Using Effective Processes and Tools to Build a Solid Development Foundation During This Pandemic (Part I)

There are important components to every Catholic school and/or parish development vehicle — components such as:

  • A full-functioning database;
  • Successful enrollment management processes;
  • A comprehensive total stewardship process;
  • Active and on-going alum involvement;
  • Systemic communications using many platforms and avenues;
  • Effective fund/friend-raising events;
  • Solid people engagement efforts;
  • Successful annual giving;
  • Capital campaign preparation and/or initiation;
  • Individualized new parishioner welcome process;
  • Consistent financial leader identification, relationship-building, and invitation;
  • Organized strategic plans of action;
  • Plus, others.

Like an automobile, without these components (parts) being present, or without them functioning at full capacity, your Catholic school and/or parish may not operate as well as it can, or at worst, may leave you stranded on your journey toward successful Operational Vitality.

Here at ISPD, we have spent the past eight months listening, interacting, surveying, presenting, consulting, teaching, and coaching. Over 2,000 Catholic leaders have participated in, read, or been part of our Monday cohort sessions, our Friday Zoom sessions, our seven national surveys, our SPECIAL EDITION newsletters, our national round tables, our monthly podcasts, our on-line courses for Catholic schools and parishes with the University of Dayton, and OUR SHINING MOMENT video on Catholic schools. From all these activities, which are still continuing, we have observed and learned so much.

Through it all, it is remarkable the progress that many Catholic schools and parishes have made since March 2020. To simplify — if that is even possible — we may be able to put our school and parishes into three categories:

  1. Pro-active: Surging ahead with creative, innovative, positive, mission-driven leadership on all levels;
  2. Active: Moving forward but somewhat hesitant, yet able to maintain a certain degree of quality – not all leadership groups being on the same page and/or included;
  3. Re-active: Somewhat stalled and not moving forward with creativity – waiting on the “powers to be” to tell them what to do and how to do it.

During these times, we find that most Catholic schools and parishes that fall into the first two categories have one thing in common: they seek ways to engage people and build their community. Yet, one of the main questions we have heard over the past 1-2 months is this: have we built a solid-enough foundation for our development—advancement—stewardship—enrollment management efforts to sustain themselves over time? Going back to the top paragraph, do we have enough of the main components (parts) in place for this vehicle to go the distance from the end of 2020 and into the summer of 2021? And, how can we continue to add people fuel to our development vehicle?

This newsletter is titled: USING EFFECTIVE PROCESSES AND TOOLS TO BUILD A SOLID DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION DURING THIS PANDEMIC, PART I. With this newsletter and the ones in December and January, we will offer 30 foundational processes that we recommend Catholic schools and parishes should consider over the next 6-8 months. We are not saying that all of these should be “taken on” at once; there are those that will best fit your needs and your culture and those that would not be applicable to where you are now. Some are for schools, and some are for parishes, and many are for both. These are the processes that ISPD is now coaching in our new Partnership Coaching Portal. (Please contact us at if you would like more information).

In Part I (November), let’s look at 10 foundational processes (and tools to use) for effective Catholic Development—Advancement—Stewardship.

Process # 1: Revisit the mission statement and vision statement of your Catholic school and/or parish.

  • Whom to Involve: Administration (Pastor, president, principal, leadership team), councils and boards, faculty/staff, ministry leaders
  • Tools to Use: ISPD Mission/Vision Statement worksheets/process or other forms available from your (arch) diocese, national organizations, or planning workbooks
  • Outcomes/Value: Unites your leaders, galvanizes your core, and reminds you of the common denominator that binds you together

Process # 2: Form an Executive Committee of 4-6 school/parish leaders to effectively guide your development—advancement—stewardship—enrollment management efforts.

  • Whom to Involve: Administration (Pastor, president, principal), development/advancement officer, enrollment management/admissions officer, board/council chair, chair of Development Core Team, financial leader (any combination thereof)
  • Tools to Use: ISPD identification and invitation process with roles and responsibility or board/council committee and/or administrators that work with development—advancement–stewardship
  • Outcomes/Value: Streamlines development processes and final decisions and takes care of logistics in advance

Process # 3: Conduct an assessment/evaluation of your development—advancement—stewardship—enrollment management efforts.

  • Whom to Involve: Administration (Pastor, president, principal), development officer(s), Development Core Team, board/council committee for development, objective outside counsel
  • Tools to Use: ISPD Development Assessment process in Partnership Coaching Portal, ISPD TFS Self-Assessment Tests, SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) Study done by administration and/or board/council committee and/or Development Core Team
  • Outcomes/Value: Allows you to see what is working well, what needs improvement, what is missing, and what you need to do over the next 3-6-12 months and beyond

Process # 4: Establish the most effective development/advancement/stewardship organizational structure by building your Catholic School Development efforts around: 1. Constituent Records; 2. Communications; 3. Enrollment Management; 4. Fund Development; 5. Alum Involvement; 6. Fund/Friend-Raising Events. And/or, your Catholic Parish Development efforts around: 1. Constituent Records; 2. Communications; 3. People Engagement; 4. Total Stewardship Process; 5. Fund Development; 6. Fund/Friend-Raising Events.

  • Whom to Involve: Executive Committee
  • Tools to Use: ISPD charts, videos, books, power points on Development/Advancement Organizational for Catholic schools and Development/Stewardship Organizational for Catholic parishes. Or, other development resources through NCEA, consulting firms, college/university curriculum in development/advancement, International Stewardship Conference presentations, other conventions, conferences, workshops etc.
  • Outcomes/Value: Gets everyone on the same page and allows you to speak the same language and create your development action plan

Process # 5: Organize your Development/Advancement/Stewardship Team with the following components:

  • Mission statement for development/advancement/stewardship team
  • Goals for 2020-21
  • Members of development/advancement/stewardship team
  • Roles and responsibilities of Team members
  • Main action strategies for 2020-21
  • Calendar of events for 2021
  • Whom to Involve: Pastor and/or president and/or principal, development officer(s), administrative assistant(s), plus anyone who works with the development—advancement—stewardship efforts of the school/parish – full time or part-time
  • Tools to Use: ISPD worksheets or Team discussion of the six major bullet points (above) in this process
  • Outcomes/Value: Brings your Development Team together and provides a succinct and focused look at the Team’s internal organization, plus this process can produce a document with the six above bullet points which can be shared with school/parish internal leadership groups such as faculty/staff, parish staff, boards/councils, parent leaders, alum leaders, etc.

Process # 6: Establish your Development Core Team of 12-15 leaders.

  • Whom to Involve: The Executive Committee identifies and personally invites this representative group
  • Tools to Use: ISPD newsletters and books on the organization and value of the Development Core Team (25 Lessons Learned and Total Parish Development – both available through Amazon)
  • Outcomes/Value: This “calvary” can save you! So many Catholic schools and parishes center their development/advancement/stewardship/enrollment management efforts around 2-4 people, and they end up doing everything. This Core Team can greatly help you do three things: educate (10%), facilitate (10%), and implement (80%).

Process # 7: Educate your Catholic school and/or parish leaders and leadership groups on what development/advancement/stewardship is all about – use ISPD Pyramid of Success for Catholic schools and ISPD Pyramid of Success for Parishes.

  • Whom to Involve: The Executive Committee identifies the leadership groups to educate and puts together the materials to present and the handouts to have available.
  • Tools to Use: Recommended is ISPD’s two comprehensive visuals—the parish and school Pyramids of Success. Also available are educational videos in the ISPD Partnership Coaching Portal. The Executive Committee can view resources from NCEA, other consulting firms, publications, on-line workshops, conventions, etc.
  • Outcomes/Value: All parish and school leadership groups come to understand the value of development/advancement/stewardship, and what role they can play in it. “Open Wide the Advancement Box!” (Please reference ISPD publication 15 More Lessons Learned in 30+ Years in Catholic School Development – available on Amazon).

Process # 8: Create and distribute bi-weekly GOOD NEWS postcards/bulletins/1-2 minute video about your Catholic school and/or parish.

  • Whom to Involve: Every two weeks, the Executive Committee identifies five major “brag points,” good news stories, wonderful pictures, great accomplishments, etc. of the school and/or parish and creates, presents, and distributes this GOOD NEWS via a postcard, one-page bulletin, and/or a short 1-2 minute bulletin.
  • Tools to Use: Executive Committee discussions with input from school/parish leadership groups – extremely effective when the Executive Committee has educated on the meaning of development/advancement/stewardship
  • Outcomes/Value: In these days of uncertain news, the school/parish community can count on GOOD NEWS every two weeks – bolsters confidence, builds supports, and solidifies the mission.

Process # 9: Establish consistent Phone Outreach to parents, parishioners, alums, donors to check on them and see how they are doing.

  • Whom to Involve: Executive Committee, faculty/staff, school advisory council, parish council, Development Core Team – any one or more of these groups can be given 5-10 names of people to call – different list every month.
  • Tools to Use: ISPD scripts/worksheets and/or Executive Committee and/or Core Team and/or leadership groups’ discussions
  • Outcomes/Value: Builds the community; keeps people in touch; helps build leadership; shows how much your faith community cares.

Process # 10: Create your Catholic school and/or parish Top 10 Promotional Points.

  • Whom to Involve: Executive Committee, faculty/staff, school advisory council, parish council, Development Core Team, student council, parish staff, ministry leaders – individual discussions with each of these groups.
  • Tools to Use: ISPD publications/worksheets/power points, and/or Executive Committee and/or Core Team and/or leadership groups’ discussions of how to seek the Top 10
  • Outcomes/Value: Builds the community; all main leadership groups have a stake in the messaging; all messengers will be able to share the same messages. Yes, a Catholic parish should also do this!

In the December 2020 newsletter, we will explore ten more foundational processes. All of this can be done now – whether it is in-person with social distancing or via Zoom or any other virtual communication. You can probably understand the three themes: organization, communication, and belonging leads to believing.

Again, these are processes that ISPD is now coaching in our new Partnership Coaching Portal. (Please contact us at if you would like more information).

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