5 Reasons Every Elementary School Needs an Advancement Director – Part 2: Budgeting and Planning for Succession

Last month’s Tetrahedronics article apparently touched a few nerves, so we’ll continue to touch a few more, especially with some reports of what’s happening at some faith-based and private schools.

Some school leaders have contacted me to say, “Adding a full-time Advancement Director is just not in the budget.”  That’s quite a telling phrase, and provides a convenient way of saying that it’s something the school doesn’t want to deal with.  Remember, you can only cut a tree back so far before it dies.  Growth needs to be fostered, and to do so, pruning is sometimes necessary, as is hoeing around it, watering it, and manuring it.  Everything needs a little fertilizer to grow a little better.

First, a bit of a tangent.  Earlier this week, an episode of “Hotel: Impossible” aired.  This is the television program where an expert visits a hotel that’s struggling to survive, and recommends changes to put it on a path to success.  This episode focused on a nature preserve that provides accommodation for visiting guests.  It’s a non-profit, so the organization has program revenue (guest accommodations and souvenirs), and accepts contributions.  The transformation expert ask each of the four owner/managers what was the main goal of the business, and each of them had a different answer.  One said to preserve wildlife, another said hospitality toward guests, etc.  He said that each of the their four answers were wrong.  The goal of the business is to make money.  To put that into terms as blunt as possible, if you’re charging tuition and have fees that are assessed throughout the year, the goal of the “business” side of the school is to make money – no money, no school!

If it’s not in the budget, then put it in the budget.  A budget is a guide, and shows why the relationship between asset management, development and enrollment is a systemic one.  Let’s not stop there, and budget for another FTE teacher, except that it won’t be to hire another teacher assigned to another grade.  It will be for a “sub” so that the principal doesn’t have to be the first line of defense if a teacher is out due to illness or other emergency.  Let’s say that increases your school’s budget by $80,000.  If you have 100 students in your school, that’s an extra $800 per student. That’s quite a significant jump in the cost of education.  However, if you can raise another $8,000 in development revenue for financial aid, that cuts the number back to $720 per student, and, in future years, the Advancement Director will be instrumental in generating additional development revenue.  Further, the need for more students increases, and if tuition is $4,000 per student, that’s at least another 18 students that’s necessary for the numbers to work out.  Once again, the advantage is that there will be an individual responsible for growing the school in terms of enrollment and development dollars, and, perhaps, the “sub” can also assist with Advancement activities when they’re not substituting for one of the teachers.

Why?  This is the person that will get to know most of the children in the school all at the same time.

Each of your teachers who are teaching a grade/classroom have a focus on those students in their class.  While they may eventually know all the students in the school, the sub will more than likely encounter all of the students in the year, and, therefore, may encounter all the families as well.  This can provide a valuable resource to your advancement activities, since the Advancement Director’s main focus will be on building relationships outside the school.  It also provides the opportunity for succession, either to the classroom if a teacher leaves or retires, or to assume the role of the Advancement Director.  One of the most difficult and time-consuming aspects of Advancement is relationship building, and since the “sub” will have a handle on those relationships, it will alleviate the need to constantly “reinvent the wheel” should a new Advancement Director be brought on board who has no connection with any family in the school.

Here’s the bottom line: the reason why many schools can’t put an Advancement Director in the budget is that it’s an “unknown” to not just the board, but the administration as well.  The Advancement Director can’t be supervised the way a teacher can, and right now, the principal is in charge of retention, enrollment and development, and would rather spend time focusing on the things they know how to do – like developing curriculum, reviewing assessments,  evaluating teachers, assessing effectiveness, and meeting with staff.  Note that all those items start with the letters D, R, E, A, M as well…yet those activities alone will not insure a school’s success and sustainability today.

There’s a reason why the word “succession” contains the word “success.”

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2015-2016