Schools Make Advancement Plans and Progress During the Summer

May 28, 2015

Advancement work is never done. It’s cyclical. It’s year-round. While schools typically close the books on their Annual Funds on June 30, they continue to drive toward meeting or exceeding enrollment goals before their October 1 diocesan reporting deadlines. “There’s no real down time in enrollment and development,” said Laura Lang, Director of Schools, Healey Education Foundation. “It’s critical to take full advantage of the quiet summer months by capitalizing on the extra time to plan and get everything in order before the new school year is in full swing.”

Summer can be the ideal time to:

  • plan next year’s fundraising
  • host select learning, recruitment and retention activities and events
  • promote the school in the community

Capturing the Details

The end of the school year is a good time to assess and stretch, celebrating the achievements of the past year but also critiquing and considering what should be done differently next year. With that evaluation completed, schools can get down to planning.

Tools such as the Advancement Summer Checklist and Sample Work Plan provide a strong start in thinking through action items that can be completed over the summer.

“Regardless of the event or activity that they’re planning, schools should start with the end result in mind and then work in reverse to think through the details of each phase,” Laura said. “They need to record specific tactics, by date, while also setting realistic timelines for steps that shouldn’t be rushed toward the end of the process, like printing and mailing.”

A separate checklist can be created for multi-step initiatives, such as planning a Lead Gift Event. To get started over the summer, the Advancement Director and various committee members can:

  1. check school, parish and local community calendars before choosing a date
  2. research giving histories and create a top prospect list
  3. complete database and list maintenance
  4. schedule development committee meetings over the summer to plan all other action items for the school year, down to the last detail such as sending out a thank you letter from a fellow parent

Welcoming Current, New and Prospective Students    

Through a well structured and highly anticipated Summer Learning Program, Saint Joseph Regional School (Somers Point, NJ) keeps children of all ages coming into the school during July and early August.

“What began as math tutoring six years ago has grown to a full range of learning and enrichment activities that deliver what families need over the summer,” said Ellen Fletcher, Advancement Director.

“This is the first year we’re opening this up to other families in the community, and not just our current families, with the idea that it could help in recruitment as well as retention.” — Ellen Fletcher, Advancement Director

This year, the school offers Kindergarten Bootcamp and various Summer Advantage, reading and math skills programs – up to 8th grade graduates reviewing prerequisite skills. Summer Drama Camp (grades 4-8) culminates in a production of Seussical Jr. Children (grades 3-5) will explore the fundamentals of engineering, architecture and physics while building and designing LEGO® robots.

Others will attend Art Camps (grades 1-4) – Ahhh!! Monsters!! and P-art-Y – encouraging them to “unleash their wild side” and learn various techniques in sculpture, painting and illustration. In the Young Authors’ Workshop, students (grades 3-6) will create, write, edit and illustrate a class-produced book about conservation and the environment.

As is common for high schools, Bethlehem Catholic High School (Bethlehem, PA) plans for a full range of summer activities. These programs not only prepare current students for the year ahead but also provide incoming freshmen and transfers with early experiences in team building and interaction with students of all grade levels.

The school also hosts an August barbeque for new students and families, with student council members overseeing the set-up and helping to create a warm welcome. (See case study, Welcoming New Students.)

Strengthening Community Ties

To kick off its 150th anniversary year, St. John Catholic School (Westminster, MD) just marched in the city’s 148th Memorial Day parade. “Arguably one of the longest running Memorial Day observances in the country,” according to a report in the Westminster Patch, Carroll County’s tradition began in 1868. In the first parade, St. John’s students were among those processing to the Westminster Cemetery to place cut flowers from their gardens on the graves of the Union soldiers.

Later this month, St. Michael the Archangel School (Baltimore, MD) will offer a summer camp from noon to 4 p.m. on the days when the parish Vacation Bible School is scheduled in the mornings. This will provide a full day of support for families in need, including parishioners and those in the community without current ties to the school.

“These schools are thinking outside the box when planning summer activities and programs,” Laura said. “We need to discover and follow through on ways to bring the community into the school and also to promote the school in the community.”