Within the Advancement Offices: Independent Schools vs. Higher Ed Institutions

Within the Advancement Offices: Independent Schools vs. Higher Ed Institutions
May 28, 2020 Joe Painter

Advancement offices are not just mainstays at universities, the office responsible for fundraising money for capital campaigns, day-to-day expenses, and endowments, among other initiatives, are present in independent K-12 schools across the country.

While the advancement offices of independent schools may be motivated by the same end goals, like a capital campaign, the inner-workings of the offices may vary greatly from a university advancement office in categories such as:

At its core, advancement is about authentically connecting with constituents. It’s a partnership between what the school intends to accomplish and what the constituent wants. 

Before we explore the similarities and differences between independent schools versus higher education institutions, let’s take a deeper look at the world of independent schools.

Day Schools vs. Boarding Schools 

Within the independent school advancement environment, the biggest difference is between independent day schools and boarding schools. Let’s take a look into the intricacies of the two.

From day school to boarding school, there are a few differences in the constituents, and that affects how you approach fundraising. 

Day schools tend to have very different relationships with their parents than in boarding schools. 

The parents do the daily pick up and drop off, and they’re on campus frequently for volunteering. They’re engaged in the life of the school in a unique way. 

While the advancement office hopes they’re engaging these parents in meaningful ways for the long-term. They’re giving because they want their philanthropy to enhance their child’s experience during the child’s time on campus. 

As you may guess, it’s more typical of boarding schools to have a rich history of alumni engagement and philanthropy because they’re likely to have multi-generational families. Sometimes these families have been in the school communities for 4+ generations. 

Such families want to be recognized for their commitment. They also want to be recognized as an extended family. They wanted to be identified on name tags and connected to their siblings and other relatives. This level of complexity requires excellent relationship records and seamless gift processing to maintain geographic and personal information. Affinaquest excels at maintaining such records while also offering excellent tools for prospective donor and campaign management.

Yet, both day schools and boarding schools that have deep resources are likely to be raising money for new facilities and endowments. 

 

Independent Schools vs. Higher Education Institutions

Now that we have established the intricacies within independent schools, let’s compare the advancement offices and philosophies of independent schools and higher education institutions.

1. Resources

The most significant difference between an independent K-12 school and a university is the level of resources within a given institution. Some independent school advancement offices are one-person shops wearing all the hats. Others might have a couple of dozen staff and rival higher ed advancement offices in terms of resources and goals.

However, size is not always an indicator of the level of sophistication of a school. The level of connection an advancement office has with its constituents is a true measure of its success- whether the office has one major gift officer or sixteen. 

2. A Common Ground: Connecting With Constituents 

One aspect that is the same regardless of the type of school is that the advancement office must connect with constituents, and with technology, they can do so authentically and personally. 

Who are independent schools striving to engage? What about higher ed institutions? 

  • Independent Schools
    • What makes independent schools unique is that the most recent grads are often still children. At their oldest, they are 18 or 19 years old and potentially embarking on a college experience, where another advancement office will engage them with opportunities to give. 
    • Independent schools often will focus their efforts on the parents of current students. These parents often are already embedded into the lives of the school- through events, like school plays or basketball games. At day schools, they drop their children off and pick them up- offering another touchpoint for connection.
    • Some independent schools will focus on families who have sent their children to the school for generations. Focusing on these families by recognizing them at school events, in pamphlets, or on nametags. 
  • Higher Education Institutions
    • Higher education institutions target current students through events like senior giving day, as they hope to foster a lifetime habit of giving. 
    • They also target alumni through direct mailing, telethons, personalized emails, events, and other means- all with the intention of reminding alumni of the campus spirit they experienced while on campus. A system like Affinaquest can help you understand your alumni so that you can properly communicate with them.
    • They also target parents of students and alumni, in addition to older alumni who may be interested in giving lifetime gifts. If parents see the experience their children are currently having at the school or have had, they may feel inspired to pass that on to other generations of students.

3. The Role of Advancement at Every Level 

No matter the depth of resources, the job of advancement offices is the same everywhere. That job is to find ways to show the school remains relevant in their constituents’ lives today as much as it did 20 years ago. 

To that end, the school’s mission is to create leaders, transform lives, and make it relevant to individual constituents. 

In other words, it gets personal. We’re living in a world where we can get anything we want personalized. Our constituents become accustomed to that level of personalization, and they expect it from our Major Gift Officers and emails, etc. 

 

Being able to meet that demand for personalization is where having the right technology comes in. Affinaquest can empower schools to make that transition because it has interesting front-end campaign management tools as well as having the ability to track endowed funds into perpetuity. Affinaquest users can easily provide impact reports that demonstrate the significance of a donor’s philanthropy.

If you’d like to see if Affinaquest is right for your advancement office, please contact us  today to schedule a demonstration. 

Connect with and cultivate your constituents in one powerful system.