Schultz & Williams (S&W) was thrilled to welcome the 2019 CASE-NAIS Independent Schools Conference to our hometown of Philadelphia. Several of our consultants attended and came away full of new insights and inspiration. Here, we are pleased to share some of their key takeaways.

Jean Tickell, Vice PresidentAttracting Diverse Talent
Jean Tickell, Vice President

Building a leadership team that celebrates a school’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is a must. In the Attracting Diverse Talent session moderated by David Smith of Saint Ann’s School, a panel of advancement leaders shared their career experiences as people of color in a profession and a sector that need to continue growing toward greater diversity. I found the following to be among the more cogent and inspirational points the panel shared.

Advancement is the front line for diversity, equity and inclusion in schools. Whether raising funds for scholarships to ensure socioeconomic diversity or creating programs for alumni of color, advancement staff do impactful work. We need to be ever mindful of ways we can align advancement work with diversity and inclusion goals.

How can we recruit and hire people of color in advancement? Above all, be intentional and committed and use every means available:

  • Look at established networks, like alumni of the Prep for Prep program in New York.
  • Attend the NAIS People of Color Conference and use its job opportunities resources.
  • Attend diversity fairs.
  • Enlist search firms that can deliver.
  • Use word of mouth: purposefully approach people of color in the profession and inquire about their networks.
  • Engage alumni of color in this work. Invite young alumni of color onto committees to help them learn about governance and development.
  • Explore the resources of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and the African American Development Officers (AADO) Network.
  • Be open to hiring advancement staff who may not have the shared background and language of the privileged classes that have traditionally filled these roles.

How can we retain staff of color in our schools?

  • Consider creating affinity groups for faculty and staff of color to create a sense of community.
  • Consider creating a white ally affinity group, acknowledging that the work of creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive community is not the sole responsibility of people of color.
  • Educate supervisors about how staff of color might be perceived in advancement work.

Other conference sessions focused on engaging independent school alumni of color. Together, these sessions made powerfully clear the positive impact a diverse team can have on a school’s growth.

Patricia Van Allen Voigt, Senior ConsultantWomen’s Philanthropy: The Vital Acts of Asking Questions & Listening
Patricia Van Allen Voigt, Senior Consultant

Kathleen Loehr’s Gender Matters: Women’s Philanthropy session was for me one of the most valuable, not only considering S&W’s long history of working with schools for girls, but also because the session challenged many of our misperceptions about women and giving.

An economic and cultural shift in women’s philanthropy is occurring right now. Consider some of these surprising statistics:

  • Women hold 52% of managerial and professional jobs in the workforce.
  • In 40% of households, women are the primary breadwinners.
  • 42% of top wealth holders are women, including more than 3 million women with annual incomes greater than $550,000.
  • Women are projected to control $22 trillion by 2020.
  • Women control 85% of household spending.

Today, women earn more, inherit more and live longer than in the past. This economic shift adds up to women’s control of significant wealth now and the continued growth of their wealth and decision-making for decades to come. Moreover, with increased earnings and education, women have an increased focus on philanthropy. Single women are more likely than similarly situated men to give to charity. Women give significantly more than men at almost all income levels.

What does this mean for our schools? You can examine your own giving data to analyze the giving histories of women and men in your community. Generally speaking, women are motivated to give because of their values and their engagement with your school. They seek collaboration and openness to ideas as volunteers and Board members. They are networked and turn to other women for inspiration. It is critical that you ask questions about their relationships and what causes them to be involved and engaged with your school. Women are also more loyal and often more impulsive in their giving than men. Focus on the frequency of their gifts and pay attention to your conversations.

To grow women’s philanthropy, make sure your leadership makes women a priority. Use your own data and look to other schools blazing the trail, like Dartmouth (Alumnae Establish Ambitious Goal: $1 Million Each From 100 Women). Ask for input from your staff and volunteers and share Kathleen’s book (Gender Matters: A Guide to Growing Women’s Philanthropy) with your Board, alumni committee and staff leaders. Pay special attention to widows and consider the possibilities for planned gifts to honor a faculty member, build on their field of interest or create scholarships. Invite women to be engaged in many ways. Listen and learn. The power of asking questions of women is critical to your success.

Kelly Grattan, Senior ConsultantJourney Mapping to Optimize the Donor/Prospect Experience
Kelly Grattan, Senior Consultant

The session Journey Mapping: Mapping Your School’s Customer Service, presented by Wheeling Country Day School, resonated with me in a profound way because independent schools, unlike those nonprofits that are not conducive to visitors, must be at the ready to welcome various stakeholders at any given moment.

Prospective families, current parents, alumni, trustees and Board members, institutional donors, and partners have all interacted with and/or visited your school at some point in time. The school must ensure high-quality in-person and virtual touch points throughout the entire “customer” experience. This experience is critical to enrollment, and it’s critical to cultivating donors.

Journey mapping is a tool any school can use to optimize the experience of its key constituencies. The basic process of journey mapping is as follows:

  • Begin with a collaborative approach, bringing in staff from both development and admissions. This process can dramatically improve both of these vital revenue-generating functions.
  • Create your ideal customer personas. What does the ideal prospective family look like and how do they behave? What does the ideal trustee look like and how do they behave? Do this for each key constituency (and be realistic!).
  • Map each customer’s experience, step-by-step, from the very first moment they interact with the school. Put on your customer’s shoes for a deeper understanding of their experience.
  • Identify and map each touchpoint, in-person and virtual. Focus on meaningful moments.
  • Add the customer’s attitudes and needs.
  • Identify problems and opportunities; prioritize them.
  • Create a plan to capitalize on each opportunity to improve your customer experience across the board. Meet regularly to monitor progress, tweak or enhance the plan as new challenges and opportunities arise, and share feedback and positive experiences!

For instance, consider the experience of a first-time donor. Something as simple as creating a welcome packet that gets mailed to all new donors shortly after receiving their gift creates a stronger emotional connection for the donor and strengthens their commitment to your school.

Or, think about the journey of a prospective family from the time they walk through your doors for an open house to the day they enroll at the school. What do they physically see when they walk through the doors? Who greets them? Is there clear signage to direct them to the main office? Are the facilities clean and well-maintained? Could you add student artwork to the walls to make the hallways more inviting? How easy is it to navigate your application process? Do you have a way of welcoming new families once they’ve committed?

Your journey mapping process can be as involved or as simple as you need it to be based on the resources you have available. Any investment you’re able to make, no matter how small, in enhancing your customer experience is a worthwhile one.

Brook Buchanan, ConsultantSmall Advancement Shops; Big Results
Brooke Buchanan, Consultant

Newark Academy’s session The Little Shop of Advancement: How Newark Academy Surpasses Big Goals with a Small Staff really resonated with me, considering S&W’s extensive work with schools that boast small advancement teams and our deep understanding of the challenges (and opportunities!) associated with them.

Newark Academy’s advancement shop has a staff of 9.5 full-time employees, which includes communications and alumni relations. Their staff has only added one full-time employee in over a decade. Yet, over the last 12 years, the school’s advancement program has seen the annual fund nearly double, alumni participation increase from 9% to 21% and parent participation grow from 58% to 75%. Not only that, but the school recently raised a staggering $33 million through their Rise and Flourish capital campaign, the first major gift effort in the school’s history to meet its goal.

There are many ways a small shop can be better than a large one. Newark Academy, for instance, has established the following principles for its advancement practice:

Be Lean and Proud of It

In truth, adding staff equates to tuition increases for your school. “Extend” your staff and meet your goals without adding more staff than is necessary through these effective approaches:

  • Ongoing evaluations of position descriptions – “realign and reassign”
    When there is an opening in your office, carefully review each task and responsibility to determine their ongoing value to your program and whether the work can be absorbed by current staffing. Don’t be afraid to create a new position to meet your current needs, which many have changed over time.
  • Outsourcing and the use of technology to extend your staff
    Consider outsourcing prospect research, planned giving materials, video production, graphic design, and some aspects of campaign planning and strategy. The use of technology and apps is another way to support current staff in their roles and avoid the need to hire more staff.

Be Risk Takers

Did your faculty and staff reach 100% participation in the annual fund? Leverage that success to challenge parents. Create a video highlighting faculty and staff sharing why they give and email it to parents with the tagline: They gave…will you?

Run an ambitious campaign (like Newark Academy’s $33 million campaign) with just two staff members. Be lean and selective in your use of campaign consultants for the feasibility study, pre-campaign readiness work, organizing prospects, trainings and overall goal strategy. Do the rest of the work in-house and with volunteers.

Take the necessary time for a transformational gift to evolve instead of following an arbitrary timeline.

Be Relationship Builders & Maintainers

Invite all new parents for a one-on-one meeting at school—such as for coffee or lunch with the director of external affairs. While only a fraction of families will agree to a meeting, it opens a door for future communication and is a very personal way to extend a welcome to every new family.

If your school has a “giving day,” invite members of the faculty and staff to accept calls from alumni. Alumni can stay connected to your school in a very personal way and provide updates on their accomplishments.

Keep senior parents engaged and giving. Share videos of unique school events, assemblies and traditions that are for seniors only. It reminds parents of the special traditions and value of your school, and the students love seeing themselves in the videos. During such an initiative’s first year at Newark Academy, senior parent participation increased by 3%.

Be Data Driven

Evaluate your objectives, goals, strategy and plans by tracking various datapoints over a period of three to five years to see what is working, what isn’t, and what used to work but may not be working anymore. Datapoints could include event attendees, number of volunteers, participation rates or the number of alumni downloading the school’s alumni app. Adjust goals for each datapoint based on past performance.

Be data-driven in your campaign. Use a gift table at all stages; post a copy in your office as a constant reminder of where to focus your attention. Create monthly campaign dashboards to monitor key metrics and to maintain confidence and momentum.

Send happy school-anniversary reminders to “almost” lapsed donors. It is common knowledge that it is much harder to acquire a new donor verses keeping one you already have.

Post event surveys. Use them consistently and ask questions that really probe what your constituents liked and what they want out of future programing. Ask for their honest feedback, the good and the bad.

Samantha Green, Project ManagerThe Infrastructure for Success
Samantha Green, Project Manager

At S&W, we always approach our work through the lens of the four essential elements of a successful development program: a compelling case for support, visionary leadership invested in the fundraising process, a cultivated prospect pool and the infrastructure to support an effective development operation. Joanna Joslyn (Joslyn Creative) and Tracy Proctor’s (Tandem Friends School) presentation From Database to Fundraising System: Innovations in the Back Office underscored the critical importance of the “behind-the-scenes” work that constitutes a development program’s infrastructure. When building a development program or diagnosing an operational problem, schools should assess the following four components of this “back office” function:

  • People/Human Resources – How effective are your staff in achieving their goals? How efficient are they, and what resources do they need to be successful?
  • Structures – How do your staff organize themselves around work flows? What mechanisms are in place for effectively transmitting information? For decision-making?
  • Processes – How is information collected, exported and applied to your day-to-day work? How routinized and structured are these processes? Are they flexible enough for your needs?
  • Data – What specific pieces of information are crucial to your operations?

For example, many schools are now investing in alumni networking platforms, such as Graduway or EverTrue, so that alumni can easily remain in touch with the school and each other. These structures, often manifested through user-friendly mobile apps and easily integrated with CRMs, are effective tools for communication processes and collecting valuable constituent data.

A fortified and high-functioning infrastructure is, perhaps, even more critical during a campaign. Understanding how these components relate to one another will set you up for success and position you to quickly diagnose and solve problems should they arise. Overall, investment in and frequent assessment of your development infrastructure is truly essential to your fundraising success.