Bons mots

  • "We live as though the world were what it should be, to show it what it can be."
    ~ Angel, "Deep Down," Season 4

  • It is difficult
    to get the news from poems
    yet men die miserably every day
    for lack
    of what is found there.
    ~ William Carlos Williams, from “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower”

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February 08, 2013

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Give your pragmatic spiel. (I know, because I can't get in trouble for this!)

I HATE the way my school does this sort of thing; but I might be more convinced by a pragmatic approach. Or not, in my specific case.

Are these rotating young women all graduates of FSG or a similar school, and all graduates of small SLAC's? If so, I'm guessing they tend to really want to believe that their teachers loved them and taught because they love(d) their students, and not because they need to pay rent and put food on the table.

If it's more than a job, why don't these young women last more than a year or two? And how much is this person giving? I find your spiel much more compelling, but then, I'm an economist....

I agree: I find your spiel entirely compelling. We all have only a finite amount of money to give to charity. And many of us just aren't going to give $50 or $100 to our employers--but we might give $5 or $10. I'd give, if I got your pitch. I wouldn't be moved by the argument that my employer (no matter how much I believed in its mission) was THE MOST DESERVING recipient of my $$.

The fundraising director isn't cut out for her job, if she's not actually thinking about dollars and cents. The pragmatic argument--that the PERCENTAGE of faculty giving is a measure used by those with real money to decide whether or not to give--is exactly the kind of argument that she should be receptive to.

(Also, I don't see why those two arguments are incompatible. Some people can be moved by love, others by pragmatism.)

Also, as my friend working at a small religious SLAC says, she *already* gives to the school. If she worked anywhere else, her salary would not be so pathetically low. It's just inefficient to throw more money towards the annual fund. I should mention your argument to her.

Okay, I'll do it, and if I get in trouble, I'll just the annual fund director to talk to you folks! ;-)

But actually, (1) Flavia is totally correct, and I can certainly work in an idealistic line or two in the midst of my pragmatic spiel, and (2) it's not like there's really a worst-case scenario here. I mean, no one is the faculty representative for more than one year anyway, so it's not like "boo hoo, I won't get asked to stay in this position!" And I hardly think that people who were otherwise going to give to the annual fund will decide not to do so, so I don't think there's any getting into trouble to be had here.

Thanks for the encouragement!

I'm curious as to why they would want a faculty member involved in development efforts if they didn't want faculty input on strategy? It seems odd to me that they would completely discount your thoughts on what would work with other faculty.

When I came to do new teacher training at my school, our assistant head of school came to speak to us, and part of her speech was exactly the approach you want to use--she explicitly told us that she herself only gave $5 a year to annual giving so that faculty members wouldn't feel required to give more than they could afford, and that what was most important was 100% participation, not the amount. I've happily given a few bucks every year since and not felt at all guilted into trying to give more. Good luck navigating this situation!

Throw out the talking points and say what you planned to say.

This is so fascinating. Our faculty annual fund reps explicitly give us exactly the message that you want to give--that 100% faculty participation is the goal, not a set amount. It's basically "Would you advise the parents of your students to invest in the excellence of this place? Are we so awesome that you think people who pay $28K of tuition should dig deeper and give us MORE money?" I'm fascinated that a development person actually thinks that the we-all-love-FGS message is, or should be, sufficient.

Fortunately, these two messages can absolutely be combined. I'd lead with what an awesome place it is, how much we all love it; then of course we all give the place our blood, sweat and tears already, and are aware there are many other worthy causes to which we may be tempted to give; but at no other place does OUR money mean so much as a vote of confidence. Give $5 and help our entire parent and alumni body understand how much the faculty support the school. If you sandwich it, your person really can't complain too much.

That said, I would find a time to have a conversation with your actual development director, because she's probably way more experienced than the annual fund person (annual fund is the junior job everywhere as far as I can tell, and no, people don't stay in it for long if they are competent).

P.S. The other thing that I think faculty find persuasive is a reminder of what parents and alums are always told--that tuition only covers X% (varies from place to place) of the actual cost of educating a kid, and the annual fund helps provide the supplies and facilities that make our jobs better (labs, books, new technology, faculty development funds--assuming that some of those things are paid for from the annual fund).

Oh! And a third thing that I just remembered: the faculty who serve in your role are always people who are widely respected across SA. The last several years, it's been the beloved head of the Lower School and the longtime photography teacher. Recently they added a third, the head of security, and many were the jokes about how his large, imposing presence would improve participation (which is pretty high anyway). If you forget to give your donation, one of these people will ask you personally. Is that something you're going to have to do?

MS, there's been no mention of my having personal chats with folks who haven't contributed, and I don't think that's something that FGS does, although if I had access to the list I might be willing to talk with individuals.

I've been very encouraged to hear that this is exactly the sort of spiel that you and Jackie have both heard at your schools; clearly I'm not crazy!

I plan to throw snowballs -- densely packed ones -- at any and everyone who has upset you. Justice demands as much.

Were I in your shoes, I would say what I believed and tell Idealistic Blonde Woman that if she wants someone to say what she (IBW, that is) believes, she could always make the presentation herself. One can say such things gently -- e.g., "Goodness me! I had this other argument in my head first, and I just reverted to it once I started talking. Maybe we should stick to you giving the public presentations."

Also, you are NOT crazy. When that Big Institution I work with wanted to raise a large amount of money for a disaster-stricken country, the argument made to us institutional officers was precisely the one you want to make -- that the campaign would get a good start if the development people could say, "look, every single officer contributed."

I love you!

Me again. It does occur to me that there's something a bit cynical about this approach. After all, the parents are not being told "every one of our faculty gave... $5." They are told about the giving rate, and left to infer that the faculty & staff donated generously. So this is a way of making statistics lie. That's the sort of thing that gives statistics a bad name....

Well, some faculty give quite generously; in fact, my sense is that most faculty give either generously or not at all. So the goal of this pragmatic/cynical approach is to get the rest of the folks to give, not to limit the amount that the dedicated givers are already donating.

Not sure I have much left to add here, except that I have a similar story to tell in terms of having my own orientation changed by my work with the development director at my previous job--it was the % of faculty giving that mattered, and she encouraged me, too (more by example than by any particular spiel--I was just looking at how she worked, esp in the years I was faculty senate president and got to attend dean's staff meetings regularly) to think about what particular programs at the college were worth investing in. I still give $$ to the staff scholarship program there.

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Who is this What Now?

  • I'm an English teacher at a pretty darned good high school (the justly famous Fabulous Girls' School, or FGS). I am partner to D. We live in an adorable, messy little house in Adventure City, where we are hoping to have more frequent adventures than we have thus far. Two cats -- the Muse and the Contemplative -- live with us and keep life at home plenty adventurous.

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