Back to School(s): Learning and Legacy at the CASE Europe Annual Conference

It was an honor to be asked by CASE Europe‘s Executive Director Kate Hunter to help shape the 2013 CASE Annual Conference in Manchester. Andrew Beales, foundation director at Giggleswick School in North Yorkshire, and I were tasked with planning the conference’s schools track to include sessions tailored to delegates from international and independent schools.

What We Heard Prior to the Conference
These are the things we hear over and over from colleagues working in advancement at independent and international schools—small team, one (wo)man band, starting from next to nothing, building a program and small budgets. Passionate staff members often ask how they can do more, have impact and maintain reasonable expectations from their governing bodies and headmasters. So we decided to seek out speakers who have addressed these challenges, have done the research and who are passionate practitioners themselves.

The Takeaways
During the course of two days, delegates walked away with concepts and ideas spanning the granular to the strategic.

  • It’s all about the long game. Building a culture of giving in your school is a long-term prospect.—Headmaster Peter Hamilton, and Peter Spence, director of external relations, from Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School, during “Lessons Learnt: Adapting American Advancement to European Schools and Colleges.”
  • Customize content. International alumni are all individuals with different needs and interests, not just a big group of people who happen to live abroad.—Liz Allen, director of online communications and alumni relations at The American School in London, during “A Global Perspective: International Alumni Communications and Engagement.”
  • Climb the ladder is key when strategizing alumni engagement. Move alumni up the ladder through communications, events and volunteering.—Alison Gardner, head of development and alumni relations at Sheffield High School, during “Alumni Relations in Schools – Building the Foundations.”
  • Manage expectations with a business plan. Be strategic and what you can and cannot do with your time and resources.—Clive Watkins, director of advancement at the International School of Prague, during “Doing More with Less: the Secrets of Effective (but small) Advancement Offices.”
  • Be a visible part of your community. Work with students, coach a sport, teach.—Simon Jones, director of development at Manchester Grammar School, during “Using Organisational Culture to Your Advantage: An Insight into Manchester Grammar School’s Bursary Campaign.”
  • Giving is an expression of humanity. We must create a real and lasting culture of philanthropy in our society.—John Nickson, philanthropist and author, during “Why Does Giving Matter?”

What We Learned
There were numerous “track jumpers”—delegates from universities who left their tracks to take part in the schools sessions. We even had delegates from universities at the schools-only closing reception! This “cross-tracking” was one of the highest compliments we could have received. It also proves an important point—regardless of our institutional affinities (schools, universities, colleges), many of us are struggling with the same issues and the conference provided the opportunity to learn from all types of institutions.

This piece is cross-posted on the CASE Blog.


Alumni Career Services for Schools

Last week a young alumna called me asking for help. She was looking to make a career change, and was hoping I could provide some networking resources.

We chatted for a while. She outlined the field she was interested in, showed me her resume, and described her future plans. In turn, I gave her the names of some people from our School community who I thought she should speak to (alumni, faculty, parents). I directed her to our LinkedIn group, and gave her some networking tips. At the end of our conversation, I also suggested make use of her university alumni connections, and explore their career services.

She remarked that she had tried, but found her university services lacking.

This led me to the following thought(s): do independent schools in general offer alumni career services? If not, why not? Is the assumption that a university or college alma mater will be the more likely place for a graduate to turn, and therefore it isn’t worth it to run full-fledged career services? While many alumni would think immediately of their university for alumni career networking, I wonder how many would also think of their high school connections.

I plan to explore this in a future post, and am using this one as fodder for conversation, feedback and resources. Give me your two cents in the comments. Thanks!

Changes and Other Perspectives

Living in a new place and taking on a new role means that things have changed for me both personally and professionally; changes that will likely be reflected in this space.

I’m no longer managing school-wide communications campaigns, BUT that doesn’t mean I’ve lost interest in social media and outreach tools. Far from it in fact.

It does mean, however, that I will likely start injecting other aspects of communications, engagement, outreach and relationship management into my posts here. Heck, you might even get a few, “here’s what I’ve learned about living abroad” tidbits too.

In the spirit of all that, here is one of those tidbits: when you move to a new place, you have the opportunity to meet a lot of new people. This is your big chance to stick your hand out and say, “Hi, I’m new here.” It’s networking, that thing we all talk about doing online. Making those connections up front will help you in the long run, professionally and personally. Thanks to my new friends and colleagues, I learned how to get my home internet set up quickly. I learned where I can find root beer. I even avoided certain disaster by purchasing and utilizing dishwasher salt.

Sure, those things are somewhat silly and trivial (not the internet one, though – that was vital). But those people, their knowledge and their connections will help me out in the short and long terms. And hopefully my connections and knowledge will help them as well.

Upcoming Social Media Conferences

What’s your professional development plan for the Spring? If you’re heading to one of the following conferences, please make sure to say hello.

I’ll be in San Antonio, TX, next week for the Academic Impressions’ Social Media for Advancement and Admissions: Moving from Tactics to Strategy conference. It’s from March 21-23. We’ll cover a wide variety of social media topics from ROI to student generated content, and the conference is designed for both admissions and advancement staff. Hashtag: #aisocmed

Next up I’ll be at the CASE Social Media and Community conference in San Francisco, CA from April 13-15. This event is near and dear to my heart as I was last year’s Conference Chair. This year’s program will take a look at geosocial tools and analytics, plus there’s a tweetup sponsored by CASE and Alumni Futures on 4/14. Hashtag: #CASESMC11

Alumni Futures Round Table

Andy Shaindlin of Alumni Futures and I are convening a day-long meeting for educational advancement professionals – those who work in alumni relations, communications, and fundraising. This is your opportunity to be a part of a group of about 10 participants, each of whom will have 30 minutes to get input and feedback from the rest of the attendees on either:

– a new idea or a new direction in their work that they want to share with others,


– a challenge or problem they face in their work, to brainstorm possible solutions

The goal of Alumni Futures Round Tables is to give educational advancement professionals the opportunity to learn directly from colleagues, innovate, and brainstorm new ideas in the profession.

Join us on Tuesday, May 18th in Claremont, California for the Alumni Futures Round Table.

Full details and registration information available here >>