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Articles > Building Your Community > Three steps advancement teams need to take for school growth

Three steps advancement teams need to take for school growth

A round up of 'Getting strategic about advancement goals' with Joe Connolly, education advancement consultant

Advancement is one of the three key departments that fill and fund schools, along with marketing and admissions. It can be common for these teams to work independently, each seemingly working with a different audience and for a different purpose. However, working more directly can help to reduce the resources needed to boost school growth. 

In a recent webinar, Joe Connolly, co-founder of Connolly Educational Consulting and former chief advancement & enrollment officer at Hillbrook School, shared how his 10 years’ experience working with these three key departments had led him to develop strategic plans to connect and make a greater impact. He recommends following these three steps to foster growth by working alongside marketing and admissions:

1) Agree on a shared mission
Developing a shared mission between advancement, marketing communications and enrollment management should be derived from the overall mission to increase school growth by filling and funding the school. Taking input not only from senior leaders, but from all team members across the school who are responsible for building the school community that ultimately leads to growth, is important when agreeing a shared goal. Creating awareness about activity is one of the best ways to see opportunities for collaboration; for example, if the enrollment team shared that they were running an open house, how can other teams assist this and contribute to their shared mission of building the school community? Getting everyone on the same page with a shared vision enables each person to ask themselves and their teams whether this will contribute towards their goal, and prioritise effectively. 

2) Create collaborative strategic plans
How to measure your strategic gaps
Before deciding on a collaborative plan, it’s important to consider where the gaps might be in your current plans, and how collaborating can resolve these or help to pivot to a different strategy. Gaps could be stewardship efforts, retention efforts, outreach to new families or the utilization of different members of your community, such as board members or class captains. Start by analysing previous data, such as:

  • Year to date annual giving results
  • KPI dashboards held by different departments
  • Surveys from the school community, including staff and parents
  • You can then ask questions of your current activity such as:
  • Does it reflect our school?
  • Is the purpose and communication clear?
  • Does the timing make sense?
  • Should you be doing it at all?

Collaborating with admissions
Collaborating with admissions is about getting to know incoming members of your community, including knowing prospective families, developing new family profiles and having access to new families through admissions events. Admissions can also input into your new family profiles with details such as school involvement and contribution to the community, as well as other background information that can be useful for prospecting potential donors.

Collaborating with marketing
Collaborating with marketing enables advancement teams to have a greater awareness of where the school might be mentioned publically, through press or sponsorship activity, but also how the team is reaching out to the school community. This will help to avoid periods of extensive communications from both marketing and advancement, and to recognise audiences or topics where the message would land better coming from a different team. Advancement teams can also collaborate on different forms of inbound marketing, such as:
Blog posts
Email newsletters
Podcasts
Articles/white papers
Automated emails to your community members, e.g. birthday or thank you messages

3) Implement a project management tool to ensure the collaborative execution of each plan
Using a tool to help manage each ongoing project or piece of activity is essential to collaborating effectively. Often, the strategic plans set for each department can result in siloed activity that can’t be picked up or utilised by other teams until too late on, so using an effective tool is a good way to keep everyone on the same page. Whether you choose to use a spreadsheet or document, or another project management tool, the key is to stay updated and assign actions so everyone can see the progress and plan at a glance. 

Joe Connolly is an expert in helping US K-12 schools and colleges drive strategic growth through advancement practices.

ToucanTech is an all-in-one system that enables marketing, admissions and advancement teams to collaborate through one system, with a private portal, CRM and database to house your whole school community. With unlimited admin access and easy ways to target different segments of your community, plus one platform to bring them all together, it’s a great way to reduce time spent on admin and get to know your community on a deeper level. Speak to a member of the ToucanTech team to find out nore.

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