Hats Off to Catholic School Advancement Directors!

October 12, 2019

Dollars in the door… Students in the seats…. That’s a simple way of explaining the results generated by Advancement Directors responsible for the revenue drivers of Catholic elementary schools — Enrollment Management and Development.  

In the most successful schools, these positions have become increasingly strategic in their influence and savvy in the tactics recommended and implemented by those who hold them. “The Advancement Director keeps the school focused on achieving advancement and admission results while the Principal leads the school academically and the Board sets the vision and broader strategic direction,” said Lisa Anderson, Director of Schools, Healey Education Foundation. “This externally-facing position is charged with developing enrollment strategies, creating a culture of philanthropy, alumni engagement, marketing and conveying the school’s message to all audiences.” 

“It’s a good thing Kati Reak loves hats because she certainly wears a lot of them!” shared Lisa Anderson, Healey Director of Schools. Kati joined St. Dominic School (Northfield, MN) as Advancement Director in April 2017.

As Advancement Director of St. Dominic School (Northfield, MN), Kati Reak enrolled a new student in every grade including preschool last year and focused on middle school retention as the school voted to expand its middle school curriculum. She also led development efforts including creating a successful Annual Fund and Lead Gift Event, multiple solicitations, stewardship and working with a Board of Specified Jurisdiction.

Kati has become a proponent of this crucial hire for the future of other Catholic schools as well. “Every school needs one!” she said. “My position is all about fostering and developing community — parishioners, alumni, parents, others.… I love to tell everyone why St. Dominic School is such a unique and wonderful opportunity for our Northfield families.”

Through her efforts, the school’s results are trending up. They include an increase in early retention, from 78% as of October 2018 to 86% as of October 2019. The school also surpassed its Board-established Annual Fund goal in year one by 64%. In year two, the goal was doubled and exceeded by 1%.

Working with Healey Director of Schools Lisa Anderson, Kati and the St. Dominic School team created an enrollment strategy to increase diversity within their school. The Latino FIESTA initiative provides scholarship funding for newly enrolled Latino families who wish to have their children be part of a faith-filled community.

Grace Samanns has served as the Advancement Director at Mater Dei Catholic School (Lansdale, PA), a Healey alumni school, for five years. During that time, the school created a Board, launched an Annual Fund that raises nearly $100,000 a year, and received recognition as a 2018 Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. In recent programs, the school surpassed its goal in raising more than $26,000 in the Trek and Color Run Appeals to kick off the Annual Fund and launched online re-registration, including via smartphones.

Mater Dei Catholic School now offers early education in seven classrooms with the 2018 introduction of Imagination Playhouse (for children under three years of age) along with its three PreK3 and three PreK4 classrooms.  

“Grace’s commitment to donor stewardship, volunteer engagement and consistent and thoughtful follow-up to current and prospective families has made her a standout Advancement Director,” said Megan Famular, Director of Schools, Healey Education Foundation. “Mater Dei is so lucky to have her!”

For Hires in New Healey Partner Schools

The Foundation’s current sample position description reflects the strategic and broad nature of the Director of Advancement & Admission role — essential when a school is launching an advancement office. Depending on existing staff and organizational strengths, some schools may benefit from a greater specialization in enrollment management while others may require deeper development expertise. The hire should meet the unique needs of each school. The position description should be customized as needed, including adaptations to reflect staff already in place to support the Director. As the school grows, an additional role or roles may be added for long-term sustainability.