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  • Mike Vachow

The Development Director's Summer

Here's a quick, non-comprehensive list to put some detail around a central contention we have at Knuckleball Consulting: great Directors of Development kill it over the summer so that once families return to campus in the fall, they can devote themselves to the essence of their work: building relationships.


  • Create calendars for all Development activities, layered together, to insure there are no collisions, fatal flaws

  • Construct Annual Report

  • Finalize your own evaluation, that of your team and establish new, connected, cascading goals starting with the Head's goals

  • Create yearly Development Plan (Annual Giving, Major Gifts, Alumni, Events, Volunteerism)

  • Write (and hound delegate writers for) all Annual Giving communications

  • Steward donors: some are on campus every day bringing kids to summer camp, a few have more flexible time in the summer

  • Meet with Director of Enrollment to review new families

  • Update Alumni information with high school and college graduations

  • Rough out themes and content for alumni publications and other periodicals

  • Distant horizon planning: e.g. imminent capital campaign, event sunsetting, personnel change

  • Map out Development Committee agendas w/ Chair

  • Meet with Head and Facilities Director to review capital needs of school

  • Clean up: set summer goals for database manager, toss obsolete materials, archive important work from last year

  • Thank/celebrate admin peers and your team

  • Review Development budget with Dir. of Business

  • Take a real break

The impact of this summer work has a compounding effect. The matter of new parents is a good example. The Director of Development who has checked off a substantial portion of this list has built the time to reach out personally to each of those new families in the early fall to insure that they are welcomed into school and helped to understand how important their engagement is, AND created a development program that inspires confidence in donors new and veteran. Unfortunately, the compounding works in reverse as well. The Development team that has not worked productively over the summer finds itself setting off an avalanche of negative consequences, bunkered down in the office in September hurriedly compiling the Annual Report (with the inevitable, donor-irking errors and impact-reducing delay), unavailable to meet new parents, issuing spastic, poorly-timed Annual Giving communications, some of them stepping on other key school initiatives and sewing confusion. As a result, continuing families re-confirm their perceptions of the school's development efforts as immature and aggravating, and new parents, particularly young parents, many of whom are just beginning their philanthropic lives, feel unwelcomed and baffled at best, excluded at worst.


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