Development in Independent Schools - Is It Worth It?

Without a doubt, the role of the development professional is now integral to the future of Independent Schools in the UK. But then as a development professional I would say that wouldn’t I? However, I do not believe that you can be aware of the growing financial pressures on our current and future parent body, which will no doubt need greater bursarial support in coming years. Nor, indeed, have even a nodding acquaintance with the state of the national finances and think otherwise.

Here are some facts from the recent IDPE Benchmarking Survey carried out by Crowe Clark Whitehill:-

  • School Charities Raising £30m for Bursary Places Annually
  • The UK schools Development sector raised a total of £100m in 2011
  • Approximately one-third of the Development offices in Independent Schools opened within the last 3 years

Our schools need, more than ever, a professionally overseen development strategy, assistance in implementing the best of good business practice and someone to stand alongside the Head and keep an eye on the future, whilst they do what we are called to do and that is educate children.

Emotions and Attitudes

Our schools are uniquely positioned to generate and become what Kevin Roberts [CEO Saatchi and Saatchi Worldwide] calls a ‘Love Mark’ [as opposed to a trade mark]. Our schools generate huge feelings of warmth, love and loyalty from our past students, and sometimes even our current parents, which is beyond reason and logic at times. However, so much of this love and warmth can lie dormant and untapped without a professional development strategy in place. Someone to take responsibility to capture, coordinate and channel that goodwill, to benefit the school of today and our students of tomorrow. ‘Fostering in all those who care, a lifelong interest in sustaining its principles and securing its future’ as my friend Jane Vines put it so well. People buy with their emotions and then justify the purchase with reasons and facts not the other way round. This is true of education and true of our potential donors.

Way back in the history of your school, an individual, or a small group of people came together to provide education driven by, firstly, seeing a need and then secondly, by their own values and beliefs. Those values and beliefs drove not only what they wanted to achieve but also, and more importantly, WHY they wanted to achieve those goals.

It is the WHY that must be understood and captured, taken with us and made relevant in today’s society. Social inclusion and bursarial support isn’t simply a trendy bandwagon that others are seeking to ride, driven by changing charity laws, but is, one hopes, integral to the culture and ethos of the school. However, the way we now deliver social inclusion might need to change and similarly our boarding provision within a more mobile society, sports, the concept of leadership and discipline, and our school’s connection with the local community, may all need to be adjusted. But in all of this we must not lose sight of our reason to be in development or raise the millions of pounds for Bursaries, we are about education. Our ‘end product’, to put it crudely, are some of the most outstanding young men and women in the country. That is why we do what we do. It is about children, students, education and relationships that are formed by them that last a lifetime.

Bursaries and scholarships change lives. They create access and pathways to the high quality education that we provide but more than that, they unlock potential, they generate self belief and invest value in children who may not otherwise experience those things. The key to good Development is a clear vision and a strategic plan, good information and research, supportive and involved colleagues, a focused, fun events programme, a healthy relationship with the alumni association, and the time and space to lay good, solid foundations that will pay dividends in the future. Not much to ask is it? However, with those things in place, together we can and will be making a huge difference to today’s students and the generation to follow.

Authors Biography

Nick Pettingale, Director of External Relations at Ellesmere College

Nick began his career as a Graphic Designer, specialising in company branding and point of sale material for businesses across Europe. During his design career he visited friends in Ethiopia at the time of the ’85 famine which set him on a path of fundraising and charity work. After helping to establish two charities there and a UK based charity focused on disadvantaged young people in the Midlands, he renewed his business career operating at board level in three national and international companies. More recently Nick was a consultant trainer/mentor for a large London based charity helping the homeless and latterly set up a charitable Foundation at Stamford Endowed Schools in Lincolnshire. After funding some small capital projects he successfully launched a Bursary Fund which is currently support more than 28 children in the Schools.