Someone once told me, “Be careful what you wish for; you may get it.” Some schools throughout the nation are realizing this when it comes to state-funded voucher programs. While initially celebrated as a victory for parental choice in education, and a help to faith-based and private schools in carrying out their mission of service to those who may be unable to afford tuition, some of these schools have realized that the voucher doesn’t cover all of the per-student tuition, let alone the cost of education. Because the school has decided to accept vouchers, it may now be scrambling to try to determine how to make up for the loss of revenue per student, causing even more of a financial hardship than they experienced prior to vouchers.
This is not to say that all change creates negative situations – but all change is difficult, simply because it’s different from what we’ve become accustomed to. If we want to change our diet, the foods we eat may not be the most pleasing. If we want to begin an exercise routine, we’ll feel aches and pains after our first workouts. If the phrase, “No pain, no gain,” applies to exercise, diet, and other practices associated with our health, then why should we expect finances to be different? And we’ve definitely experienced a year’s worth of change over these past six months!!
Parents know and impart to children the benefits of accomplishments that are associated with discipline, practice, and sacrifice involved with change. The same is true for development efforts.
In last month’s article, I pointed out how CHANGE can represent 6 of the aspects of development, with Communication, Happenings, and Appeals making up the first three. Here are the remainder:
N is for Networking. It’s important to involve others inside and outside the organization with the expertise that the organization requires. While communication simply spreads the word about the achievements and accomplishments of the organization, networking personally reaches out to others, starting with the people who are closest to us. It’s not only “Who do you know” sessions that are typical with sales lead groups, it’s “Who do you know who can help us achieve the objectives set forth in our plans so that we can attain our goals?” Networking could require a phone call, a home visit, or meeting with a business owner at their place of business, and (gasp) not being present at the school! Our kids network too, evidenced by students encouraging their friends to be involved in activities, connected on social media, or, even remain in the school because of the relationship they’ve established and cultivated.
G is for Gifts and Grants. From a small donation from a school alumnus to a major gift from a corporation, we must always offer “Thanks” for the gifts given to us. It is incumbent upon us to share evidence that gifts are making a difference in the lives of our students, too! Grants are major projects, crafted and detailed so a corporation or foundation can provide substantial funding of a pre-determined project, initiative or innovation. If a grant is awarded, not only thanks and evidence is necessary, but periodic status updates must be reported back to the awarding entity to ensure compliance with the stipulations of the award. Usually, if the project can’t be completed due to lack of additional funding, time constraints, declining enrollment or a change in administration, the awarding entity may request that their contribution be returned, even though it helped to fund the initial work…which could lead a nice hole on your school’s balance sheet.
E is for Energize and Educate. As Stephen R. Covey calls it, “Sharpening the Saw.” If a person doing development work does not continually energize and educate themselves, they will burn out, and fast! If members of the organization are not energized and educated about development, it will take a back seat to other activities of the organization. If development is put on the back burner after it’s begun, there is a good chance that change which has been initiated will not continue, and fundraising suggestions will once again choke any progress made in building a Development mindset. Going back to the way something was done before is regression – not advancement.
Just as Development is constantly changing, I’ve now adopted a 9 letter acronym to describe the functions a Development Director must be aware of. If we add three more elements to the mix, namely, Associations, List Management and Rest, CHANGE becomes ARCHANGEL. CHANGE is still intact in the middle of the word, but “A” for Appeals is in the direct center of the work, meaning it’s a the heart of any development campaign. “A” for Associations is first, because, more often than not, the Advancement or Development Director may be the lone wolf (or cheerleader, depending upon your perspective), and needs to associate with people who provide collegiality along the journey. Then comes “R” for Rest. If you’re an Advancement or Development Director and you don’t do that, you’ll quickly discover how fast burnout can happen, especially if you don’t have assistants to provide assistance. L is for List Management. It’s how you organize your prospective donors, as well as your current donors, including LYBNTs and SYBNTs, so that you can tailor your communications to the appropriate group. I once received a letter from a high school requesting a contribution for their annual appeal, and the letter’s salutation read, “Dear (Name of School removed to not embarrass the school) Alumni:” and was signed by the school’s “Executive Director of Development.” The only problem was that I’m not a graduate of the school. Grammatically, Alumni is plural, so even though the envelope was addressed to me, the personalization did not extend to the appeal letter itself. Can you guess where the letter went?
By the way, if you need to know what a LYBNT and a SYBNT is, send an email to email@example.com, and put “lybnt and sybnt” in the subject line. Use lowercase letters, since all uppercase letters increase the chance of your email landing in a spam folder since they stand for something and aren’t words.
Next month, it’s time to prepare for next year – not the next calendar year, but the next school year! Already? Indeed, already!
© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2008-2021