February 2nd, 2022 by Barbara Barron
It’s February 2022. A new year. But if you’re feeling like me, it feels more like the same old, same old.
A client moved their Board retreat at which I offered training to remote. We were ALL looking forward to being in the trustee’s living room for that experience. Their county went back to a stay-at-home order. The national CASE-NAIS conference so many of us were looking forward to attending, in person, is postponed. A fellow campaign consultant wrote to a group of us today asking for advice on holding a “virtual campaign kick-off event.”
So, we’re not as far along in our recovery from this global pandemic as I believed we were back in the fall. OK. What now?
I am struck by all the ways we’ve shifted. “Pivot” was the word of 2020. After we pivoted, we adopted new measures, practices, and habits. There are things we never imagined we’d be doing or didn’t believe could be effective and yet, are.
So, today I’m interested in focusing on those.
Let’s start with how nearly every school I know has had gangbuster Annual Funds these last 2 years. Yes, the stock market has been helpful. Not everyone, for sure, but many of our school families are sitting on more cash than they have in a long time. And while they spent some of it on rowing machines, furniture, and home renovations (or was that just me?!), what they didn’t do was spend it on vacations. And many gave more of it to our schools.
They did so, in part, because we asked. We were bold in our appeals. We explained how their dollars were being spent on vitally important improvements for the health and safety of teachers and students. We made a good case. Plus our families were grateful for the dedication and care of fine teachers. For schools staying open. Parents demonstrated gratitude through generosity.
Thank you. Let’s keep this. Being clear about the use of dollars gifted. Being super intentional about stewarding gifts. All of them. All the time.
What else? We paid close attention to how members of our community were doing. We checked in, to connect and learn how we might be helpful. We had real conversations. We listened. And that felt great — to everyone. It also resulted in knitting us closer to our supporters. That’s worth keeping.
How are we doing with our teachers? That remains to be decided in my mind since the current situation, ever-evolving (or devolving, at this writing) continues to put faculty and staff under enormous pressure. Those working in our schools are handling tasks well outside of their scope. It’s all-hands-on-deck every blessed day. That’s exhausting. And not sustainable. Parents, in the BC days, played a helpful role as volunteers but they can’t be on campus right now. So, we need to be aware. Or beware. I wish I knew the solution. The only inkling I have ever had can be read in my article about putting teachers at the top of our org charts, right here.
(Sidebar: this article from NAIS about keeping educator well-being in mind also feels pertinent. A great read.)
Patience. Accommodation. Flexibility. These are all qualities we’ve had to hone within ourselves and in our organizations. They’re worth keeping.
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What more? We all moved to remote meetings, of course. And we found that some or many of those meetings were actually more efficient. We certainly save time and money on travel and dining! In the best cases, those meetings are scheduled and conducted with consideration like mini-breaks, the best use of breakout rooms, and thoughtful facilitation. But hybrid remote/in-person meetings are a disaster, in my view. No one has ever liked being the sole person on a conference call with everyone else chatting away in the (actual) room. We can do better here.
What we didn’t expect is that conducting solicitations via zoom would be possible. But it is! And often, far easier to get and hold the attention of both people in a couple. Yes, those important, intentional conversations require planning and practice. But asking for gifts should always involve planning and practice. I’ve written extensively on this topic. Do not wing this stuff!
So, while much of this adaptation has been born of necessity and we’d all happily jettison it the minute we can, it’s worth thinking about how we can take the best from this painful, stressful time and weave it into our new best practices.
What have you done that’s worth keeping? Hope you’ll share!
My name is Barbara Barron, and I’m writing this blog to share advice on a profession that I adore.
I’ve been working in the field of Independent School Advancement for over 20 years. In that time, I’ve had the pleasure of creating and implementing successful fundraising plans and programs for so many incredible schools. I’ve had the privilege of seeing real growth at The Carey School, Marin Primary & Middle School, Woodside Priory, Crystal Springs, Presidio Knolls, Sage Ridge, and San Diego French American, and others. (Maybe we’ve met!)
Nothing makes me happier than seeing a struggling school start to thrive. My hope is that you’re here to make a positive change as well. I hope my advice can be a part of that change.
Shoot me an e-mail if you want to swap tips, or share your voice here.
Let’s do this, together.