Advancement Academy

Advancement Academy | Admission | Development | Marketing Communications
Advancement Academy | Admission | Development | Marketing Communications

Date(s): -
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Certification Credits: 40 IACP


A New Approach to Marketing, Admission, and Fundraising. Unmatched Results.

Hundreds of schools have surpassed their enrollment management, development, and marketing goals after attending ISM’s Advancement Academy. With ISM, learn how you can lead with clarity and achieve extraordinary results.

Attending the Academy completely changed my career. I went from feeling skeptical and scared to being much more comfortable. When I implemented what I learned, nearly 1/3 of our donors gave more than in the previous year, and collectively gave more than $100,000 over our school's proposed asks. We attribute that to the personalized letter strategy and individualized asks we planned at the Academy. 

Joan Siefkes Moore, Director of Advancement at Wichita Collegiate School, KS
2014, 2018 Advancement Academy Attendee
Read the full case study.

Hurry! Early Bird Discounts end 4/17/2020, and the 2019 Academy sold out by April!

Lock in your Early Bird Savings with a fully refundable $600 deposit. Call to register: 302-656-4944.
Standard Pricing: $3,209 Gold Members // $3,776 General


AnnouncementA COVID-19 Update: ISM Events

We’re here to answer your questions and concerns during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, we ask that you please email our team at and we’ll respond to you as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience during this time.

For more information, please visit our COVID-19 resources page.


I attended the Academy for the first time in 2017. I went back to my school, implemented all of the things I learned, and I nearly doubled my new enrollment the next year—we've had steady enrollment since. I wish I could go every year!” 

Leslie Yoder, Director of Enrollment Management
The Cambridge School, CA

Is Your School Capable of More?

Join us if you want to: 

  1. Strengthen your enrollment levels by rethinking how you share your message in your community
  2. Exceed your fundraising goals and expand your pool of donors
  3. Develop your marketing strategies and keep pace with changing trends
  4. Create cohesion among departments and make sure everyone's hard work moves the needle
  5. Gain clarity on where to focus and take your strategy to the next level

How Will Advancement Academy Transform Your School?

Feel confident that your team will come together to create the right strategies for your school through an intense, hands-on experience, guided by expert practitioners.

Achieve an Unparalleled Focus Through Proprietary Assessments

Discover your school’s strengths and challenges so you know where to focus your efforts. You'll begin your week at the Academy by taking our advancement assessments backed by 45 years of ISM theory.

Rely on Your Mentor's Expert Advice and Insight

Your expert mentors are there to guide you every step of the way to maximize your time at the Academy. Your dedicated mentor will help you select sessions, work toward goals, and build your action plan. 

Create a Clear, Unified Strategy Across Departments

Attend with your team—School Heads and leaders from Admission, Enrollment Management, Fundraising, and Marketing—to strategize for the year ahead and collaborate on a unified, aligned approach. You can also come alone to strengthen your school's efforts alongside your mentor and a network of fellow professionals.

Return Home With a Plan For Success

You’ll walk away with an action plan to achieve your goals—with the confidence to know you’ll make an impact when you return to campus.

See our recap from 2019!

AA Web button to Recap





Who Will Benefit From the Academy?

School leaders in admission, enrollment management, development, and marketing communications, as well as School Heads, will benefit from the Academy.

The Academy is a wonderful opportunity for teams to strategize for the year ahead. You’ll join different sessions to discover new approaches, and regroup with your colleagues to share what you’ve learned. Come together—with your mentor—to build a cohesive approach for the year ahead using everyone’s strengths.

The Academy also provides ample opportunities for administrators who come alone to learn and engage with their mentor and a network of fellow professionals, while developing a realistic action plan to implement at their schools.

Innovation is Key to a Winning Strategy

Whether or not you’ve attended the Academy in the past, now is the time to learn the latest methods to help you meet your goals. Each year’s curriculum offers new learning opportunities and is refined to deliver a uniquely individualized experience, allowing for maximum team collaboration and deep School Head engagement.

Stand Out and Mark Your Achievements

Administrators who complete the Academy will earn 40 credits toward their International Advancement Certification. ISM’s International Advancement Certification Program offers the industry’s only interdisciplinary set of credentials that recognizes learning across the areas of admission, enrollment management, development, and marketing communications in private-independent schools. Stand out and mark your achievements!

Advancement Academy Faculty

One of the things that makes the ISM Advancement Academy unique is your chance to work with a seasoned private-independent advancement professional every day. You and your mentor will select the track(s) and workshops you will attend throughout the Academy. Together, you will develop an action plan to take back and implement at your school.

The Distinguished Advancement Academy Faculty and Mentors

Greg Abel
Greg Abel, IAP-L

Advancement Academy Leader | Director of Marketing and Communications, The Providence Country Day School

Greg provides expertise in the areas of school branding and storytelling to engage audiences and cause impact across communities. He has over 20 years of school experience and today helps leaders hone their marketing communications strategies.

Penny Abrahams
Penny Abrahams, IAP-L

Advancement Academy Convener | ISM Consultant

Penny's areas of expertise include enrollment management and marketing plans, developing mission-based messaging, crafting digital marketing and social media strategies, establishing crisis communications plans, and advising on optimal staffing structures and functions.

Casey Bell
Casey Bell, IAP-L

Advancement Academy Leader | Director of Enrollment Management, All Saints’ Episcopal School

Casey provides insight on building admission programs that attract and retain a diverse, multinational student population, directing annual fund and major gifts fundraising programs that support the school’s mission, and creating marketing and communications programs that align with mission and support admission and development efforts.

Harold Brown
Harold Brown, IAP-L

Advancement Academy Leader | Director of Advancement, Cranbrook Schools

A strategic and focused leader, Harold enjoys assembling and leading high-performance development teams to meet their organizational goals. Harold’s expertise includes extensive knowledge of all aspects of fundraising, for principal as well as major and planned giving gifts from alumni, parents, and friends.

Michael Christopher
Michael Christopher, IAP-L

Advancement Academy Leader | ISM Consultant

Michael shares his expertise in building comprehensive development programs from the ground up. He believes a successful development program has solid operations, strong annual funds, proactive constituent cultivation, and robust communication and marketing programs.

Phil Higginson
Phil Higginson, IAP-L

Advancement Academy Leader | Associate Head of School for Philanthropy, Ravenscroft School

Phil consults in both the advancement and strategic planning areas. Phil has worked with schools to develop their strategic vision, establish financial priorities, and formulate campaigns to fund the identified strategic initiatives. His expertise includes extensive knowledge of endowment and planned giving as a way to increase donors’ capacity to give at leadership levels.

Clint Losch
Clint Losch

Advancement Academy Leader | Director of Marketing Operations, ISM

Clint is a financial aid, tuition management, and marketing specialist at ISM. In his current role as Director of Marketing Operations, he ensures ISM’s messages are communicated effectively to its constituents. He has also helped over 1000 school leaders discover how to set mission-appropriate financial aid policies to sustain long-term viability in his previous position as Regional Business Development Manager.

Bob Marley
Robert Marley

Advancement Academy Leader | Multimedia Specialist, ISM

Bob has over 17 years of experience in multimedia, including video production, print and online publications, webinar production, and workshop and conference presentations. Bob's responsibilities at ISM includen producing video content for ISM, designing and publishing ISM publications and webinars, and creating numerous tools for advisory services.

LJ Mitchell
L.J. Mitchell, IAP-L

Advancement Academy Leader | Director of Development, The Calhoun School

L.J. provides expertise in development for private-independent schools, specifically building the annual fund and hosting special events fundraising. He has 15 years of fundraising experience with record-setting results in annual giving, campaigns (capital and endowment) and events.

Amy Riley
Amy Riley, Ed.S., IAP-L

Advancement Academy Leader | Consultant, ISM

Amy Riley has been a member of the ISM team since 2011, when she joined the faculty of ISM’s Advancement Academy. In 2013, she joined ISM as a full-time Consultant. She serves as Academic Dean of ISM’s International Advancement Certification Program and holds Leader (IAP-L) level certification in the program.

Steve Salvo
Steve Salvo, IAP-L

Advancement Academy Leader | Assistant Head for Advancement & Enrollment, Trinity Episcopal School

Steve has vast management experience in independent school admission, development, marketing, and communications. His background is in business and education—after serving as a senior accountant at a worldwide public assurance firm, he has worked successfully as an elementary and middle school teacher, advisor, coach, dorm parent, and camp director.

Greg Simon
Gregory Simon

Advancement Academy Leader | Director of Admissions, Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy

Gregory shares his experience in admission, development, and advancement. He helps school leaders reimagine their admission and development approach with a special emphasis on keeping the experience of prospective students, parents, and donors at the center of any initiative.

Herb Soles
Herb Soles, IAP-L, CFRE

Advancement Academy Leader | Consultant, ISM

Herb provides consulting services in the areas of development and fundraising. His expertise includes extensive knowledge of major gifts programs, endowment, and planned giving as a way to increase donors’ capacity to give at leadership levels.

Gigi Tysinger
Gigi Tysinger, IAP-L

Advancement Academy Leader | Director of Advancement Services & The Academy Fund, Norfolk Academy

Gigi provides expertise in the areas of development policies, procedures, and data management. She coordinates and implements the data-driven processes that are essential elements of the school’s overall fundraising strategy, including gift accounting, gift reporting, research, prospect management, and donor stewardship. 

Monday, July 27, 2020

11:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m. Registration and Refreshments
1:00–1:45 p.m. Welcome and Keynote

2:00–4:00 p.m.

If we just get families to campus, they will see how great it is here! We all hear it. We all believe it. But is it true?

From tours to shadow visits and coffees to school-day events, we work so hard to get new families on campus. Is your school getting the most out of those visits? How can you make sure the process is personal, convincing, and celebrates both your mission and Portrait of the Graduate? Learn how to thoughtfully design campus visits to maximize their impact for every student and their family.
  • Understand the importance of designing tours, shadow visits, and on-campus events that exemplify your Portrait of the Graduate and mission
  • Build an inventory of ideas to optimize student and parent daytime visits
  • Create a framework for one of the following: refreshed and redesigned shadow visits, model tours, or school-day admission events
Every school aims to fill its seats and build wait pools. But how can you get there if you don’t know where to begin? This session will introduce a simple method for using your admission funnel data to identify where your team should focus its efforts to boost enrollment. With your trouble spots identified, we will discuss customized strategies to address your challenges and ensure your prospective families get what they need during each step of the admission process.
  • Understand the admission metrics you should track
  • Learn how to use your admission data to diagnose gaps in your process
  • Discover ways to improve your relationship management efforts with prospective families
Almost every school at some point will need and seek capital funding to reach their vision. All too often the apparent solution is to immediately launch a capital campaign. But there are several key questions to ask yourself before launching a campaign. First, does our school have the financial capacity to reach the goal? Second, do we have the ability to manage a successful campaign? Learn from an experienced campaigner about how to avoid many pitfalls as we help you carefully explore where you are and what should be your next steps to ensure your school’s success.
  • Discover if a capital campaign is the real solution to your fundraising needs
  • Fully understand how the elements of a campaign will directly affect you as well as your school’s faculty, Leadership Team, and constituencies
  • Learn how to analyze your campaign readiness
  • Explore the alternatives to launching a campaign
Retaining your current and loyal donors must become an essential part of a robust giving program. These loyal donors are the foundation of your growing annual giving program and provide the best opportunity for growth. This workshop explores the arena of retention strategy—the ability of the school to both develop and appreciate those who give persistently, whether in small or large sums. Come and understand why this is important for your development program and appreciate how to really steward this unheralded but essential group of people. This session is appropriate for experienced development professionals and School Heads.
  • Understand the value proposition of keeping the donors you have
  • Identify engagement strategies to help retain current donors, including new parents, grandparents, alumni, and parents of alumni
  • Gain tools to establish a loyal culture of giving at your school
  • Understand the data-driven elements of a stewardship plan
This session is a deep dive into the first three steps of the Donor Cycle, ISM’s strategic approach to moving the donor into a closer relationship to the school. Participants will apply the principles of the Cycle to real prospects in an interactive session where they will discover the potential capacity and inclination of their prospects; explore ways to create an engagement plan with these individuals; and evaluate their interests, values, and financial resources. Develop strategic approaches to persuade prospects to commit resources to your mission and programs.
  • Identify—Learn the steps to take to uncover potential donors; assess their connection, capacity, and intent; and develop strategies to further engage the donor
  • Engage—Discover how to bring your donors into a closer relationship with your school
  • Evaluate—Create methods for evaluating your donor’s values and interests, and how they might align with your school’s mission and strategic goals
The way students and parents research schools has changed. Did you know that 70% of a family’s “buying” decision is made before the first interaction with someone at the school? Why? Because prospective families are using Google, social media, your website, Facebook communities,, Yelp, etc. to learn everything about your school BEFORE inquiring. Therefore, it is now critical that schools create content that pre-engages a family to want to apply before they ever step foot on campus.

Review your own school’s digital materials during this session and leave with ideas that you can implement immediately to stand out in your market, improve website traffic, and boost inquiries. In addition, develop a long-term plan for a realistic, integrated approach to content-based inbound marketing.
  • Gain an understanding of how “school search” decisions have changed, and what that means for your marketing going forward
  • Learn the top content topics you must have on your website to drive traffic, inquiries, and enrollment
  • Learn how to supercharge your inbound marketing with the new world of paid ads
  • Leave with an understanding of how to implement inbound marketing across the four main channels: search engine optimization, social media, content marketing, and email marketing
  • Get access to downloadable tools and templates to save you hours of time implementing your inbound marketing strategy, including:
    • Blog post ideas guide
    • The perfect blog post template
    • “Headline Swipe File,” proven to help get more clicks
    • Editorial calendar template
    • 10-minute social media audit
    • SEO best practices checklist
4:15–5:30 p.m. Mentor Groups: Assessments and Reflection
5:30–6:00 p.m. Mentor Group Dinner—An opportunity for members of mentor groups to get to know each other, as well as an opportunity to meet people from around the globe

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

7:30–8:30 a.m. Breakfast

8:30–10:30 a.m.

In today’s independent school market, the customer experience is everything; positive customer interactions must be an intentional part of your school's culture. A customer service culture that is embraced by all employees of the school begins by examining the experiences your families have today!

You will determine what good customer service looks like at your school and identify obstacles that make it hard to achieve. You will leave this workshop with concrete steps that you can implement at your own school to develop, sustain, and strengthen your school's customer service experience, resulting in better student retention and recruitment.
  • Understand and recognize the elements of excellent service within the context of your school community
  • Develop strategies to ensure hospitality permeates every experience at your school
What type of leader do you want to be? What type of leader does your school need you to be? When do leaders manage, and managers lead?

Through hands-on exercises, case studies, and group discussions, you’ll explore leadership theories and best practices to help you navigate leadership opportunities for yourself, your team, and your school.
  • Understand leadership models and theories
  • Examine leadership culture and evaluate leadership opportunities in your school
  • Experiment with leadership strategies through case studies

Note: This course is offered in two parts. To learn the entire framework, participants should attend both sessions.

Every school aims to fill its seats and build wait pools. But how can you get there if you don’t know where to begin? This session will introduce a simple method for using your admission funnel data to identify where your team should focus its efforts to boost enrollment. With your trouble spots identified, we will discuss customized strategies to address your challenges and ensure your prospective families get what they need during each step of the admission process.
  • Discover your school’s primary competitive edge in the marketplace—and how to position yourself as an educational influencer
  • Explore the power of consistent messaging in ensuring everyone is one the same page, serving the same mission, and in pursuit of the same set of student outcomes
  • Pinpoint specific strategies to address what may be a lack of clarity in your school’s primary marketplace stance
A “culture of philanthropy” has traditionally referred to the degree in which members of a school’s community give back to the school through financial support. Frequently we refer to that “culture” without really knowing how to define or evaluate it. This session will explore a wider definition of philanthropy and how to encourage one at your school. Attendees will use a developing set of metrics and objective tools to evaluate their school’s culture and interactively create a plan to improve and enhance their school’s unique philanthropic culture. This session is appropriate for experienced development professionals and School Heads.
  • Learn the distinct attributes that characterize a culture of philanthropy
  • Identify engagement strategies to help retain current donors, including new parents, grandparents, alumni, and parents of alumni
  • Explore ways to evaluate the unique culture of philanthropy in your school
  • Develop strategies to enhance and nurture your school’s culture of philanthropy
The relationship between your school and its alumni is lifelong. Alumni are impacted by school-wide communications and there are opportunities to engage them across every facet of your operations. Whether your school is a boarding school with a large and active alumni body or a small K–6 school, a robust alumni relations program can engage your school’s graduates at every phase of their lives.

Your program should be respectful, transparent, and grounded in supporting and fulfilling the mission of your school. This session will provide you with tools to identify and strengthen the lifelong relationships between your alumni and your school. Come and hear from two experienced alumni professionals, one from boarding schools and one from day schools, to gain perspective on some of the most successful practices for both.
  • Identify frameworks for defining and tracking alumni at your school
  • Learn strategies for keeping alumni connected to your school and to each other
  • Evaluate your current alumni efforts
Whether you’re a team of one or an office of many, the responsibilities of the marketing communications function are ever-growing. They are increasingly vital to the success of your school’s ability to recruit new students, re-recruit current families, and support a culture of philanthropy.

In this session, we will discuss the many roles of the marketing communications office and provide an understanding of how to guide your school’s strategy, no matter the size or structure of your team. You will also complete ISM’s Marketing Communications Assessment, which provides a framework to appraise your performance, review the practices that define success, and set a path forward to help your school reach its enrollment and fundraising goals.
  • Understand the roles and functions of a strategic marketing communications operation
  • Identify your school’s marketing communications strengths, challenges, and opportunities
  • Determine where to focus your attention and resources for the greatest impact
10:30–11:00 a.m. Break
11:00 a.m.–12:15 p.m. Mentor Groups
12:15–1:30 p.m. Lunch and Heads Luncheon

1:30–3:30 p.m.

The foundational component of a strong advancement program is a Board that thinks and acts strategically. In fact, aside from hiring the School Head, strategic planning is the key component of the Board’s work. This workshop provides a roadmap for translating your school’s long-term aspirations into a practical strategic framework, using the foundation of the fifth iteration of ISM’s Stability Markers, the strategic plan, and the strategic financial plan. Leave with the tools to evaluate your current plan and begin to prepare your school for a robust and effective strategic planning process.
  • Explore translating your school’s vision and aspirations into a solid strategic planning framework that guides the work of your school and Board
  • Evaluate your school’s foundational stability with ISM’s Stability Markers
  • Discover how the strategic planning process should be realistic and practical, providing a tactical roadmap for achieving your goals
  • Understand the role that your strategic financial plan plays in ensuring the sustainability of your school
  • Tie your advancement plan to the goals and aspirations of your strategic plan
Admission teams spend countless hours recruiting and enrolling new families. Then, once the contract is signed, those parents and students are often left to their own devices and the Development Office has to begin its own relationship.

In this session, we will explore ways the Admission Office can join forces with the Development Office to ensure a seamless and supportive transition. Learn how the most successful development and admission programs identify and involve parents—from the very beginning—to become future leaders in our schools.
  • Articulate a compelling reason to engage in strategic onboarding of families
  • Identify mission-aligned opportunities to harness the cooperative power of the Admission and Development Office to enhance the student experience
  • Construct a plan for maximizing engagement of new families
  • Create a toolbox of resources and strategies that you can bring back to your school
  • Explore how to avoid moving too quickly

Note: This course is offered in two parts. To learn the entire framework, participants should attend both sessions.

Is soft or declining enrollment keeping you up at night? Not sure what’s causing it? ISM’s Enrollment Management framework brings into focus the factors most impacting your enrollment and hard income bottom line: the clarity (or not) of your primary marketplace stance; the quality of your school culture; and the way you take care of your primary constituents—students and their families. While Part I explored key factors that inform and differentiate your market position, the Part II workshop explores the other two primary spheres of influence in the framework: school culture and constituent relationships.
  • Discover the link between faculty’s and students’ perceptions of predictability and support and a healthy school culture
  • Learn the importance of separating growth from evaluation
  • Identify the best ways to connect with today’s parents—and how to ensure they get what they most want (and need) from the school and family partnership
The old adage “time is money” provides the context for this workshop. Volunteer time in 2018 was worth $24.69 per hour, or more than $50K each year. Make no mistake—volunteers are valuable members of your school’s workforce.

Does your school reflect that value? Do you (and should you) differentiate between the way you engage your staff and your volunteers? How are volunteers integrated within your team? Do your volunteers understand the role of the development operation at your school? Would they describe their work as “vital” or “essential” to achieving your goals? Learn the answers to these questions and more, leaving with the tools to build and sustain a powerfully engaged volunteer corps of partners in your development operation.
  • Learn how to recruit, hire, train, inspire, and steward volunteers
  • Create engaging volunteer job descriptions and evaluations
  • Explore ways to evaluate the unique culture of philanthropy in your school
  • Devise leadership succession plans
Social media is the future of marketing and advertising as we know it—yet most school marketing departments are understaffed and don’t have the necessary budgets to implement an effective social strategy.

As a result, many schools are still engaged in “traditional” marketing channels, such as placing ads in magazines, newspapers, TV, radio, and Google. Maybe you also considered billboards, direct mail, and lawn signs. While these platforms still work, they are no longer as effective as they used to be (and they still cost a lot of money).

In 2020, if you actually want to get the attention of mission-appropriate families in your market, refocusing the content you put out on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat (and whatever else has the market’s attention at the time) is a huge factor.

In this session, we are going to give you a proven, implementable social media strategy that any school can master, even if you have a small team.
  • Uncover the real secret of how social media actually works to target your ideal families
  • Learn how to maximize the reach of your organic social media content to reduce the need for paid advertising
  • Explore the four core pillars of running a successful advertising campaign
  • Get cut-and-paste campaign swipe files, blueprints, and process maps for easy implementation
No budget? No problem! We will explore video techniques that EVERYONE can learn and apply right away. Learn how to use your smartphone during the workshop to capture video that’s engaging and high quality. With your new skills, you’ll be able to film testimonial interviews that can move the needle in your marketing efforts.

This hands-on workshop is ideal for beginners with no knowledge of video production. Discover how to tell your school story through video to drive interest, inquiries, and fundraising efforts.
  • Leave with a key set of basic video production skills that you can implement at your school
  • Gain increased confidence that enables you to produce influential testimonial videos that will positively impact both enrollment and fundraising
3:30–4:00 p.m. Break
4:00–5:15 p.m. Mentor Groups
5:15–6:15 p.m. Networking Reception
Evening Socializing; further individual/team thinking, reflection, networking

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

7:30–8:30 a.m. Breakfast
8:30–9:45 a.m. Keynote: How the Last Recession Can Teach Advancement Professionals to Be Ready for the Next One
9:45–10:15 a.m. Break

10:15 a.m.–12:15 p.m.

Many schools are attempting to mitigate soft, flat, or declining enrollment by offering more financial aid to more students. And while you may be appropriately “means testing” all of your financial aid applicants, if the awards offered exceed the recommended family contribution (as determined by your application process), you are diminishing the value of your program, robbing deserving students of the assistance they need, and very likely depriving your faculty and staff of suitable raises and an appropriate suite of employee benefits.

Even worse, you may be eroding your school’s long-term financial viability—and not even know it. Leave this workshop with a multi-faceted plan to realign your school’s financial aid allocations to increase net tuition revenue per student—and sustain mission excellence.
  • Identify the primary assumptions at work in your school’s financial aid decision-making
  • Analyze the aid you’re offering in each of the categories of financial aid
  • Calculate your school’s net tuition revenue per student
  • Determine if your school is under- or over-utilizing financial aid
  • Craft a corrective strategy to ensure your school’s long-term viability
Word-of-mouth referrals typically generate 80-90% of the admission inquiries at private and independent schools. Do you know what people are saying about your school?

As advancement professionals we must ensure that these critical marketing messages are accurate, compelling, and being both voiced and heard by the right people at the right time. One of the primary and most cost-effective methods for doing so is through ambassador programs. These volunteer-based programs are relatively easy to implement and can greatly expand and enhance your school’s unique differentiators throughout various stages of the recruitment and re-recruitment cycles.
  • Learn how to articulate concise, distinguishable, and effective word-of-mouth marketing messages
  • Explore how to construct a plan for identifying, recruiting, and training school ambassadors
  • Determine how ambassadors and word-of-mouth marketing efforts can be utilized at various stages of the recruitment and re-recruitment cycles
  • Take a toolbox of resources and strategies back to your school
Attending to your donors in appropriate and often highly personal ways deepens their connection to your school and sets the stage for further inspirational giving. The best programs rely on sound procedures and great planning to make certain that donors are well cared for. In this session, we will explore strategies for designing and implementing stewardship plans that consistently engage and support your donors at the top of the gift pyramid. This session is appropriate for experienced development professionals and School Heads.
  • Learn how to create customized plans for your most important donors
  • Be able to manage your Leadership Team and School Head to better steward donors at all levels
  • Learn how to align family values with your strategic needs
A deep dive into the second three steps of the Donor Cycle, this interactive workshop will examine the process by which development professionals solicit donors, honor their generosity through donor- centered recognition, and maintain long-term relationships with donors based on their interests and values. Covering the second half of the Donor Cycle, you will explore the strategic approaches to engaging donor support now and sustaining that support until the next ask - and beyond.
  • Solicit—Invite investment in your mission through a variety of strategies based on your programs, goals, and volunteer and professional leader resources
  • Recognize—Show appreciation to donors and honor their generosity.
  • Steward—Commit to keeping donors connected to your mission in between solicitations.
Are you as well prepared as you should be for your school’s first (or next) major crisis? During this session, we will examine the two key components of crisis preparedness: your risk planning and crisis communication planning. We will complete ISM’s Risk Management Assessment as a foundation for our discussion, and then explore how to shore up your school’s efforts based on your results. Topics will include the core components of a crisis plan as well as the elements of a comprehensive crisis communication strategy.
  • Determine your school’s “blind spots” when it comes to risk management and crisis planning
  • Understand the proper procedures and protocols you need to protect your school
  • Develop a strategy to improve your school’s crisis planning and communication efforts
The world of internet marketing has evolved over the last twenty years; in 2020 your school’s website and online presence needs to be continually cultivated. Attracting and retaining families requires attention to detail, along with using a wide variety of platforms.

In this workshop we will examine how to use Google Analytics and Facebook Insights in your marketing office workflow. Learn why analytics reports are not what you see is what you get—Instead, they are what you get is what you interpret. We will review the basics of these platforms, and you will walk away with the confidence to dive right in!
  • Learn today’s recommended strategies for utilizing Google Analytics and Facebook Insights
  • Learn to apply your report interpretations to improve your marketing messages
12:15 p.m.–Evening Free Time

Thursday, July 30, 2020

7:30–8:30 a.m. Breakfast

8:30–10:30 a.m.

Schools today must align their enrollment management, development, and marketing communications strategies to effectively recruit and re-recruit families, support their communities, and serve their school’s mission. In order to do this, school leadership teams must be able to identify the traits of outstanding advancement professionals and high-performing teams. Join this session to learn what advancement professionals must possess to perform at a high level. Discover how you can identify these traits in new hires, as well as coach, mentor, and support those already at your school to help them unleash their full potential.
  • Understand how to use Essential Expectations and Duties and Responsibilities to hire and evaluate outstanding faculty and staff
  • Discover how mission, well-being, and leadership characteristics serve as a basis for professional growth and renewal
  • Determine how to coach and mentor your employees to effectively promote professional growth
As School Head, you are responsible for ensuring that all advancement functions in your school are delivered with excellence. As a member of the Board, you are responsible for ensuring that resources are available to ensure that the mission is realized.

Understanding the symbiosis that exists among enrollment management, marketing communications, and development will assist in supporting the professionals responsible for each function and helping to ensure the desired level of excellence for your school is achieved. The level of effective school operations will be directly related to the ability of this group to function as a team.

Your administrators involved with the school’s advancement efforts should work with the other members of the Leadership Team to support and advocate for the strategic items within the Board’s strategic plan/strategic financial plan. This will clarify their objectives, establish accountability for difference-makers in the life of the school, and ensure support from the Board. We will discuss the importance of how to enable your advancement professionals to optimize the use of resources, provide the best service to students and parents, and drive the strategic function of the school.
  • Learn how your School Head and your Board of Trustees set the tone and direction for all aspects of Advancement
  • Identify these roles in the three areas of advancement, which include enrollment management, marketing communications, and development
  • Explore strategies for fostering an atmosphere of open, honest communication and collaboration between all areas of advancement
  • Clarify appropriate roles and responsibilities for the School Head, the Board of Trustees, and your advancement professionals
Our nation and schools are becoming increasingly diverse, and independent schools lead the way in embracing that reality. Diversity, equity, and inclusion does not, however, stop at the admission process or classroom door. Representation in your materials and your approach to donors are just two examples of functions where bias can appear without intention. Leave this course on the path to ensuring a more inclusive and equitable approach to all of your advancement efforts.
  • Expand your awareness and sensitivity to bias in your school’s admission, development, and marketing practices
  • Identify possible bias in your materials, processes, and approach to constituents
  • Build a toolkit and set of resources critical to creating a more inclusive and equitable advancement function
Imagine expanding your admission team to include your entire faculty! Teachers can be your biggest tool in recruiting and re-recruiting your students. In this session, we will discuss meaningful strategies your faculty can employ that will increase engagement and retention AND ways to actually get your faculty on board to participate!
  • Understand the importance of faculty in recruitment and re- recruitment
  • Learn the preferences and meaningful ways to connect with today’s independent school parents and equip faculty with the knowledge and resources to implement them
  • Construct a plan for communicating with faculty the importance of their participation in the retention process
  • Create a toolbox of resources and strategies that you can bring back to your school
Participants determine the content for this workshop in real time. Arrive with obstacles, roadblocks, and unexpected detours relating to your annual fund. Leave with strategies, shortcuts, and a clear roadmap to turn your annual fund into an exciting, results-driven, and sustainable foundation of your school’s fundraising program.
  • Build curriculum in real time around participants’ needs
  • Consider annual fund questions and challenges
  • Explore strategies and solutions to leverage annual fund growth
Every minute you spend reading this, there is a parent visiting your website, then leaving, without you ever capturing their contact information. As a result, odds are high you’ll never hear from them again. Why? Because people today are inundated with marketing and content, creating a scarcity of attention. Just because someone reads a page on your website today does NOT mean they’ll remember to revisit your site in the future.

To solve this problem, you can use a lead magnet—an irresistible resource that compels a family to give you their contact information in exchange for the promised content. In doing so, this grants you permission to contact them again in the future.

“Lead magnets” are some of the most powerful tools to help generate leads for your admission funnel. In this course, we will take you step-by-step through the process of creating and launching your lead magnet funnel, so that you can install it on your website in just a few days (instead of the months it usually takes for many schools).
  • Learn how adding just two key pages to any website can instantly improve your new family inquiries
  • Learn the process for building a lead magnet funnel that increases the number of leads and families you're attracting to your school
  • See seven lead magnet examples used by schools that are proven to generate new family inquiries
  • Leave with a lead magnet funnel that you can install on your existing website within a week without touching any code or design elements
10:30–11:00 a.m. Break
11:00 a.m.–12:15 p.m. Mentor Groups
12:15–1:30 p.m. Lunch and Heads Luncheon

1:30–3:30 p.m.

This session will take a deep dive into the role that Board committees can have in sustaining financial viability and excellence for future generations of students. Central to that role is the Committee on Trustees, which profiles, evaluates, and supports Board members.

The Development Committee creates and promotes opportunities for the Board to provide resources for the future, the Finance Committee is the steward of those resources, and the Head Support and Evaluation Committee undergirds the Head’s ability to meet the strategic goals of the Board. This workshop will explore strategies that support the important contributions of these committees in order to sustain the work of the Board and the future of the school.
  • Understand the composition and function of four important Board committees
  • Explore ways that staff can support those committees and their work
  • Consider case studies of committees whose decisions threaten the overall viability of the school
  • Create steps for your school to more effectively support the work of Board committees
When the private-independent school industry shifted toward enrollment management as a means of ensuring strong recruitment and re-recruitment outcomes, little, if anything, really changed in the alignment of faculty and staff roles and functions in service of that new mindset.

Establishing an enrollment management (retention) team that consists of staff members from all aspects of the school’s operation, particularly those roles and functions that hold primary and direct responsibility for students’ and parents’ day-to-day experience of your school, is a proven strategy that produces measurable re-enrollment results.
  • Learn why shared responsibility and accountability is essential to enrollment management success
  • Determine who should serve on the Enrollment Management Team at your school and why
  • Identify the types of data your Enrollment Management Team will collect and analyze—and how to use that analysis to inform your Enrollment Management plan
Continuous enrollment, perpetual enrollment, opt-out enrollment—whatever you call it, the idea of enrolling a family into your school community ‘for life’ is an idea that is growing in popularity among private-independent schools and has significant merit.

Imagine freeing up your Admission Office to serve your inquiries and applicants, rather than chasing down re-enrollments. In this session, we will cover the basics of continuous enrollment AND what to do in subsequent years!
  • Learn the concept of continuous enrollment
  • Understand the steps, process, timeline, and intricacies of continuous enrollment
  • Articulate the benefits of continuous enrollment
  • Develop a plan to roll out continuous enrollment and work with all departments at your school
For many schools, the annual fund exists for a single purpose—to underwrite operating costs and relieve upward pressure on tuition. Traditionally, we ask donors to give unrestricted gifts to offset those costs.

Imagine an annual giving program not designed to balance the budget, but rather designed to offer donors the opportunity to give according to their values and interests. Learn to differentiate between these two approaches, find new ways to approach your case for support, and deepen your relationship with your donors. This session is appropriate for experienced development professionals and School Heads.
  • Differentiate between the annual fund and annual giving
  • Understand the foundational questions that motivate schools to need unrestricted gifts, and motivate donors to give according to their values and interests
  • Learn strategies for raising money annually that are more appealing to your donors, but also help meet your school’s revenue goals
Are your families experiencing donor fatigue? Or even worse, donor exhaustion? This session will help you pinpoint the root of the problem through a diagnostic tool to identify how many times your families are actually being asked for money each year.

Armed with this information, you can get your school leadership on board with a plan to reimagine your fundraising strategy and amplify your culture of philanthropy. You will also learn how one school applied this approach to streamline its multitude of “asks” to increase its annual fund by more than 400% in just four years.
  • Identify the full scope of “asks” being made of your families
  • Learn to focus volunteer efforts to maximize return on investment
  • Understand how to secure Board and Head support to ensure success
Independent schools can learn a lot from this world of wizards, muggles, and magical creatures! Through the lens of the Harry Potter universe, we will explore universal branding techniques. The Hogwarts School of Magic and Wizardry definitely does not have a Director of Marketing and Communications, and yet the school’s enrollment is always filled. How do they do it?

You will learn how to examine your school’s mission statement, Portrait of the Graduate, and Characteristics of Professional Excellence, and walk away with renewed excitement and motivation to brand your school and inform your school’s messaging.
  • Learn to adapt brand techniques from the Harry Potter franchise to guide your school’s messaging efforts
  • Extract core concepts from your school’s Purpose and Outcome Statements to inform your school’s messaging
3:30–4:00 p.m. Break
4:00–5:15 p.m. Mentor Groups
5:15–6:15 p.m. Networking Reception
Evening Socializing; further individual/team thinking, reflection, networking

Friday, July 31, 2020

7:00 –8:00 a.m. Breakfast (please note change in breakfast and session times)
8:00–9:30 a.m. Action Plan Presentation and Peer Review — Mentor Group Rooms
9:30–9:45 a.m. Break
9:45–10:45 a.m. Mentor Groups
10:45–11:30 a.m. Closing Session

Academy Location

Hilton Penns Landing 
201 South Columbus Boulevard 
Philadelphia, PA 19106 

The Hilton Penns Landing on the Delaware River, adjacent to Independence Seaport Museum and summer activities alone the river. It is the walking distance to historic Old City Philadelphia.

A group hotel reservation rate of $229+tax is available until July 6, 2020. Subject to availability. Please wait until the workshop status is 'confirmed' before making your travel and hotel arrangements.

Reserve Your Room

The Hilton Penns Landing is pet-friendly. Please contact the hotel for details.


Airline Information

Delta Air Lines is pleased to offer special discounts for Independent School Management. Please click here to book your flights. 

You may also call the Delta Meeting Network® at 1.800.328.1111* Monday–Friday, 7:00 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. (CT) and refer to Meeting Event Code NMU5P.

Getting there from Philadelphia International Airport

DIRECTIONS: Take the Philadelphia ramp on the left to merge onto I-95 N. Take exit 20 for Columbus Blvd. Turn left onto S Columbus Blvd. Hotel will be on the right.

Distance from Hotel: 11.7 miles

Drive Time: 15 minutes

Frequently Asked Questions

What does my Academy registration fee include?

The Academy registration fee includes:

  • Academy materials
  • Breakfast (Tuesday through Friday)
  • Lunch (Tuesday throughThursday)
  • Dinner (Monday night)
  • Refreshment breaks (Tuesday through Friday)
  • Social hours (Tuesday and Thursday)
  • Complimentary WI-FI access in the lodging room

Can your team accommodate my dietary needs?

Please let know in advance if you have any special dietary restrictions so that we can work with the executive chef to satisfy your needs.

Can I earn credit for ISM's International Advancement Certification Program by attending the Academy?

You will earn 40 credits towards your IACP certification.

What should I bring?


The dress code is business casual.

Additional items

  • Laptop computer equipped for wireless for your learning sessions.
  • Personal care items
  • Rain gear and umbrella
  • Recreational equipment
  • Comfortable shoes or sneakers
  • Cool and casual clothing
  • Sweater or other warm clothing for sessions (air conditioning in the classrooms may be cool)
  • Extra pens, pencils, paper, business cards

Can I bring my spouse/partner/family member?

Participants should recognize that the Academy requires full attention. Participants are expected to attend all keynotes, mentor groups, and workshops to receive IACP credit and certificates. However, the area has plenty of tourist attractions if a family member, spouse, or partner would like to explore the area. Only participants may attend ISM-sponsored meals.

When should I plan on going home?

The Academy will adjourn at 11:30 am on Friday, following the final celebration and certificate presentation. Note: Certificates only will be given to participants who attend all sessions including keynotes, mentor groups, and workshops.

COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) Update

We take the health and safety of our school leaders seriously.

ISM fully anticipates holding our upcoming events, including Summer Institute and Advancement Academy, successfully. That said, we're planning for every possibility. 

In order to ensure the best experience, we want you to know that we take the health and safety of our participants seriously. ISM will proactively engage with our attendees with needed updates to minimize any disruption to their experience.

You are welcome to reserve your seat and lock in Early Bird pricing for an upcoming Summer Institute workshop or Advancement Academy with a refundable $600 deposit. Once you’ve reserved your seat, please make sure your workshop is confirmed before making travel arrangements. Make your deposit by calling in to our workshops department at 302-656-4944 or emailing

Should ISM cancel an event, we ensure a 100% money-back guarantee for all registrants—so you can buy with confidence. You can feel free to direct any questions to our contact form.

Confirmation and Cancellation Policy

We will correspond with you through email as soon as your workshop is confirmed, no later than two weeks prior to its start date. Occasionally, we may be forced to cancel an unconfirmed, scheduled workshop due to insufficient registration. So we ask that you do not make non-refundable travel arrangements until you receive notice that your workshop is confirmed. (ISM will not be responsible for any change/cancellation charges assessed by your airline or travel agent.)

Tuition Payment and Cancellation Policy for In-Person, Group-based Programs

Tuition must be paid in full 10 business days prior to the start date of the in-person, group-based program. An attendee with a balance due on the start date will be denied entrance to the program until the balance is paid in full.

Cancellation requests must be made in writing by emailing, faxing to 302-656-0647, or mailing to: Professional Development Coordinator, ISM, 1316 N. Union St., Wilmington, DE, 19806.

  • Cancellations received more than 15 business days prior to the start date of the program will be fully refunded. Gold Dollars will also be fully refunded.
  • There will be no refunds for cancellations made less than 15 business days before the start of the program. For registrations paid for with membership Gold Dollars, the member school will receive a 50% refund of Gold Dollars.
  • Non-payment of tuition or no-show to the event does not constitute a cancellation. Full tuition will be due and payable.

The Substitution Option and Wallet Option

Should an attendee need to cancel less than 15 days prior to the start date of the workshop, the school has two options to avoid penalty. Schools may also exercise these options at anytime for cancellations. 

  1. The school may substitute another employee.
  2. The school may bank the funds for a future ISM registration. These funds must be applied to a professional development event within one year from the start date of the original workshop. After one year, the funds will be forfeited. To use banked funds, please call the Professional Development Coordinator at 302-656-4944 x152.

*We DO NOT accept enrollments from consultants.

Advancement Academy Participants Writing on the Board

Our Guarantee

ISM believes in providing quality and excellence in all of our events and in ensuring the satisfaction of everyone who attends. Nearly 100% of our participants say they would recommend our events to their colleagues. If you are not satisfied with your event for any reason, ISM will credit the fee you paid toward another similarly priced workshop or will refund it.

If you have any questions, click below to send us an email. 

West Side Montessori, OH

West Side Montessori, OH

Be Inspired

I had takeaways from every session I was in. The presenters were amazing and so knowledgeable. I can't wait to apply the new tools and Information.

Helena Eddings, Admissions/Marketing Coordinator

Westmark School, CA

Westmark School, CA

Attend With Your Team

"Our team of four (Head of School, Board Chair, Board Advancement Chair and Director of Advancement) all were able to glean and participate in meaningful sessions that we anticipate using over the next year."

Elizabeth Curtis, Director of Advancement

De Smet Jesuit High School, MO

De Smet Jesuit High School, MO

Create Lasting Change

A rich volume of knowledge was shared and it will be helpful going forward. This was a great presentation and I had a wonderful dialogue with other school leaders.

William Rebholz, Vice President of Institutional Advancement

Sign up for the Advancement Academy

Register for your workshop online by filling out the form below. If you are registering with a team from your school, fill out one person’s information below, add it to your cart, and select “Add Another Attendee” from the cart menu.

Advancement Academy Participants Talking
Advancement Academy Participants Talking

Upcoming Workshops and Events

4/29/2020 — 4/29/2020


Support Student Success With Faculty Growth and Evaluation Teachers Love!

Status: Confirmed


7/27/2020 — 7/31/2020


Advancement Academy

Status: ConfirmedLocation: Philadelphia, PA


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  • workshop 7/13/2020 — 7/16/2020

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  • workshop 7/6/2020 — 7/8/2020

    Strategic Financial Planning: A Comprehensive Approach