Positioning Advancement Services for a Campaign

It's the last day of the conference. Tom Chaves from Lehigh University is presenting on "Positioning Advancement Services for and in the Next Campaign." Using the opportunity for investment in advancement presented by a campaign, Tom's team was able to increase current staff salaries by 13.11% and grew the team by 33%. They project growing the entire advancement team by 40%.

Advancement Services must position ourselves relative to the overall mission of advancement -- state things in terms that resonate with non-operations staff. Tom'a team did internal and external surveys. If your leadership mentions other organizations as comparisons, use those a your benchmarks when you do your external surveys. Consider external validation -- bring in a consultant.

To drive investment in Advancement Services, start small and market your success. Tom started by changing job titles. For example, gift processors were called accounting coordinators, and were renamed advancement services coordinators. He also used all-staff meetings to explain Advancement Services and what they did. Rather than a stale PowerPoint, they created a fun YouTube video based on the office.

In 2008, Tom brought in an external consultant to evaluate perceptions of Advancement Services within the institution. This is also when they changed titles. Besides gift processors, they also changed "report writer" to "information analysts." In 2009, they became more proactive in how advancement services interacted with technology. The advancement staff overall was fairly siloed in their use of technology. Advancement Services started to insert themselves in conversations about technology use and acquisition, positioning themselves as the first point of contact for technology needs.

In 2010, they worked on reporting. All reports had been ad hoc, and could take up to 2 weeks. "Hopefully it was right, because who knows if they would remember why they requested it," Tom said. They were able to shift to a self-service reporting model. Eighty percent of their ad hoc reports are now self-service, so their analysts can focus on more interesting projects, not just list production.

Also in 2010, research moved into Advancement Services, and they did a wealth screening. They also started doing an analysis of their last campaign, which wrapped up in 2009.

This year, they began planning for how they would use technology in the next campaign. They did a lot of research and created a plan, a key component of campaign planning. A campaign plan was to presented to their board in June, and included the tech plan. They also used the AASP salary survey to show that staff were not compensated adequately. And they were approved to hire new staff.

In 2012 they are focusing on new technology -- mobile access to data, analytics, proactive training. Tom also wants to create an Advancement Services "job family." Some of their jobs are in finance, some in development, and some in I.T. This change will allow for more of a career path for operations staff.

Lehigh's management team felt that technology should be s key part of their campaign, so he started with that buy-in. To create the plan, they formed a team including representatives from all aspects of advancement. They did a survey of internal staff to understand more about the advancement team's needs from operations. They also surveyed peer institutions. They identified 12, and received results from 8.

They defined the role of technology in a campaign as supporting the campaign to scale significantly by increasing efficiency without significantly increasing the size of the staff. They also did some visioning -- to be the internal organization that advancement staff seek out experts in technology. (Their vision statement is much longer; I'm definitely paraphrasing.) Tom positioned Advancement Services as the foundation of advancement, shifting the perception that operations are something off to the side.

(Side note: Tom recommends -- if you are presenting to a group, talk to each person individually ahead of time to get both buy-in and feedback.)

The key recommendations they formulated: replace reactive with proactive; employ a consultative model; and utilize project management discipline. They decided to accomplish this through adjusting their current staff alignment; hiring new staff; and creating a technology budget that would support key initiatives across advancement, by centralizing current technology spending.

He made a really nice matrix demonstrating reactive vs. proactive on a ten-point scale (1 - 5 being reactive and 6 - 10 being proactive). For each initiative (e.g. training and support), they defined what reactive looked like (training only when a need is clearly demonstrated) and proactive (full training schedule published in advance, monitoring), and rated themselves on the scale.

They also looked at how to employ a more consultative model. They key attributes their team needed: customer focus, proactive, analytical, providing training and support. They also realized that they can't do everything in-house, that they needed to be able to utilize external resources like consultants to accomplish some projects.

Tom made a Cartesian diagram, with budget and staff as the axes. In each coordinate, he put a car, e.g. High budget and high staff = Ferrari, low budget + low staff = Buick. This is a nice way to use a metaphor for senior staff to envision where they want the organization to be.

It's lovely to hear someone talk about marketing Advancement Services, a topic near and dear to my heart. This is one of my favorite parts of my job, and is so crucial. I think Advancement Services may be the only team in my workplace that's ever been accused of "over-communicating." It's so important -- what we do is complex and hard to understand. If we don't advocate for ourselves, few others will!