Developing a Development Mindset

As we move forward through the second half of the school year, a thought regarding one of the 5 elements of Advancement will be posted each week.

By the way, the evolution of SchoolAdvancement is underway.  Three new sites are being developed under an umbrella site.  We’ll see where this goes, guided by an unseen hand and a spirit of Kairos.

Back to today’s topic, and this week, that’s Development.

More and more advancement, development and other professionals who raise funds are participating in more and more groups on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) dealing with “Fundraising.”  Just as there are certification exams for professionals in the fields of medicine, human resources and education, there is a certification examination for those involved in raising funds.  Successful completion of the test, along with continued success, allows them to bear the title of “Certified Fund Raising Executive,” and utilize the CFRE designation after their name.  Notice the difference between what “everyone calls it” – Fundraising – and what the professional designation is – Fund Raising.  The difference is a very important … space.

Space is essential in this line of work.  For one thing, you need to rest.  I’m sure you’ll agree that Advancement can be a 24/7 activity.  People want answers right away, and there’s always another donor or potential donor to contact.  Many people today are finding that they can’t “shut their brains down” due to mobile devices and the plethora of on-demand programming, and the “blue light” emitted from these devices don’t help to calm us into a restful sleep pattern.  Also, many individuals have said they read to make them tired.  Unfortunately, since the brain isn’t in a “restful” pattern anymore, more input from reading is actively processed by the brain rather than redirecting the events of the day into something “mindless.”

As for that “space,” there are people engaged in Institutional Advancement who say they’re “fundraisers,” making the same mistake that professional Development individuals do.  Yet, an IA department, especially at a college or university, is down the hall from the Admissions office, and the institution’s student retention strategies are discussed by other organizations – residence life, student government, financial aid, and academic affairs, just to name a few.  In many instances, the term “Development” has simply been replaced by “Advancement,” rather than it being the all-encompassing term to describe the systemic action of the elements involved.

The problem is that considering all these terms as synonymous with each other creates confusion within professional circles, and, worse, a connotation in the minds of the organization’s constituents that the only thing which “advances” the mission of the university is the funding generated by donors.

I once received a year-end report from one of my post-graduate Alma Maters which detailed the school’s revenues. 65% of the school’s revenue came from tuition, and 14% came from “Institutional Advancement.”  So where did the other 21% come from? 2% was categorized as “other,” while 19% came from “revenue-generating activities.”  I withhold the name of the institution since if some entities would see that this non-profit institution was “generating revenue,” it could be argued that almost 20% of their income may be considered as taxable, depending on what activities generated revenue. For instance, did the organization raise funds by selling school merchandise, or did it come from ticket sales for drama, concert and sporting events? It’s unlikely these funds were generated by selling the typical “fundraiser” stuff, but perhaps it came from a “school store” which sells books, clothing and other school-branded items.  But such a large percentage of revenue raises the question, “Is a school in the business of educating students or selling other things that may have nothing to do with education?” But that’s another discussion for another day.

The point here is that with institutional advancement revenues listed at only 14%, it would seem that “development” is more an appropriate term, especially if enrollment and retention are considered to be under the umbrella of institutional advancement.  Even in this educational setting, more revenue was generated from “selling stuff” (tickets, clothing, or otherwise) than was raised through the meaningful engagement of individuals with the institution’s mission and vision.  The system which involves enrolling more students and keeping them as students until they graduate and become alumni, eventually providing financial support to the institution, is indeed a system which needs to be improved upon to provide a firm financial foundation for the educational institution.

So let’s take a look at your school. What percentage of your school’s revenue comes from sources outside your school? I don’t mean fundraising, since fundraising is RARELY tracked to the detail it should be if it was an advancement activity. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at your latest candy sale. Did you keep a list of everyone that purchased candy from each of your school’s students? Did you measure how much each of those individuals purchased this year and compared the statistics to last year’s sale? More than likely, you gave a prize to the student that sold the most candy which generated the most revenue for your school without caring where the money came from. On a very basic level, that’s the difference between Fundraising and Development.

More directly, is the focus on growing relationships, or growing income?

A simple way to determine the difference between Development and Fundraising is this: If someone has to buy something or do something in order to raise funds (like buy a candy bar, or work at a car wash or a concession stand at a school sporting event), that’s fundraising. If someone contributes funds to your school because they want the good work you’ve done to continue, that’s Development. It is my contention that both are necessary for an organization, but not for the reasons you may think. Fundraising is a Retention strategy, and has no place in Development – even though they both raise money. More about that in a future posting.

Just as DREAM stands for Development, Retention, Enrollment, Asset Management and Marketing, and now I’ve changed the acronym to be ARMED (because the battle for your school’s survival is a real one..one you need to be prepared for), I used to say that Development has its own acronym – CHANGE.  I’ll describe what each letter stands for, then provide the adjustment rationale afterward.

Communication – With at least four types of constituencies – internal engaged, external engaged, internal disengaged, and external disengaged.

Happenings – Events to involve the greater community – not just the parents who are a part of the current school community.

Appeals – An Annual Appeal is at the heart of every Development effort. If you have only three major events that parents of your school attend and no annual appeal, you have a dynamic fundraising program – not a Development program.

Networking – While this can be confused with communication, networking involves the personal connections you make with other development professionals, community businesses that currently may have no interest in your school (but all of a sudden someone’s grandchild is enrolled), or alumni. If an annual appeal is the heart of a development program, growing relationships through networking is its blood.

Gifts and Grants – Grantwriting, Major Gifts, and Planned Giving are all actions that bring dollars to the school from those who have a relationship with the school based upon the successes of the school and their desire to be a part of those good works or make a great program even better. Note that while most people think development is all about raising money, there are only 2.5 items in this list of six items which concern themselves with monetary income. I classify Happenings as .5, since the other half is about building the team that puts the events together, and then bringing people in from outside the school to attend the event who will discover the good works happening at the school. Further, if you have an event, and don’t involve the children from your school in some way, you’ve missed the boat at showcasing your school and creating an emotional connection with those attending.

Energize, Enrich and Educate – this one is specifically for you in your role as a school administrator!  You may already know the average life expectancy of a Development Director for an institution is 18 months. That’s because the job is so intense and demanding.  In fact, I recently saw the job description of a Country Day School seeking a Director of Advancement.  It was an excellent list of all the qualifications and responsibilities of the position.  However, while the last line of any job description usually says “Other duties as assigned,” this one stated, “Ability and willingness to work a flexible schedule, including long hours, nights and weekends, and travel.”

Indeed, the advancement professional is expected to be always “up,” and always “on.”  Burnout is high, and high-powered development directors are the cheerleaders of the organization. It takes some significant stamina to be so engaged with your organization that you can take on all the naysayers (which are sometimes those you work for) and still remain positive. To be totally blunt, as a Development person, you don’t work for your supervisor; you work for the entity. I’ve also come to believe that this burnout rate is because those who are in higher administration positions don’t realize that it takes time to build relationships, and want (no, expect) financial results fast.

Okay, not fast…NOW!

Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen that way. Development takes time. You want quick returns? Stick with fundraising…but you’ll NEVER raise consistent and sustainable (the new Advancement buzzword) revenues. Because of this high energy level, YOU must take time to refuel your tank by sharing good news and successes, discovering new ways of putting different ideas together (which is what creativity is all about), and educating yourself through reading and attending seminars spotlighting next trends and practices, employing motivational strategies, and, of course, engaging in and setting time aside for prayer, since, “With God, all things are possible.”  And it’s good to note that the Scripture reference says “possible;”  it doesn’t say “easy.”  Simply said, if you don’t take time out, you’ll definitely burn out.

No matter what type of Development situation you find yourself in (non-profit, secular or sacred), if you don’t have a personal faith life, and you don’t pray, I believe you haven’t got a prayer. The job of the development director is to serve the organization and advance it toward its vision. There are no great rewards for it. Prayer is the power that pulls all things together for good and keeps priorities in perspective since Development is also an act of service! It is a ministry to those that have been blessed with gifts to encourage them to share their gifts with those who can put them toward making a noble purpose a reality.

But then someone reminded me that CHANGE is 6 attributes, and that I’m all about 5’s – specifically because 5 elements produce a complete system, and each system has an emergent result.   Further, nobody likes “change,” even though it’s the only constant there is.  Change brings about more changes, and is always thought about in the “macro” sense (that is, change is always considered to be “big”).  Also, “Change is Constantly Having A New Growth Event,” because to change is to grow.

Therefore, the acronym became ANGEL – Appeals, Networking, Gifts and Grants, Events (instead of happenings) and List Management.

But some things were left off the list – like “Energizing, Enriching and Educating” as well as “Rest,” which are extremely important. Spending time with the family, participating in an activity you’re passionate about, reading a book, relaxing, and, by all means, spending time with the Lord in worship and prayer are important parts of a balanced life and go a long way to preventing burnout.  Associations are important too, since many times, that’s where the fresh ideas come from.  And, of course, Communication is an essential part of sharing the organization’s successes with current and potential donors.

With all that in mind, the acronym is now ARCHANGEL: Associations, Rest, Communication, Happenings, Appeals, Networking, Gifts and Grants, Energize/Enrich/Educate, and List Management.  Notice how “Appeals” is right in the middle, since they Annual Appeal is at the heart of any development initiative.

But before wrapping this up, what about the process of “change,”, since there’s such fear around it?  The reason for that is because there’s no indication as to whether it will be sustained change, or a “one time thing.”  One organization I worked for informed its employees that due to financial stresses, there were going to be some changes announced at a special meeting.  Everyone worried.  The result was that only one person lost their current position, but was transferred to a new post within the organization, and three open positions were not filled.  Therefore, when speaking about “change,” consider speaking about a “transition” or a “shift.” The former is a process; the latter has a “micro” connotation rather than a “macro” one, and people are more comfortable with making a small shift than going through a big change. You can find out more about change and change management in a new series of articles at my FACTS resource Web site, http://www.mikeziemski.info.  Please feel free to visit and subscribe.

Speaking of shifting, I mentioned that the DREAM acronym has changed (or rather, shifted) to ARMED.  It’s the same letters, which stand for the 5 elements of the system of Advancement, but also put those elements into a process upon which to build to ensure a school’s firm financial foundation.  Interestingly, if you don’t have the proper foundation, and don’t execute the remainder of the elements in a systemic fashion, your institution will not survive.  While we must have vision, we also need to be prepared to face the challenges we encounter.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2006-2018