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Professional fundraising is important to development in schools. Often known as ‘schools’ development’, it refers to when schools engage with their alumni, parents and other stakeholders to generate support and income toward a school’s strategic objectives.  

When development is new to an independent school, it’s often a concept that staff can’t fathom. It takes time to build meaningful relationships and SCIS work closely with the Institute of Development Professionals in Education to support member schools in their development.

Caroline Notman, Director of Development at St Aloysius’ College, explains how important it is to ensure that a school’s senior leadership understand the concept of development in schools.

Tell us a little more about St Aloysuis’ College

“St Aloysius’ College was established in 1859 and is a unique institution, set in the heart of Glasgow, linked to a global network of Jesuit schools. Despite its 160-year history, development is relatively new to St Aloysius’ College with the Development Office established just 6 years ago, following a short-lived Foundation Office set up in the late 1990s, which was gone by 2000.”

What is a development office in an independent school?

“When a Development Office is set up, the immediate reaction is that the money will start rolling in. But the first questions have to be ‘what are we raising money for and where is the greatest need?’ This could apply to many different areas of our school and the challenge was very much to pin down the competing priorities. This was easier said than done. The then-Head wanted a new organ; the Bursar and Governors wanted a long-awaited Sports Hall and everyone wanted Bursaries! Now!”

What approach did you take when you first set up the development office?

“Working alone for the first 18 months, my focus was on introducing a database. Re-connecting with former pupils had to be my priority, building a case for support, and then employing a part-time database officer to support me. 

“Since 2014, we have held 23 class reunions, annual London dinners, several pub nights, receptions, new publications and e-newsletters and established a vibrant business network in Glasgow at St Aloysius. This engagement with alumni, re-kindling their interest in the life of the college was necessary before we could launch our first appeal for the new Sports Hall.”

What challenges do you face in the development office?

“When the strategy is splintered and you are spread too thin, you can’t possibly achieve all your objectives. In advance of a new campaign for the College, the Head and I have drawn up a 5-year strategy and a case for support, which we have presented to our Governors and tested with our community. Asking for feedback on our proposed plans before jumping in has proved invaluable and will help us set on the right path for a future fundraising campaign.” 

What will be the impact of the development office at St Aloysius’ College?

“One of the founding principles of St Aloysius’ College is to support ‘where the need is greatest’.  For us, this is bursaries – it has a far more genuine ring to it when it involves transforming lives and widening access to an independent education. 

“We do look on with envy at mature institutions and think that we might have been one of them, had the 1990’s Foundation Office survived, but that’s what we are building now - a Development Office that will support the students of the future, and the key to our success will be collaboration.”

To find out more about how your school can set up a Development Office or continue to grow your existing development programme, join the Institute of Development Professionals in Education (IDPE)and the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS) at their upcoming Scotland Conferenceon Monday 11 March 2019.  Book now.

With special thanks to IDPE and Caroline Notman, Director of Development, St Aloysius’ College for her support with this article.