Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Folding social media into a campaign

First, I'd like to clarify I am not talking about a fundraising campaign so much as an "advertising" campaign (to the extent it can exist on an independent school campus).

With the generous pro-bono help of some outside folks, our school has kicked off an advertising campaign to build support (mostly just moral support) for some physical changes coming to campus. Yep, construction. We spend much time raising money for it, talking it up, etc. Then when the bulldozers and hard hats arrive on campus, it can turn into a kvetch-fest. This time, we're trying to head them off at the pass.

The campaign is pretty simple, really, but aside from putting up posters, mentioning it in speeches and throwing around a new logo, we were looking to take it another step. Social media, right? What we're doing is taking the new campaign's tagline and asking people what they think it really means, both on-line and in person. So far we've gotten some good answers. We're tweeting the ones we got in person, re-tweeting the ones we get through Twitter and plan to incorporate some of the answers into publications, etc.

Who has had success with this kind of interactive campaign? Would love to hear your take!

Monday, August 16, 2010

I'm back - and more social (media) than ever!

So a few months ago I had this brilliant idea for a blog, and then... well, a lot of things happened professionally and it sort of went by the wayside. However, with the new school year starting, I am renewing my commitment to blogging with some sort of regularity.

Social media is a topic that has been on the tip of everyone's tongues, not to mention all over my inbox with a recent CASE-Communications thread. Someone very innocently started out by looking for people in the field who are responsible for overseeing social media. I believe this gentleman was looking for people, like him, who are 100% dedicated to social media. I know there are people like that "out there." But at the same time, no one wants to miss the social media boat, so the thread devolved into a discussion of a special list-serv and a chain of "me too" answers.

Today, no one can afford not to be involved in social media, whether it's your full-time job or just a part of the many things you do. Many of us in independent schools are one-man bands (or two- or three-men max). So what are we doing that works? How can we integrate social media into all the other things we do, for instance a special campaign, event, publication, etc.?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Leadership in Advancement

What does it mean to be a leader? I feel advancement professionals are called upon to lead in many areas -- not only do many of us have "direct-reports" but we also are often involved in the steering of the institution, strategic planning, etc. We desire to lead our school's teachers, students and families toward a deeper understanding of what it means to support the school. And that's a pretty diverse group.

What are the essential qualities of a good leader, or what are some strategies to follow? In the book "The 10 Greatest Gifts I Give My Children," author Steven W. Vannoy suggests the following:
- Focus on the future: Don't give too much time to rehashing what went wrong. Think about the results you want to achieve.
- Spread positive messages through your speech by building people up
- Teach by asking questions (What are you most proud of? or in a more professional vein -- why is it important to support the school financially?) If we can get people to reason through things for themselves, they will
- Listen: really listen
- Model: Teach through your own actions.

OK, this is a parenting book -- but it's obvious these tools can work outside the family as well. In fact, the book is the basis of the Pathways to Leadership course, which I am starting today. I'll let you know what else I learn.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

We all have the same problems

Recently I had the opportunity to talk to a large group of people, mostly alumni relations officers, and it was a great reminder of what I mentioned in my last post: conferences remind us we all have the same challenges.

I asked people independently and privately to write down their biggest problem/challenge with alumni communications. Most said:
- Our alumni are disengaged and apathetic
- Our database is not adequate

It took me back to my first conference as an advancement professional, when alumni dissatisfaction weighed heavily on my mind. As stupid as it now sounds, I really felt like our alumni problems were different, and no one else could possibly have a group of vocal, dissatisfied alumni. I know, right? How innocent I was.

Now I know we all have those problems, whether it’s over cancellation of a program like football, a controversial hire, fundraising choices or whatever.

I am wondering what other problems we all have? They must all speak to human nature in general if they’re so widespread.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Magic of Conferences

Maybe it's just me, but it seems early second semester (January through April or so) is prime time for conferences -- kicking off with CASE/NAIS and including district conferences, various leadership institutes, etc.

Today, there is more information than ever available on-line. But it still seems like there's something special about taking a couple of days, going somewhere and listening to people speak, even if they're telling you something you might have found on-line if you googled long enough.

So what is it about conferences?

I think there are several special aspects that make conferences worth our time (and money).

1. Conferences remind us that our profession is important. Important enough to take some time and focus on how, what and why we do what we do. We hear inspiring cases, get new ideas and are reminded that we are not alone in the battles we fight. Something about seeing actual people and hearing their voices makes that real in a way that list-servs can't.

2. Conferences make us feel like anything is possible! Even though it's not. We come back full of ideas. Even if most of them go over like a lead balloon, the feeling associated with new ideas is so refreshing. If you're so burned out that a conference can't give you at least a little lift, you may just be done with advancement.

3. I hate to say it, but maybe it has something to do with that much overused 90s word... synergy. Being able to ask questions in front of everyone and getting feedback just generates a kind of energy we need. If people have ideas that work for you, great. If they can't answer your question, well, you're not an idiot for not being able to answer it either. Either way you're better off.

And of course for those of us who don't travel too much for work, seeing a new place and staying in a hotel and getting free snacks is kinda fun....

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Welcome to Indie Schoolgirl!

This is a blog created especially for independent school advancement professionals. It will be a place where we can share ideas, best practices, news, opinions, anecdotes, etc. Please participate as much as possible so we can share ideas and resources and continue to advance our schools as well as our profession.