You say to-may-to…I say to-mah-to…same thing, right?

Sadly, no.

There is a quotation attributed to Confucius which states, “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.” It also help to take the ambiguity out of a conversation, and ensures everyone is on “the same page.”  It’s just like tuition assistance – which is the same as financial aid, right?

If you said, “Right,” you need to keep reading.

A little over a decade ago, I was speaking with some colleagues regarding a seminar they recently attended. While there, they learned that the term “Advancement” was displacing use of the term “Development.” These folks believed that Development was becoming outdated, especially because those schools that had hired Development Directors were giving those individuals the responsibility for all the fundraising (note there isn’t a space between the words “fund” and “raising”) activity in the school. While Development Directors are indeed responsible for raising funds (the more appropriate terminology for, well, raising funds), they shouldn’t be the folks in charge of collecting Boxtops for Education or Campbell’s soup labels.

The fact is, Development professionals know the difference between development and fundraising. Fundraising is short-term, crisis-based acquisition of funds; Development is long-term, strategically-planned relationship building resulting in an acquisition of monetary gifts. These gifts “advance” the organization toward its vision.  Bottom line: there’s SO much more to “Advancement.”

One of the first tag lines for this Web site was “Helping Schools to Advance Toward their Vision.”  Some individuals suggested that it should be “Helping Schools to Advance their Mission.”  So, perhaps a little explanation tangent is in order.  Any organization (for- or not-for-profit) has to have two statements about its activities: a Mission statement and a Vision statement. The Mission of an organization is its guiding principle.  It’s what it does. It is the overarching goal of the organization. For instance, Jesus’ mission  is “that all may be one” – the reconciliation of the entire human race to God since we were made by God for God.

The vision is how the mission is fulfilled. Jesus knew that to fulfill His mission, His vision was that “the Son of Man must suffer greatly, be put to death, and on the third day, rise to new life.” It was His passion. Everything He did advanced His life toward that vision of how the mission would be carried out.

So how does this relate to schools, as well as other organizations?  While the mission does not change, the vision can – with new leadership, with changing circumstances, and with the process of advancement, especially when new opportunities present themselves. The purpose of advancement is to keep moving toward the vision that is set in a strategic plan which determines where an organization wants to go in order to fulfill its mission.  Not moving forward is “stagnation;” moving away from the vision and back toward what it was is “regression.”

The word “advancement” implies forward movement, and therefore, change. In this respect, “Development” and “Advancement” about the same things, in that both deal with changing mindsets. Marketing also deals with change, but deals with changing one’s mindset to, as Jesus said, “Come and see.”  It’s the start of the process of interest/inquiry/investigation/involvement/investment.  Both Development and Advancement are growth-oriented and forward-thinking.  However, Stagnation and Regression, as mentioned about, can be considered to be the respective opposites of Development and Advancement.

So now we have three words that mean “change.” How do they relate to one another? Advancement is the “whole ball of wax;” Marketing (and all involved with it, like branding, positioning, media relations, promotion, research and analysis, etc.) leads to Enrollment (enrolling new students) which leads to Retention (retaining current students) which leads back to Marketing. Development efforts bring those individuals who have experienced the organization to share their gifts of time, talent and treasure so the organization may grow, and advance toward the vision to fulfill its mission. The fifth element to complete the system is Asset Management to track revenues from Development and Tuition, and utilize those funds strategically to grow the organization to a point of sustainability.

If elementary and secondary schools are modeling the processes in higher education as rationale for utilizing the term “Advancement,” then the other respective nomenclature must be adopted. More positions may need to be added as the school grows, resulting in the hiring of individuals with titles like “Planned Giving Director” or “Major Gifts Officer.”

If an organization is not willing to incorporate all these functions under the “Advancement” umbrella, more confusion in communication will result. Visions will not become realities, and missions will not be fulfilled.  With that in mind, there have been some recent discussions regarding the Chief Communications Officer of the school reporting directly to the Head of School.  This is a great idea!  However, in the spirit of calling things by their right names, that doesn’t mean the Chief Marketing Officer and the Chief Communications Officer are the same person, or mean the same thing.  If you’d like to know more about the difference, send an email to [email protected], and let’s start a dialogue about the difference.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2007-2022 (Original Publication Date: 20070702)