Fundraising, development and advancement.  They’re not just different words for the same activity – even though all three produce revenue for a non-profit (in this case, your school).

Fundraising is anything done or sold to generate a revenue stream for a non-profit group or organization. It’s non-threatening since “everybody” fundraises. Development is the meaningful engagement of individuals with the mission and vision of your organization. Individuals will contribute to your organization, but only if they are somehow connected with your organization and its mission; in other words, they “care” about what you do. Advancement is inclusive of all those processes that advance the mission of your organization, or, as I like to put it, advance the organization toward its vision. It includes not only development, but enrollment, retention, asset management and marketing.

Development can be distinguished from fundraising in the following way. Anything that’s done from year-to-year for survival (the book fair, the candy sale, the cookie dough sale, the craft show, etc.) is fundraising. Anything that’s a concerted effort to assure the continued long-term existence of the organization (planned giving, annual appeals, grant writing, capital campaigns, and endowment funds) by the continued engagement of additional individuals is development. Constant and consistent development plans will help you reach long- and short-term goals; constant and consistent fundraising is akin to crisis management – it takes consistent effort, which can lead to burn out, and it will not sustain you in the long run.

So what is marketing?

Marketing is getting the message “out there” to a targeted audience. In the case of a retail business, it’s marketing’s job to get the people into the store – not all people, but only those that would be interested in buying what’s for sale; it’s the salesperson’s job to sell the product. In this respect, advertising is marketing, but marketing is not advertising. Marketing is much more: it’s advertising (portraying particular aspects of the whole product in a positive manner to attract a consumer); it’s public relations (getting the message out into the public); it’s media relations (getting the media to present the desired message); it’s promotion (just what the word means – “moving forward” or “advancing” the planned action as spelled out in the marketing plan). “Publicity” is the message that gets out there – which is why the saying goes, “Any publicity is good publicity.” Publicity is the message that eventually appears in print, on a billboard, on the radio, television or on the Internet.  It may be negative or positive. If it’s negative, it gives you the opportunity to present the positive side through public relations, media relations or promotion. Therefore, marketing is a targeted approach to get the desired message to the desired audience.

Note that successful marketing doesn’t necessarily lead to increased enrollment either.  Marketing increases inquiries to the school; successful enrollment processes turn those inquiries into students in the seats.

Some schools have asked if they really need a Development Director. The short answer is, “No, but.”  That complete response is important, because most people just hear the “no,” and go about doing what they’ve always done.  The rest of the response is, “But if you don’t have a Development Director, you should have an Advancement Director.”  Today’s school – elementary or secondary – needs someone to coordinate the business side of your school, just as you need someone to coordinate the “product” side of the school (which would usually be the principal or academic dean).  If you’re not covering all your costs from tuition, and require additional development dollars to complete your school’s revenue side of the balance sheet, then someone needs to be responsible for ensuring the processes involved with advancement are successful.

Want to know if you’re on the right track?  Ask your team, “Who owns (that is, responsible for) the enrollment process at your school?”  If that question is difficult to answer, the next one – “Who owns the advancement responsibility at your school,” is probably even harder.  If you have no answer to either question, we should have a chat.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2009-2019 (Original Publication Date: 20041109)