IACP Requirements Explained

IACP Requirements Explained
IACP Requirements Explained

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For someone new to the profession and to private-independent schools, it is appropriate to come in at the Professional Level. To apply for certification at this level, you must have two full academic years of recognized advancement experience in a private-independent school.


You can move from the Professional Level to the Senior Level, or, if your experience qualifies you, you may begin at the Senior Level. If you have advancement experience outside private-independent schools, you may count that experience at a ratio of two years to one. In any case, you must have a total of five full academic years of recognized advancement experience in all sectors with a minimum of two in private-independent schools.


You can move directly into the Leader Level or work your way through the Professional and Senior Levels. It would be typical to move from the Senior Level to the Leader Level. The biggest difference (apart from the level of contribution at the Leader Level) is the maturity of understanding of private-independent schools as represented by experience.

If you have advancement experience outside private-independent schools, you may count that experience at a ratio of two years to one. In any case, you must have a total of 10 full academic years of recognized advancement experience in all sectors with a minimum of seven years in private-independent schools.


IACP certification requirements

Requirements/Designation IAP
Experience requirements for Senior and Leader Levels can include previous advancement experience outside private-independent schools, accepted at a ratio of 2 years to 1 year.
2 years advancement experience in private-independent schools 5 years advancement experience (Minimum of 2 years in private-independent schools) 10 years advancement experience (Minimum of 7 years in private-independent schools)
Letter of Recommendation Yes Yes Yes
Affirmation of ISM’s Advancement Core Values Yes Yes Yes
Credits 40 credits 80 credits 100 credits
Through ISM 40 Minimum of 40 credits Minimum of 50 credits
Through ISM approved providers N/A Maximum of 40 credits Maximum of 50 credits
  Ways to earn credits:
  • Webinars—1 hour = 1 credit
  • One-day Workshops = 10 credits
  • Three-day Workshops = 30 credits
  • Conference = 10 credits (maximum)
  • Advancement Academy = 40 credits
  • Virtual Advancement Summit = 20 credits
  • ISM On Site Advancement Work = Determined case by case
  • CEUs—1 CEU = 5 credits (20 credits maximum)
Performed outside the professional’s school
N/A 20 hours per year 20 hours per year
Portfolio of work/results/data required for ISM and/or peer evaluation with letter of explanation–e.g., evidence of planning with goals and results; submission of materials; development and completion of major project related to school goals
N/A Yes Yes
Reflection N/A Yes Yes
Leadership activities
You report to the School Head and participate in at least 3 of the following:
  • Involvement with strategic planning
  • Responsible for budget creation, oversight, and management
  • Mentoring of a direct report or colleague
  • Leading a conference presentation or workshop
  • Publication of articles
  • Supervising at least two direct reports
N/A N/A Yes
Carried out by an ISM professional
N/A N/A Yes


Application requirements explained

Letter of Recommendation

The letter must include the following characteristics:

  • Printed on school letterhead
  • Dated
  • Signed by the School Head (not a deputy; not an electronic signature)—In the case of School Heads applying for certification, the letter should be written by the Board Chair/President
  • States that you are employed by the school
  • States the title of your position and when you were hired
  • States ways in which you are a valued member of the school community

Affirmation of ISM’s Advancement Core Values

ISM’s Advancement Core Values define advancement professionalism within the private-independent school context, and guides us in our daily practice. You cannot obtain certification without affirming these values. See the Advancement Core Values here.

Note that these Advancement Core Values are in agreement with the Donor Bill of Rights as defined by AFP, AHP, AAFRC, CASE. This can be found on the CASE website. While the Donor Bill of Rights is clearly aimed at development personnel, many of the provisions are highly applicable to admission and marketing, and thus we recommend that all Advancement Professionals adhere to it.


For the Professional Level, you must fulfill 40 credits through ISM. Professional development opportunities such as the Advancement Academy or workshops during our Summer Institute or the School-Year are ideal. For the Senior and Leader Levels, the 90 credits required must include a minimum of 50 credits obtained through ISM.

ISM recognizes and deeply respects the contributions made by many professional organizations regarding advancement through admission, marketing and communications, and development studies. However, to ensure that the distinctive nature of advancement in private-independent schools is ingrained into professional practice, we require candidates to be exposed to the research and study that ISM has undertaken.

A note about ISM approved providers

We encourage you to attend at least one advancement conference from an ISM-approved provider such as the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), Association of Fund-Raising Professionals (AFP), National Committee on Planned Giving (NCPG), Association of Independent School Admission Professionals (AISAP), Enrollment Management Association (EMA), and/or American Marketing Association (AMA).

ISM also encourages you to be part of the greater community of professionals in your own local, state, and/or regional private-independent school associations, recognizing that exposure to diversity of opinion and expression deepens our experience and our ability to serve our schools exceptionally well..

Conferences you attend must be approved prior to credit being granted. General conferences that are not specific to admission, marketing communications, or development—even where these types of workshops are included in the overall array—will not be approved. Contact the registrar at IACPregistrar@isminc.com for pre-approval of conferences hosted by other organizations.

Types of Learning Opportunities Credits Earned
Webinars 1 Credit
One-day Workshops 10 Credits
Three-day Workshops 30 Credits
Conference 10 Credits (maximum)
ISM's Advancement Academy 40 Credits
ISM On Site Advancement Work Determined case by case
CEUs (1 CEU) 5 credits (20 credits)



Applicants must provide a copy of the CEU certificate to obtain credit. Each CEU is worth five credits with the maximum at 20 credits.


Your portfolio provides evidence of professional competence and achievement. It is not work that is created for the certification process, but rather a collection of plans, rationales, supporting materials, and outcomes representing projects previously completed as part of your daily work. The applicant must annotate all items/artifacts included in the portfolio and organize materials so that they can be easily reviewed by the committee.

Examples of items you might include in your portfolio are as follows..

Admission Marketing Communications Development
Enrollment management plan Marketing plan Development plan
Multiyear enrollment data Evidence of constituent surveys Multiyear giving data
Print materials Print materials Print materials
Web pages Web pages Web pages
Swot analysis Swot analysis Swot analysis

Where there are issues of confidentiality, the applicant must identify confidential information and protect it. All applicants can be assured that portfolios will be reviewed by ISM Consultants and/or practicing professionals whose schools are not in their state.


Because we believe reflection is an important part of professional growth for Senior and Leader Level applicants, you are required to submit a professional reflection. Consider the following questions or explore your own thoughts and ideas:

Consider the following questions:

  • What questions have my successes and failures provoked?
  • As I reflect on my professional career, how have my past experiences shaped my present performance?
  • What insights have been offered to me that helped me meet my professional goals?
  • What insights have I offered the School Head or my colleagues that helped them to better meet their own professional goals?
  • In what ways am I working to build the capacity of my colleagues?


As exemplary figures, Advancement Professionals are required to demonstrate their drive to give back to the greater community by participating in volunteer activities outside their schools. The required number of documented hours is 20 per year.

Leadership Activities

We anticipate that the Leader Level will largely be appropriate to those Advancement Professionals who report directly to the School Head. Leadership thus pertains to exercising strategic oversight within the school and to leadership activities designed to build the professional capacity of others, such as leading workshops; serving on regional, state, and national association Boards or planning committees; and/or serving as a contributor to peer-to-peer eLists and/or industry blogs/publications.

Leader Level applicants must demonstrate a minimum of three leadership activities such as:
• Involvement with strategic planning
• Responsible for budget creation, oversight, and management
• Mentoring of a direct report or colleague
• Leading a conference presentation or workshop
• Publication of articles
• Supervising at least two direct reports

These activities must be demonstrated through clear and full documentation, and noted directly in the Head’s letter of recommendation. This documentation must be included when submitting your portfolio.


This is applicable at the Leader Level only. Once the portfolio is received, it will first be reviewed by an ISM Consultant. Then the applicant will receive a phone call from a practicing advancement Professional to discuss the portfolio and leadership activities. The intent is to ensure that your depth of involvement is appropriate.

Once you have gained your certificate, you will be placed on ISM’s list of Advancement Leaders. You may be invited to act as an ISM Adjunct Consultant through workshops, on-site consulting, and writing. The Leader Level is an exclusive group of people; it is reserved for those who are truly engaged at a high level within their schools and the independent school community.


Learn More


To learn more about how our Certification Services can serve your school, email our IACP Manager or call 302-656-4944.