The 2023 IDPE Annual Conference organised was a highly anticipated event that brought together a diverse range of schools, educators, and development professionals. This conference served as a dynamic platform for attendees to explore and discuss various aspects of school development, covering a wide spectrum of topics. From bursary funds, to fostering a collaborative work environment as a team of one, the conference sessions delved into the various challenges faced by schools. Speakers shared innovative insights, best practices, and effective methods for achieving success and mitigating against the challenges faced in the school development sector.
Kate Love, Director of Development, Felsted School; Lucy Lunt, Director of Development and Alumni Relations, Solihull School
Alumni are a valuable resource, and tapping into their talent not only benefits the school, but also serves as a great marketing opportunity. Check out these six steps to finding and engaging talent within your alumni community, shared by Kate Love and Lucy Lunt.
1. Recognise the importance of talent
Understanding why talent matters is crucial. Talented alumni can contribute to the growth and development of your school, enhancing its reputation and creating a strong alumni network. By involving alumni in various capacities, you create a sense of belonging and foster a supportive community.
2. Identify and gather data
To find talent, you need an effective method of gathering and storing data. Consider commissioning a digital data capture survey to improve contact details, professional information, and net worth. Plus, having an organised and up-to-date database enables you to easily access and engage with potential talent.
3. Manage expectations
Different age groups have varying levels of engagement and availability. Senior alumni may prefer less frequent contact, perhaps once or twice a year. However, it is essential to maintain a consistent connection with current talent. Balancing these expectations can be challenging, so it's crucial to ensure there are ample opportunities for alumni to contribute. Acknowledging individuals who have offered their help, even if they haven't been utilised yet, maintains their interest and enthusiasm.
4. Engage parents
Parents play a pivotal role in supporting their children's education and often maintain a lifelong connection with the school. Involving parents not only generates goodwill but also opens up potential opportunities through their networks. Engage with parents by keeping them informed about alumni activities and inviting them to participate in relevant events.
5. Utilise high-profile talent
High-profile talent within your alumni community can be a powerful asset. Celebrate the accomplishments of these individuals and leverage their connections to promote your school. By creating opportunities for them to share their experiences through mediums like podcasts, you can engage both alumni and parents, where podcasts have gained popularity and appeal to a wider audience.
6. Transition from time and talent to giving
Encourage your talent to contribute to the school in the form of donations.Transitioning from alumni's time and talent to financial contributions strengthens their connection with the school and demonstrates their commitment to its continued success.
Kirsty Murdoch, Head of School Development, Notting Hill Prep School; Hannah Pinney, Head of Alumni & Development, Ashford School; Emily Clarke, Head of Fundraising & Partnerships, The Harris Federation
Three development professionals, Emily Clarke, Kirsty Murdoch and Hannah Pinney, shared invaluable advice and useful takeaways for managing workloads when navigating the challenges of working in a team of one.
As a team of one, it is crucial to manage expectations effectively. This involves aligning your vision with the goals of the project or organisation and ensuring they are in line with the broader strategy. Communicate and collaborate with key stakeholders regularly to keep them updated on progress, challenges, and successes. Plus, maintain a clear alignment and set realistic goals.
Challenges are often opportunities
Perceive each challenge as an opportunity for growth and learning. Every obstacle you encounter can help you develop new skills, enhance problem-solving abilities, and gain valuable experience. Embrace these challenges and view them as stepping stones toward achieving your goals.
The importance of saying no and sticking to a list of priorities
As a team of one, time and resources are limited. Therefore, it is crucial to prioritise tasks and projects. Learn to say no to requests or activities that do not align with your goals or priorities. By focusing on what truly matters, you can ensure that your efforts are concentrated on activities that will have the most significant impact.
Don’t be afraid for things to take time
Patience is key when working alone. Remember that success often takes time to materialise. Instead of rushing or forcing outcomes, allow your work to grow organically. Trust in your abilities and have faith that your efforts will yield results over time. Stay committed to the path you have set and remain confident in your expertise.
Focus on getting the basics right
Pay attention to the essentials such as data management, effective communication strategies, and a clear messaging approach. These fundamental aspects lay the groundwork for your work and contribute to its success. Invest time in ensuring that these foundations are solid and well-established.
Nick Smith, Head of Development, Churchers College; Charlie Clare, Deputy Development Director & Head of Prep School Fundraising, Stowe School; Jonny Hylton, Foundation Director, Reigate Grammar School
As schools continue to evolve and thrive, nurturing relationships with alumni becomes an integral part of their growth and success. Three development professionals shared their tips and strategies implemented in their schools - Churchers College, Stowe School, and Reigate Grammar School - to engage school leavers early on and foster meaningful connections with younger alumni.
Nick Smith, Head of Development at Churchers College
Nick introduced the Development Office through a whole school assembly to familiarise students with the team and their operations. Plus, they moved the Development office to opposite the upper sixth building to enhance accessibility. To create a sense of FOMO, the team promoted community events like the informal headmaster garden party, effectively establishing the development office brand. Their efforts paid off with the Centennial party, which attracted a mix of young and old alumni and was highly successful.
Charlie Clare, Deputy Development Director & Head of Prep School Fundraising, Stowe School
To get students involved early on, Stowe’s ‘Change 100’ ambassador programme allows students to get involved in writing thank you letters and creating social posts. Plus, these ambassadors also wear pins and are given a sense of ownership over the process. At the latest Summer BBQ the Development Office shared a three point message, incorporating that they will support and facilitate networking opportunities, provide careers support and provide a mothership for you to support one another.
Jonny Hylton, Foundation Director at Reigate Grammar School
An important takeaway for Johnny was how not to try and engage leavers - at the end of term study break (the ‘living dead’, as they are termed, are final year exam-riddled students)! The four-year reunion event for each alumni group is designed to be hands-off, allowing attendees to freely enjoy the occasion. Then, the ten-year reunion is planned in advance, mapping out the Reigatian journey for the attendees. LinkedIn groups also help the Development office, since they serve as low-engagement community forums.
For many development professionals, utilising a streamlined system is not just a preference but a crucial element for achieving success in various areas such as fundraising, bursary appeals, alumni events, marketing campaigns, and community management.
ToucanTech’s features include robust fundraising management capabilities, allowing development professionals to efficiently manage and track donations, launch targeted campaigns, and measure their impact. The system also supports bursary appeals, enabling schools to effectively reach out to their community and raise funds for scholarships and financial aid programs. Want to find out more? Talk to our team today.
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