The Cadence of Catholic Elementary School Development/Advancement

In a four-count rhythm, with the tip of the rod at 12 o’clock, and the right-hand wrist doing all of the action, I sat in a chair out in the front yard and learned how to use a fly rod. I was ten years old, and the black inner tube lying out in the grass was my make-believe oak tree that I was trying to lay the fly up against. Both my mother and father were my instructors, and timing, grace, and coordination were the keys to success. I used a fly without a hook attached to the leader which was tied to a 10-pound test line which wound around a reel and 9-foot Shakespeare rod. My right hand gripped the cork handle, with my left hand holding the slack line and trying to adjust to the distance between me and the inner tube. In letting the line out for the first time, the rod needed to go back to the 12 o’clock position, allowing the line to straighten out in the back and then the right wrist would flip the fly forward, neatly putting it in the middle of the tube. I was instructed to try this from all angles, from many distances, and yet never leave my chair or allow my arm to do the casting. It was important to be as precise as possible — one inch to the left or right could end up catching the fly in a bush or on a stump and therefore ruin the entire fishing spot. I always had to watch my backside, because as the fly line straightened out in back, there was a good chance that the riverbank behind me would snag it. It was always emphasized that it was a privilege to fly fish on Morgan’s River, especially when someone was willing to paddle you, and let you fish out of the front of the boat. That was the ultimate compliment.

Fly fishing was a sport that required skill and practice, and the sons in the Donaldson Family were not released to go on the river unless they had passed Mom and Dad’s unofficial test –which was hours of front yard casting. Practice makes perfect, and we were not going to pollute the river with expensive flies hanging up in every tree at every turn. This was not a sport for everyone — it required skill, and just like the discipline of The Basketball Court, there had to be practice time before we could go play the game.

Today, many years removed from those lessons and still living on the property where I was raised, there still is something special about a trip down Morgan’s River and the slow mental cadence of a four-count rhythm as the top-water fly skims across the water with eager anticipation of the strike of a four-pound bass.

Believe it or not, Catholic school development/advancement is similar to fly fishing. There is cadence, order, discipline, a logical progression of what should happen first, second, third, etc. There is patience, preparation, the right “tools,” timing, but above all – as stated above – there is a cadence.

Working with many Catholic schools and parishes in our consulting, workshops, our Summer Development Schools, and on-line coaching, I believe one of the main areas for improvement is for leaders to understand the order and sequence of what should happen with their development/advancement efforts. Many schools and parishes have “things” in place – an Open House, a direct mail Annual Fund, a Gala, a Golf Tournament, a newsletter, social media posts, alum reunions, raffles and candy sales, etc., but we find that connecting all of these dots and seeing this ministry as a system of processes that proceed in a logical order is not something all Catholic school and parish leaders fully understand.

In this newsletter, we would like to begin with the cadence of a Catholic elementary school development/advancement effort. What if you had nothing in place, or had a bunch of disparate programs and processes that were not connecting as they should? What is a good order to follow? In upcoming newsletters, we will lay out the cadence for a Catholic high school development/advancement effort, and then the cadence for a Catholic parish development/stewardship effort. Please keep in mind that all of these steps have sub-steps to them, but here is the high-level view of what we believe is an excellent order to follow in establishing a system of development/advancement processes.

The Cadence of Catholic Elementary School Development/Advancement

Helpful Prerequisite: Create the Strategic Growth Plan for Your Catholic School Using the National Standards and Benchmarks for Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools.

  • Step 1: Get Buy-in from the Top – Pastor, Principal, Council, Board.
  • Step 2: Establish the Executive Committee.
  • Step 3: Understand the Mission/Vision/Value Proposition of Your School.
  • Step 4: Understand the Importance of Catholic School Development/Advancement.
  • Step 5: Understand the Foundational Principles and Philosophy of Catholic School Development/Advancement.
  • Step 6: Understand the Six Boxes of Catholic School Development/Advancement.
  • Step 7: Establish the Internal and External Communication System to Promote and Market the School.
  • Step 8: Educate School Leadership Groups about Catholic School Development/Advancement.
  • Step 9: Establish the Development/Advancement “Office and Personnel.”
  • Step 10: Establish the Development/Advancement Database.
  • Step 11: Involve School Alums and parishioners (if applicable) in Development/Advancement Processes from the Beginning.
  • Step 12: Form the Development/Advancement Core Team.
  • Step 13: Conduct a Development/Advancement Assessment with Executive Committee and Core Team.
  • Step 14: After Educating All School Leadership Groups, Organize and Implement a Vibrant Enrollment Management System.
  • Step 15: Conduct the Ultimate Question Survey with All School Constituents.
  • Step 16: Create and Implement the Written Strategic Plan for Development/Advancement.
  • Step 17: Create your Top 10 Selling Points and your WOW.
  • Step 18: Get Your Fund-Raising Events Organized, Scheduled, and Conducted Sequentially throughout the Year.
  • Step 19: Establish Three Major “People Fuel” Processes Each Year.
  • Step 20: Growing out of the Executive Committee and the Development Core Team, create three Ambassador Teams: Student, Parent, and Alumni.
  • Step 21: Based upon the above Steps, Identify Top 25+ Financial Leaders and Engage Them for the Long Term.
  • Step 22: Launch the School’s Annual Fund Drive with the Proper Organizational Structure.
  • Step 23: Establish an Alumni Organizational Committee to Plan 2-3 Major Alum Events for the Year, such as a Homecoming.
  • Step 24: Regardless of where you are in the above steps, formally assess your Development/Advancement efforts at the end of Year 1.
  • Step 25: Professionally grow in this ministry of Catholic School Development/Advancement – through reading, networking, and attending conferences, workshops, and on-line opportunities.

Helpful Hint: Follow the compass and not the clock!

Next newsletter: The Cadence of Catholic High School Development/Advancement

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