Advancement directors (ADs) from South Jersey Catholic elementary schools gathered for brown bag lunches during the month of July to share ideas and experiences. While they represent the distinct, unique personalities of the schools they serve, ADs are bound by a common goal in the Camden Diocese’s Plan for Catholic Schools: enrollment growth.
For Rosemary Schamp, School Business and Enrollment Specialist, the meetings were a huge success, building on the collaborative model she has been nurturing since she joined the Office of Catholic Schools in 2015.
“They have great ideas,” said Schamp of the ADs. “From fundraising, to registration procedures, to social media platforms … so many creative solutions and suggestions. Everyone walks away knowing their work is helping to make Catholic school a viable choice for families throughout the diocese.”
Advancement Directors represent the enrollment management and marketing side of school administration. Working with principals, they promote their schools in local communities, coordinate with partnering parishes, lead school tours, handle marketing and media coverage, maintain social media pages, track and analyze enrollment trends, plan fundraising and promotional events, keep up with alumni, coordinate volunteers, recruit parent ambassadors, manage the annual registration process, and look for non-tuition income sources.
“Building relationships is huge,” said Sheri Klein, AD at Saint Michael the Archangel School in Clayton. Klein invests a lot of time “rallying around existing families,” not just focusing on prospective students. By developing relationships with current families, Klein has a reliable field of volunteers and an engaged parent community — the best possible assets when it comes to promoting the school and retaining students. Klein said if a family leaves the school, 95 percent of the time it is due to relocation.
Klein sees the value of building relationships with advancement directors from other schools, too.
“We can help each other by sharing ideas,” she said, adding that everyone benefits when South Jersey Catholic schools grow.
Kathy O’Callaghan from Saint Peter in Merchantville agrees.
“It’s a great comfort to know we have similar [situations,]” said O’Callaghan. “At our last meeting we spent a lot of time on re-registration.”
ADs from all schools are working to streamline the annual registration process.
Nancy Dixon from Saint Vincent De Paul in Mays Landing attended her first brown bag session this summer. Dixon said she especially benefitted from ADs who have been in their positions for several years and sees great value in being part of a larger group. “As Catholic schools, we’re all united,” she said.
Idea sharing often focuses on strategies to keep the schools affordable.
“Tuition alone doesn’t cover the cost of a student’s education,” explained Schamp. “So every school has, or should have, an annual fund to help make up the difference. It’s a line item in the budget.”
Managing and growing the annual fund an important part of the AD’s role.
At Saint Michael, a brand new adopt-a-student program has already helped three families manage tuition expenses. In response to a request in parish bulletins, donors responded quickly and generously. Klein said the donors are not parents of school children, just individuals who care deeply about the Catholic school mission.
The diocese’s Plan for Catholic Schools calls for a 3 percent increase in elementary school enrollment by the 2018-19 school year.
“That goal has already raised the bar,” said Schamp. “ADs are collaborating, sparking ideas they can take back to their schools. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
Mary Beth Peabody is Communications and Marketing Manager, Office of Catholic Schools.