Advancement Leaders as Problem-Solvers in 2021
If a school needs a new building, a dynamic speaker for an event, or a new set of smart boards for the classroom, the development team is often brought in to secure the funding, whether through an annual fund or other means. Fundraisers have essentially always been problem-solvers; when there is a need, the development team fills it.
As we begin to see a light at the end of this pandemic-sized tunnel, the nature of advancement and the problems it brings may shift. The question of sustainability is on every school’s mind. Whether you belong to a thriving, over-producing school or a small institution on a shoe-string budget, both the fiscal fortitude and cultural relevance of schools have been called into question by this challenging year. When the dust settles and schools return to “normal,” what will “normal” look like for the advancement team?
My prediction is that the immense pressure facing our schools will likely increase.
This fiscal year will not be as challenging as the next. It’s possible that 2022-2023 might even be more challenging, as we see the attrition of students enrolled during the pandemic, and see donors disengage once the fiscal health of the school isn’t perceived to be as dire.
In the November-December issue of Currents and in the associated Toolkit, I wrote about the need for schools to consider a business-development function under the integrated advancement umbrella. New and increasing revenue streams are going to become imperative to the health of schools over the next few years.
We cannot yet conceive of the problems schools will face as the fallout of the pandemic continues. The digital engagement schools have leveraged will likely continue alongside traditional programming even when a vaccine is widely available. The new “normal” will mean increased expectations, not fewer.
With all this in mind, I urge you to continue to think of yourselves as problem-solvers and discuss with your head and board what this new “normal” will mean for the advancement offices at your school.
Connect with your colleagues in admissions and think carefully about how to move forward and how to structure your offices so that your problem-solving and business-generating creative minds can do their best work.
At the end of the year, we are ready to lean into holiday traditions or mid-year exhaustion. Safely enjoy time with your families and friends and recharge your proverbial batteries. May 2021 bring us peace and good cheer, and may it give us a renewed energy for the work ahead.
About the author(s)
Ann Snyder is the director of independent and international schools at CASE.