This post first appeared in the April 2017 issue of “The Head’s Letter” produced by Educational Directions.
My first job during college was working in a restaurant kitchen as an expeditor. The responsibility of an expeditor was to complete the final preparation on an order before the customer received his or her meal. Thus, I served as a liaison between cooks, waiters, and customers.
I soon realized that the expeditor was the linchpin of the dining experience. I don’t mean to suggest that my role was more important than the executive chef, server, or customer; my role was at the intersection of providing the best dining experience possible.
I recently thought of this experience when thinking about the role of the head of school within the advancement model which, for me, has the admission, development, and marketing/communication (MarCom) offices elevated to be at the same level and working together in concert to “advance” the mission of the school. Schools that embrace a meaningful relationship between these offices will be in a better position to handle the future.
Just as the expeditor is the linchpin of the kitchen, the head of school needs to be the linchpin of the advancement model. Key components of the model include:
1. Ensuring that your chief marketing/communications position has a seat at the table in your administration meetings.
Additionally, I would recommend that that person becomes your direct report. The symbolic effect is that the development, admission, and MarCom offices will be seen at the same level. The practical effect is that your chief MarCom person is your chief storyteller and having that person directly involved will strengthen the storytelling. As MarCom people cross all divisions and constituency groups, they are often aware of issues, deficiencies, or shortcomings at your school before anyone else.
2. Instituting a weekly meeting of the advancement team.
Your agenda, at a minimum, should allow for individual sharing from each participant as well as a strategic and operational discussion about how departments can support and help each other achieve their individual and collective goals.
3. Allowing everyone to own the numbers.
Management consultant Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” In order to improve, you have to know where you are doing well and where you need to improve. In the advancement world, that means you need to know your numbers. One of the ways to make those numbers even more important is to begin to share your admission and fundraising numbers at your weekly meetings. Allow the admission office to understand and appreciate what is going on with fundraising and vice versa. I also think there is great value in having the marketing/communications people take ownership of both sets of numbers.
It might surprise you that when I mention numbers, I don’t mean Facebook Likes, Twitter followers, or blog visitors. While those numbers do have a place in the MarCom office, I think it’s more important for your group to be aware, and share, the numbers that matter most: admission inquiries, applications, and visits as well as fundraising totals. At Sewickley Academy, we compile and share these numbers each week and compare them against the previous three to five years. In this way, we know where we are doing well and where we need to improve.
Finally, just as the expeditor is at the intersection of creating the best possible dining experience, the head of school is at the intersection of fostering the relationship between the admission, development, and MarCom offices to advance the mission of the school.
Also published on Medium.