for tomorrow.

Solicitation, or asking a person to commit resources to an organization, is the bridge that connects development with fundraising. While development focuses on long term cultivation and stewardship, striving to create powerful and life-changing connections, fundraising enables our development team to seek contributions for near term goals. Fundraising typically centers on a specific event or cause and is transactional in nature. Fundraising is a key component of a successful development program. Family favorites like Grandparents and Special Friends Day and our annual Gala represent fundraising events and are critical components to our overall development strategy.

Here at Aspen development is an integral part of a larger effort: Advancement. Advancement is "the action of continually moving toward an institution's vision," and the goal of Aspen Academy's advancement office is to "build and sustain a financially secure future through managing enrollment, cultivating a culture of philanthropy, and practicing disciplined financial management that accounts for both internal and external economic drivers." Development, fundraising and solicitation are just a few of the mechanisms we utilize in pursuit of this goal.

If you are interested in learning more about Development or the other functions of our Advancement office: Admissions, and Marketing and Communications please feel free to reach out to:

  • Lara Knuettel, Director of Advancement
  • Steve Goslee, Admissions Manager
  • Mallory Sussman, Development Manager
  • Roberta Vallina, Marketing and Communications Manager

Additional readings on the language of giving:

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by Nicole Kruse, 8th Grade Language Arts Instructor and AEI Coach

I had an opportunity to attend a few of the sessions at Denver Startup Week this week, and one in particular caught my attention: Successful Young Entrepreneurs: How to be one, How to raise one. This session included a panel of successful young entrepreneurs, including sophomores Sam Nassif and Oliver Greenwald, the inventors of the Drip Drop and sixth grader Jack from Jack's Stands. All three are local young men who have invented, created and developed successful business ideas. The panel also included parents of young entrepreneurs. All panelists shared their own experiences and expertise on the topic. Below are the pieces of advice that caught my attention:

1. Young entrepreneurs exhibit a profound curiosity and a voracious love of reading. The parents of young entrepreneurs noticed their children asked a lot of questions beginning at an early age. Their kids independently took toys apart and put them back together. Second, one mom shared that her child was a voracious reader. She went on to explain what many of us already know- that reading develops critical thinking- something you need as an entrepreneur. It's quite an interesting concept and it caught my attention, particularly because of my dual role at Aspen Academy- one as an entrepreneurial coach and the other as a language arts teacher.

2.Family time looks different. These families spend their time together watching business shows, like Shark Tank, and discussing business at the dinner table: ideas, successes, and stories. The conversations are authentic and meaningful. Problems are discussed, ideas are entertained, and the dialogue is real.

3.Young entrepreneurs need to have skin in the game. When a child has a business idea, some of the money that is invested needs to be their own, otherwise there's no real commitment on the child's part. Follow through, drive and dedication are important elements that an entrepreneur must have and when someone else is footing the entire bill, those characteristics can get lost.

4.Start early and say yes. The parents on the panel wish they would have helped their children by starting these discussions earlier in their child's life. They also encouraged other parents to say yes when your children have an idea. And remember, the next big thing can be simple- it doesn't have to be some grandiose idea.

5.Reach out to organizations that can help your children if it's outside of your realm. Let's be honest: we don't know everything and that's ok. The important thing is that we know where to look for help. Use your resources.

What's your advice for parents and young entrepreneurs? Do you have something to add to this list? Email me at:

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by Nicole Kruse, 8th Grade Language Arts Instructor and AEI Coach

In the recent research I've done regarding financial literacy, I've come to the conclusion that there are two types of parents: the type that talk about money and finances with their children, and the type that doesn't. The parents that choose not to discuss money with their children have various reasons: adult finances are too personal, it will cause unnecessary stress on the child, and parents want to protect them and let them be children. These are all relevant reasons, but could this be doing more harm than good?

The United States is $19 trillion in debt. The average household is an estimated $130, 900 in debt, including credit cards, mortgages, car loans, and student loans. It's important to consider that not talking to our children about money isn't going to make our debt go away. In fact, it may add to the problem.

Children as young as preschool age can distinguish between wants and needs. If you haven't begun the conversation and your children are well past pre-school, rest assured that whenever you begin the conversation will be better than not talking about it at all. But begin the conversation. Start small. Wants and needs is something we all can understand and relate to. We live in a society that is surrounded by wants. Who isn't guilty of wanting that new phone even though the one we have is working just fine? So the next time your son or daughter say they want that new (insert item here), begin the conversation. There's no better time than now.

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