You’re probably thinking this is going to have something to do with computers for each child in the classroom, BYOD, or perhaps a shadowing program to help increase enrollment.

No, this article deals with a group of schools getting together to split the cost of a Director of Advancement so that these several schools can reap the benefits of having someone handle all those “non-school” things a school needs to do.

Can an administrator administer more than 1 school? Yes.

Can a business manager oversee the finances for more than 1 school? Yes.

Can a principal evaluate and supervise teachers at more than 1 school? Yes.

Can a pastor shepherd more than 1 parish or church? Yes.

The danger, of course, is that one will receive preferential treatment, congruent with Scripture’s warning about serving two masters. In the business world, there is a saying that if two products or services in the marketplace are exactly the same, there is no need for one of them. Relative to shared administrators, however, such practices could be the first step to a merger or perhaps even a closure.

But as a former Director of Advancement, I can tell you that an Advancement or Development Director will have a very difficult time serving more than one school – unless the schools are officially working as a system.

Let me offer first an example, and then a caveat.

When I was a Director of Advancement the Office for Catholic Schools of a Diocese, I had request after request from our local Catholic school’s principal to come to the school and be a part of the Development Board. This school had a Development Director in place who was a wonderful person. The problem was that there was always more to do that there were hours in the day, and the school administrator at the time couldn’t grasp the “long-term” view of Development, and wanted, no, expected, to see immediate results that were substantial. Knowing that the role of the Development Board was to support the Development Director by assisting to carry out those tasks necessary to bring the vision a reality, I said, “Does this mean that you’d like me to help the school by doing some of the work that needs to get done, such as soliciting gifts, making phone calls to people I was connected to, and volunteering to help make the major development events a success?” “Why yes, of course!” was the answer, and the rationale was that since I knew many people of the Diocese outside the confines of our local parish, I could potentially help the school a great deal.

But that’s a conflict of interest, since it was my full-time job to contact individuals and solicit gifts to benefit ALL the schools…not just this one. “Oh, you wouldn’t have to do this on company time – you could do this on your own time. You’re in contact with people that we just can’t get connected to.”

At the same time, I was involved with a parent booster organization which was organized as an independent 501(c)3 organization.  Similarly, I would be more than happy to give advice, but to make the connections, set up the meetings, and ask people for funding would go against what I was hired to do by my employer.  The parent booster organization really didn’t “need” my advice (even though they did, since they were stuck in a “fundraiser of the month” mindset).  They needed people to “do,” and not to “direct.”

They is why Advancement/Development is a “1 to 1 Initiative.” The person charged with this sacred duty becomes synonymous with the school. If this person is contracted by two or more schools, eventually, this question will be asked: “Why didn’t you get my school a $10,000 grant? You got one for the other school…”

As for the caveat, there are five good reasons for several schools to get together and hire an Advancement/Development Director:

1) It there is an administrator/principal, a secretary, and a business manager hired to administer several schools as a system, or if several elementary schools which feed a local high school along with the high school operate as a system.  It must be made clear that everyone is working as a system for the benefit of the system.  (Did you notice the importance of the word “system” in those sentences?) Two schools simply working as independent entities that hire an advancement director in much the same as schools split the costs of a music teacher, art teacher, phys ed teacher or librarian are setting themselves up for disappointment, and setting up the person they hire for frustration and burnout.

2) The hiring of only one key administrator in the form of the Director of Advancement or Development is a part of a plan to merge the schools into one at some point in the near future, and that person remains part of the merged administration.  There is nothing worse than beginning to develop relationships, then a decision being made that rearranges an administration alignment, and then all those relationship need to be rebuilt.

3) The hiring of one Director of Advancement or Development is the first step to hiring more. If four schools, for instance, are involved, then processes can be set in place the first year in all four schools. The next year, another person is hired, so that each oversee two schools, and work as a team. The third year, another person is brought on, and by the fourth year, the last person is brought in so that each school has their own Advancement or Development Director, and the “1 to 1 Initiative” is maintained.

4) The person hired to perform Development work is a consultant that does this type of work as their business.  The schools which then work with this person don’t have to pay benefits, but rather, contract with the individual and/or their company.  Of course, all work is specified within the contract. There is no “other duties as assigned” clause in the job description.  If other duties are assigned, that will change the contact, and the person will expect additional compensation for it.  The person hired may be working with different types of organizations as well.  In the above examples, schools were getting together to hire an individual.  In this particular context, the person contracted may also work with a local museum, a healthcare system, and local pet shelter.  These organizations have completely different “engagement” audiences, but the strategies used to create those engagements are the same for every non-profit organization.

5) Hiring or contracting a person eliminates the potential of offering development work to a current school employee as an additional compensated duty.  For instance, you may have a teacher that is looking for additional duties, and decide to put them in charge of development efforts.  Unfortunately, the development director must spend time connecting to alumni, businesses, community members and donors, and that means working outside the confines of the school building for most of the day.  Since a teacher needs to spend most of their time teaching, development isn’t something someone can start at 3:30 in the afternoon and continue until 5:30.  To reference another article on this Web site, if you plant small potatoes, you’re going to get small potatoes.


© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2012-2023