72. Capital Campaigns with Edit Barry
In this episode of Mindful School Marketing, we are joined by Edit Barry, co-founder of E&A Collaborative. She discusses the intricacies of capital campaigns for educational institutions, emphasizing strategic planning and audience engagement. Edit highlights the role of a compelling case statement in connecting emotionally with donors. The conversation explores potential mistakes to avoid and the importance of viewing marketing as an investment. Edit also shares thoughts on mindfulness in understanding and connecting with the audience.
About Edit Barry:
Edit Barry is co-founder of E&A Collaborative, a creative consultancy that specializes in messaging and branding for schools and other nonprofits. She has been engaged in this work since 2007, writing admission and advancement campaigns for dozens of clients.
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Aubrey: Welcome to Mindful School Marketing. I’m Aubrey Bursch.
Tara: And I’m Tara. Today we’re joined by Edit Barry. Adit is co founder of E& A Collaborative, a creative consultancy that specializes in messaging and branding for schools and other nonprofits. She’s been engaged in this work since 2007, writing admission and advancement campaigns for dozens of clients.
Welcome Adit, so glad you’re with us
Edit: today. Thank you both. I’m very glad to be here with you.
Aubrey: And we are so excited to have you here talking about this amazing topic that we have in front of us. But before we get started, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and your work?
Edit: Sure. Um, well, I’m very much, uh, over educated, I would say.
Um, I After graduate school in Baltimore, which is where I’m still based, I started working for an educational content developer as a writer and editor. Um, so I’ve been, I went from reading very, very esoteric, heady stuff that very few people in the world are interested in and have the capacity to read to writing, uh, worksheets for kindergartners.
Through 12th grade, and it really like took my writing and thinking down a few pegs. I really wanted to be able to figure out how to communicate many things to pretty much anybody. And then I got into the world of marketing for educational institutions. Um, which kind of put together my strength in writing and my interest in graphic design and art, which is really where I was going to go when I started looking at colleges and then I kind of had one of those dads who was like, you need to get a liberal arts education.
I’m sure many of my clients would love for there to be more dads like that. But that’s how I got, that’s how I got into all of this. Everything kind of came together in the end. So then we started our own company, Alison, Leigh and I in, um, 2018. So we’ve been doing this together on our own for five years.
Tara: Great. Thank you. And I have worked with your team, you and Allison and you’re fabulously talented and really fun to work with. And so when when, uh, Aubrey and I talked about the topic of capital campaigns immediately, you came to mind because we have worked together on a couple of capital campaign micro sites for some schools.
And so I know this is something that you delve into. And I’ve always been really impressed with the strategic approach that you take and the guidance, uh, Thank you. That you provide to clients when they’re in the, you know, in the throes of it, but also in the early stages as well. So, you know, capital campaigns are an essential part of the financial life of these private institutions, these educational organizations, schools, independent schools that we work with, um, and especially when there’s a specific need identified when there’s, you know, a building to be done or something like that, but also other initiatives as well.
Um, Thank you. So you’ve been involved in some of these capital campaigns, as I know. And can we start out by let’s just defining what a capital campaign is? I mean, is it the same thing as a fundraiser? Most schools have a donate page on their site. So what’s the difference between a capital campaign and a fundraiser?
Edit: Well, with the annual fund, um, schools are fundraising all the time, and they want to have cash on hand to fill the needs that they have. As they arrive. It’s a capital campaign is more for your like big dreamy desires, things that help your school realizes its strategic plan priorities, and it’s just a longer bigger effort.
What the timeline is, is really up to the institution, but it’s usually multiple years. It might be three, five, seven, ten. Um, but more and more schools are just in campaign, like in an ongoing way, especially in higher ed for smaller schools. It’s, you know, staffs are smaller and, um, there’s a lot more for fewer people to do.
So the campaign, uh, cadence might be a little bit different.
Aubrey: That’s fascinating. And I think it’s so important for our listeners to understand the difference because some of them aren’t in necessarily development field. Um, so thank you for sharing that. I will say that after having attended many gatherings with independent school leaders, there are so many schools embarking on capital campaigns right now.
It seems like, you know, COVID happened, there was a lull, and now we’re in it. So, um, this is a very timely topic. So, um, I’m curious, like, So let’s say, okay, a school’s like, we need to run a capital campaign. The decision has been made to pursue this campaign. Um, what are some steps that could be taken to help successfully launch and execute the campaign?
And what strategic work do you recommend be undertaken, um, perhaps prior to the campaign or at the launch of the campaign?
Edit: Um, well, I have, I want to like, put limits around exactly what my expertise is and how I engage. So a campaign process is, you know, there are a lot of steps. Um, and there’s a lot of planning.
There’s pre planning there, you know, one, if a, if a school identifies certain needs, um, say, I mean, Even at the most basic, for an outsider to understand what’s going on at these schools and why they ask parents for money all the time. And then why they ask you for money for tuition and then ask you to put money into a campaign.
There’s like two ways to raise money and one is tuition and the other is fundraising. Um, and a lot of times the fundraising is there to cover what tuition can’t. So there’s always a gap. Between what tuition covers and what the cost of education actually is and part of campaigns, whether it’s annual fund or capital campaign, which often like weaves the annual fund priorities into it.
Um, part of the work is just explaining to people how this works.
So, say a school decides we need to redo our cafeteria. That’s kind of modest, right? That could look like any number of things. That could mean painting and fixing up some, like, plaster that’s coming down, or that could mean tearing it down and rebuilding it. Um, and… Someone like a philanthropic council or a group that specializes in doing feasibility studies can go out into your community and figure out how much money there actually is to be raised.
And ideally, that helps the school decide where it wants to make an effort, because you don’t want to go out there with a goal that nobody can meet. It’s just It’s not fun. You want a goal. You want to set goals that everybody can achieve because you want to build that momentum of having the victory, you know?
Um, so I would say like in terms of the limits of my expertise. Like, I couldn’t tell you what company is the right one to ask for this kind of help if you’re an independent school. Um, if you, you know, and to hire an outsider is a huge cost that’s, that a lot of small schools don’t have. Um, and in that case, the more information that the advancement team can gather from parents and alumni and people who have given in the past, the The better.
So bring people together for coffee and donuts and sit around the table and figure out what they care about. You know, if we had all the money in the world, where would we put it? What would be the greatest thing to spend it on? And even having those conversations for a school that has like little fundraising capacity can be very inspiring.
Um, and get people thinking in a very positive, like mind opening way about. What’s possible for our school? Like how can we make this the greatest possible experience for our Children? Yeah, that’s
Tara: helpful. I think that, um, most schools, as you say, can’t afford to hire somebody to do that. So they are doing this in a more grassroots fashion.
And and probably a lot of schools. I think one of the great things about doing this episode is that probably a lot of schools maybe skip over that step to right. They just say we need cafeteria. Yeah. Um, redo. And so we’re just going to go out and ask the community for money without doing some of that research.
So it is important, I think, to start to start with that. And then once that’s been identified and hopefully outlined in some way, you know, then they have to go and market that and start asking people for money. So I know in projects that we’ve worked on, you’ve talked about a case, right? Like um, to
I’m not even, I would like you to expand on what that case exactly looks like. And then how that’s used in tandem with the marketing strategy behind, uh, behind the, the campaign. Um, so talk a little bit about the case and then how that translates into a marketing strategy and what’s included in marketing.
Edit: Um, so once the school knows what the fundraising priorities are, like we want to raise money for this and this and this say student support. like capital projects, like physical plant kind of thing, uh, faculty salaries, then, um, I, as a writer would go in and say, okay, how are we going to talk about these things?
How are we going to, you know, say why, why, why, why, why this? Why now? Like, why is it important to the identity of the institution and the vision of the institution that we put money here? Um, so the case really is that it’s like making your argument and it’s kind of, it’s kind of like almost like a legal argument, you know, because it has to be solid and rational.
And the trick is that it also has to kind of pull at your heartstrings. And have a kind of that’s like where the art of it comes in so you don’t want a lawyer to write it. You want like a writer who’s read a little bit of fiction and poetry, who can add that little hint of, you know, this is special.
This is exciting, and give a sense of urgency to it like this is an important project. Now I know why. And what’s so important about having a case, whether they’re. I think about it in two steps. There’s a working case that could literally, literally be like bullet points. Like, um, outline with a few top level arguments and then supporting points that might be in the details of about how this will really have an impact.
Um, and then there’s the public case. Um, the working case would be used. With your inside team, like your campaign team, all the volunteers who are helping you launch this thing and figure it all out. Um, and you’re, you know, your admin team. And then the public cases for when you’re bringing this secret thing that you’ve all been planning for and working on for sometimes years out into the world, which, you know, by then you’ve named your campaign.
Um, It could be something as simple as the campaign for our school, or it could be some poetic name, um, our school rising or something like that. Um, and this will have you know beautiful typography and images and layouts and it might have architectural drawings or kind of visionary illustrations of how things are going to be.
Um, so the case is both. It can be that working case of like, these are the points that we’re making. And that is a document that everybody who’s talking to anybody about the campaign should read and be familiar with because it’s giving you arguments. Um, and the work that the public facing case statement.
Um, is. Like more of the beauty thing that anybody can pick up and just go, Oh, and, uh, you know, I want to give to that. So the case
Aubrey: is where you’re connecting people with that, you know, that story, the why, right? Um, and I love how you mentioned that. It should really you have to bring that creative writing and that that story into it so that it resonates with people.
It can’t just be like some sort of legalese piece out there because that’s not going to motivate people. So you’ve created this case. Um, and it’s compelling and it’s supported. Um, so, you know, what are some key steps to kind of either marketing the capital campaign? I mean, we talk about most schools and I know you and Tara have worked on things.
Uh, most schools create like a page on their website or have a separate, you know, website or microsite like this. What else should be done, um, after you’ve created
Edit: that case? Well, I, I should take a moment to say having your case online is like shortening the connection between reading the argument and giving in a way nothing else can.
So to be able to read it on paper, I have to then call somebody and make my gift. But if I’m looking at it online, I can just click, you know, give now and it will go to wherever they’re telling me to go and I can put in my credit card or I can figure out some other way to give if I’m giving some monster gift.
Um, I I think, I mean, anybody who’s working inside an advancement office knows how much money is raised before a campaign ever goes public. I mean, they’re raising at least half of the goal before the, the graduate who was there 15 years ago will hear that they’re in the campaign. Um, and I think I just lost my train of thought.
Um, yes. Website. Having a campaign website. Um, Tara can talk about the back end of it too, like how helpful that is for people who are running the campaign to be able to see how many donations are coming in and what amounts, like who’s giving, um, and all of that data becomes visible when you put your case on a microsite as opposed to having it on paper.
I love print. I, you know, it’s beautiful and it’s nice to have something in your hand. Um, but there’s so many benefits to having a campaign microsite that if it came to either or I would probably go with having digital versus having it in print.
Tara: Yeah, of course, I, um, I’m in favor of that. And we try to manage the process of that donation, making sure that that’s easy for people to do and that you’ve tested it and all of that to make sure that your donation process is smooth and simple, uh, and an effective, uh, which brings me to a question about sort of.
When the donations are coming in. A lot of times you see on a micro site or in other places, um, reporting, right? Like we’ve reached 50 percent of our goal or, you know, some kind of tracking, um, do you, do you recommend that? And how about like recognizing specific donors? Is that a, is that a process that is a good one?
Uh, and then also, you know, Ancillary fundraising like Facebook and those types of things that that may add on but aren’t part of that main, um, of the main campaign, managing it in multiple places. Do you have any thoughts on on that whole thing and how to how to sort of track and measure
Edit: the progress?
Um, I think you would probably be more expert about this than I am honestly when I the point that I was trying to make with with the pre launch versus like public phase is that pre launch if you’re working. In advancement, you want your big donors to be making the biggest gifts that they possibly can.
So once you go public and you’re having people give online, you don’t want the person with the capacity to give five figures to give three. Um, so you don’t want to go public with that option until you get everything you can out of your big donor base. And the people who you want to be giving online are the people who you could get 10 or 20 or 100 out of who might not have given otherwise, because you wouldn’t have been able to reach them.
So online is where you get your focus on engagement and boosting your percentage of, you know, people in the alumni community who are giving, and offline is where you want your, you know, the, um, The top, you know, it’s your donors to be making gifts. Um, in terms of like social media and stuff like that, that would definitely be part of a campaign marketing plan.
It’s probably harder to track what’s coming in that way. Um, so anything should probably lead people over to your online platform. Yeah. As opposed to giving like on Facebook. Through Facebook, right? Yeah, I want them to give like on your school. com. Yeah. Yeah. Or whatever it is.
Tara: Yeah, I think it’s such valuable information that you just shared about not not going public right with to try to make sure that you’ve gotten your big donors.
To understand that their big donation is needed by going to them offline first. Have you, is that like a phone call? What is that? How is that typically, typically done? Aubrey, it looks like you have some answers.
Edit: So when we’ve worked on campaign creative and we work with the client from the quiet phase through launch, or we usually just prepare them with everything they need to launch.
We will create things like a folder with a pair with like a bunch of one pagers about what the campaign priorities are. So it’s a conversation piece, it’s a way to say, Oh, we’ve spoken, like, three or four or five times, and I know that you really care about this. So I think this is an opportunity that I want to point you to, because it’s hugely important for us and when you know you’re finding a connection and something in terms of values that you’re aligning on, and you’re listening, you know, and you’re really hearing what they care about and giving them an opportunity.
To make that you know to make a meaningful contribution for for them and for your institution. Um, the great thing about fundraising for schools is that you’re fundraising for kids who are like awesome in the future and very cute, usually photogenic. Yeah. And it’s not that hard to sell. There are a lot of things you could ask for that would be a lot more difficult to find support for.
But if you do it right, you’re, you’re kind of not very far removed from having the conversation where you’re really connecting about something that leaves everybody
Aubrey: feeling like warm. Yeah. And that connection is so key. Um, when we’re finding, when we’re working with schools and they’re in that silent phase, it’s really finding the connections, the passions of the donors, what they’re passionate about, and then connecting and providing opportunities for them to see firsthand that.
And then, you know, warming up. I mean, if you think about it, it is kind of like. A long road to the ask, but doesn’t have necessarily have to be long, but you do have to establish those connections and really build that relationship, making the ask and then, um, and then there’s a stewarding of that donor to showcase like how their money is being used and everything, but it truly is comes down to relationships.
Also wanted to mention that you mentioned social media. Social media can be such a great way to, um, you know, kind of spread the word once you’re out of that silent phase of the campaign. Um, and yes, drawing it back to the website and everything like that is great for tracking. We’ve seen a lot of schools recently kind of test out crowdfunding and stuff like that.
So it’s an interesting, I’d like to see where capital campaigns go in the next five to ten years with that crowdfunding. I don’t know if you’ve had any, seen any schools do that, but it’s an interesting concept that I’m eager to. To see what happens. Yeah.
Edit: No, I think for that stage of getting as many people as possible to contribute.
That’s perfect. You know, um, when I think about, you know, you mentioned relationships and that’s key. So important. Um, and when I think about the work that we do. In terms of naming a campaign and designing a logo and designing like a whole look and feel for a campaign. I don’t think of it just as like, these are deliverables that we’re giving the client.
The whole process is like helping cultivate your leadership, cultivate your volunteers, building buy in. So you’re listening to them. You’re not like, here’s your logo. You know, it’s like, I’ll do many hours on the phone with alumni from different generations. I’ll talk to students, I’ll talk to faculty, I’ll talk to all the administrators and figure out what the place is all about, so that everything you’re doing just builds that sense of connection and like pride of ownership and pride of affiliation.
So the whole creative process of doing marketing is like part of just making this The whole group of people who are around this feel more like part of part of the institution. Um, I think that’s really important. That’s why I like it. I mean, if it were just sitting in a room making stuff, I don’t think I would enjoy my work.
It’s the connection and it’s knowing, you know, I’m writing something that’s going to move people. Yeah,
Tara: yeah, it’s compelling. Have you seen any, um, mistakes made in your experience working with, with schools on capital campaigns and you think schools should
Edit: avoid? Don’t make mistakes. Good answer. I think, I think, um, the only mistake.
Is to think about the marketing of your campaign as an expense rather than an investment, making a beautiful website, having a name that means something like a beautiful logo, um, that means something. These are all going to make your campaign stronger and make you make more money. Um, so don’t think of it as.
It’s like something you need to skimp on. It’s something that you’re putting into your campaign, um, as kind of seed funding. So that’s what I would say is like some, a way of thinking to avoid, it’s self interested for me to say that absolutely, but still, if I didn’t think it was worth it and know it was worth it,
Aubrey: I wouldn’t do it.
It’s the return on investment, right? Um, as they always say, like you have to spend money to make money. Um, uh, it’s true. Um, and I would add to kind of mistakes that I’ve seen are, um, you know, not doing the research prior to starting to see if your campaign is feasible. Um, and also, I would also add the
Edit: Launching too soon.
Aubrey: I’m going public too soon. Uh, because that can, that can bring down the morale of the entire staff when you don’t see that needle moving because you didn’t do enough of the, the major donor, um, asked prior and get, get enough money before you went
Edit: public. Good point.
Aubrey: And yeah, so those are a few I would add, but definitely, um, it’s, it’s just such a complex process and there’s so many moving pieces.
But recognizing that it is an investment and planning strategically for that investment I think is key.
Edit: Another thing on that point is to fundraise for marketing. So fundraise in your campaign for admission marketing. These are all investments in your growth. Yeah,
Tara: good point. I love that. I am going to transition.
We’re going to talk a little bit about mindfulness for a minute because we call this the Mindful School Marketing Podcast. I know that can be a buzzword, but um, but we do try to Approach our podcast mindfully, and we like to ask our guests about how they would define mindfulness and how it might apply to school leaders in this circumstance, like for capital campaigns.
Do you have any thoughts on mindfulness and, and, you know, to share with people who are embarking on or in the middle of these campaigns.
Edit: Um, as a writer, I’m always mindful about the audience. What does the audience want? What do they care about? Why is this important to them, not just why is it important to us as an institution?
And working in an institution, I mean more so in higher ed than in small independent schools. There can be this sort of insular like looking inward, um, but it’s always important to think about what do students want? What do they see when they come into this place and when they look at this place? What about families?
Like, what are they looking for now? Um, and, uh, as a, like, I just, to answer that, I could answer that in so many ways, but just thinking about it in terms of, like, sitting down and write, to write and trying to connect with people. Put yourself behind their eyes and just see the world that way for a moment, you know.
For more than a moment. Um, and talk to people so
many ways we need to be mindful.
Aubrey: Those are great. And so and sometimes things that we kind of overlook in our rush to probably get to the next thing or get to the next deadline or
Edit: do this or
Aubrey: launch the campaign. So thank you for sharing that. I’m excited to transition to our rapid fire questions. It’s one of my favorite parts of the show.
Are you ready? I think so. Okay. If you could put one book as mandatory reading in the high school curriculum, what would it
Edit: be? The greatest book for people to read, and I’m answering everything as a writer, there’s a book by Jacques Barzun, B A R Z U N, called Clear and Simple is the Truth, and it’s like a very great book about writing.
So as someone who’s done a lot of writing, I’m going to go in that direction as opposed to talking about literature. I mean, the truth is, I was an English major at a time where, like, laundry lists were literature, so read anything and everything, I’m not going to be picky and I’m not going to tell you not to read anything.
Um, so, yeah. Yeah, that’s
Tara: great. I’ve not heard of that book and, and what I love about this question and asking people who, you know, who do all different types of work, um, related to schools, some of them don’t even work with schools that we’ve had on the show, but You, they’re not, they’re not literature for the most part, they are sort of, you know, financial literacy or, you know, all different topics that help people that help young people develop into, you know, independent, thoughtful adults.
So I appreciate that and I’m going to add it to my list as well as our Goodreads list. Okay, next question. What is one app you could not live without?
Edit: An app. I read the New York Times app all the time. I mean, I’m on there all the time. I also really like the New York Times cooking app. Yes.
Tara: Um, and their games.
Edit: And the games. Connections. Very cool. I just
Tara: started trying that one. Yeah,
Edit: it’s hard.
Aubrey: I don’t think we’ve ever had these apps mentioned before, Tara. So, yay! We’ll add them to our app list. I don’t think we have a list for that, but we should. Um, okay, so what is one book that you are reading right now?
Edit: So, I brought this book to share because I’m not reading it right now, but I’ve obviously read it like many times because it has all these little… This book was mentioned to me by a client who’s very, very, you know, on the front lines of, of Uh, advancement. It’s called Designs for Fundraising, and it costs like 70 or something insane.
But, and it’s kind of old, it’s like old school fundraising tips. Um, and the writer, Harold J. Seymour. Um, so I wanted to share that because it’s, it’s actually very useful. Um, and if anyone in this field has not encountered this book, then I hope you make the investment. because you will have it for a long time.
Tara: Awesome. Great. Oh, this is so helpful. Okay. Last question. What is one great piece of advice that you’d like to leave us with in addition to all the other great
Edit: advice you’ve shared? Oh my God. I think I shared my mistakes and that was my advice. Um,
what is my great piece of advice?
Have fun. Great. I love it. Thank
Tara: you. Thank you so much for joining us today. We really appreciate your time and expertise. Where can people find you online? Oh,
Edit: um, you can find us at e and a e a n d a c o. com. Um, we have a portfolio there. There’s a contact form. Um, that’s probably the best way to. Thank you so
Aubrey: much for
Edit: being on our show.
Thank you both. It’s been fun. Bye. Bye.