Any forward-thinking school has its eye on the future. In today’s post, we discuss the concept of ‘advancement’ and its basis not just in what lies ahead, but in the past and present as well.
“At its inception our school did (and, frankly, oftentimes still does) struggle with what may – or may not – fall under the advancement umbrella (or advancement ‘catch-all’, depending on the day!).
And therein lies the strength of the advancement structure – it is both all and everything that a school and department may choose for it to include.
It provides a trampoline to dare to try within new arenas – whether that be a podcast, a new fundraising programme, or a new link with one of your constituent or alumni groups. It implies motion, but, ironically, not always forward, for, as we know, to advance is often to trip along the way, or to stop cold, or even to backtrack a few steps. But it always implies motion, and this motion implies ideas, flexibility, inquiry and growth.
I truly believe your school needs to think about advancement in order to challenge its notion of a growth mindset, and to honestly realise areas where it excels, and areas where it doesn’t.”
Courtney Knight, Advancement and Engagement Director, International School of Paris
‘Advancement’ is essentially an umbrella term that brings together a number of strands all centred on the common theme that can best be summed up as ‘driving a school forward’. From fundraising to engaging with the local community to improving campus facilities, advancement is all about furthering your school’s aims and providing a better experience for the students, parents, faculty, staff and alumni who make up your school community.
The concept of advancement covers a broad range of activities, many of which may well have their own dedicated teams within your school. These include:
- Admissions – attracting new students from around the world using targeted messaging and storytelling, and then making them and their families feel welcome from their first contact with your school
- Internal communications – making sure every member of the school community feels part of the family
- Campus improvement – building new facilities and enhancing existing ones, whether through installing state-of-the-art new teaching equipment in classrooms or building a new sports centre
- Community engagement – external communications that foster connections with the local community and beyond
- Alumni relations – keeping in touch with graduates of your school and organising events for them
- Fundraising and business development – engaging with benefactors in the community and wider business world (including among alumni), to build relationships, encourage donations and uncover potential opportunities for enhancing your students’ education (such as internships or donations of technology)
In short, then, it is easy to see why current thinking on advancement is often summed up as the idea of telling the story of your school and its past, present and future. From the alumni who left your school decades ago to the children who will fill your classrooms in the academic years ahead, the concept of advancement is there to help you deliver a unified experience, an enhanced education and a sense of community.
Advancement not only paints the right picture of your school to anyone who comes into contact with it, but it ensures that each and every member of the school community feels connected with you in whatever capacity they occupy. It can also go hand-in-hand with innovation, particularly given the need to ‘future-proof’ by adapting to new ways of teaching and learning engendered by the advent of new technologies or theories, or by unforeseen circumstances such as the pandemic.
“As schools emerge from the other side of a global pandemic, questions are being asked about what schools are for, who they are for, and how they can stand out in a highly competitive landscape. Advancement – with all of the activities that this word embraces – will be required to help schools develop the strategies to answer these questions. Advancement 2.0 will demand that we build more agile teams, do more with less, are clear about where value lies, and intentionally design the experience of school at each stage of the lifecycle of school experience. There has never been a more exciting time to do this strategic work!”
Dr David Willows, Co-founder and Strategic Director of [YELLOW CAR] – a training and consultancy firm designed to help schools stand out.
How OpenApply Helps Your Advancement
With OpenApply, international and independent schools are well equipped to manage a broad spectrum of advancement activities, connecting with students and parents before application, during application, during enrolment, and after they leave the school.
The CRM module enables targeting and nurturing of prospective families with bespoke communication and messaging, which has a demonstrable effect on the speed and efficiency of application and enrolment, as shown in a recent whitepaper.
Various custom forms and data fields can be used to track alumni once they transition to another school, university, or career, ensuring they can be engaged with at different stages of their academic and professional lives. These let schools communicate to their prospective families as well as their school community organically.
Schools have also been wanting to align their advancement efforts with their admissions processes even more tightly, with better connections and engagement with their wider alumni community.
We are working hard to expand the existing functions within OpenApply, enabling schools to engage more with their alumni community and to have more insight into what is helping with their student recruitment.You can learn more about this in our recent webinar: