Making Your School Stronger

When asked what will make a parochial school stronger, the answer we hear most often is “Money!”. When asked how the money would be used, the answers are seldom substantive. The speakers are unaware that their answers are the most urgent symptoms of a larger problem that has yet to be articulated.

When there is a scramble to fund payroll at the end of the week, it is hard to remember that making payroll leaves the problem unsolved. The solution is more donor generosity, more donors, better cash management, more efficient use of resources, more students, or a combination of things.

Take a moment to make a list of all of your urgent items.

Now make a list of what is common to all of those items.

Probably one of the items the lists have in common is the lack of resources (money). What part of your school’s infrastructure is responsible for gathering and distributing those resources? Is it funding, tuition, planning, effective use, etc.?

Another thing the lists have in common is the need for talent. What part of your infrastructure is responsible for solving this problem? Is it HR, staff development, workflow management, staff allocation, technology to automate processes, etc.?

You can carry this process further by looking at your business model and deciding which elements of your business model need to be more robust. That will help you decide how to strengthen the infrastructure.

Changing a parochial school’s infrastructure is seldom easy or quick. Like all changes it will cost something but the cost is usually low and after the first few changes the process becomes almost self-funding (the saving from this month’s change will fund most of the expenses for next month’s changes and so on). It is usually possible to find a donor who is willing to start the process. Over time, you will have proof that your infrastructure changes are making your programing more effective, your school more efficient, your mission more effective, your students more successful, and your mission more valuable to your community. With that evidence, you can make a strong case for your donors to increase their generosity, and recruit more support from your community. In short, as your infrastructure becomes more robust, your school’s sustainability will grow.

Next Step:

Look behind the urgent symptom to discover the problem

Create a plan to solve the problem including fortifying your infrastructure

Find donors who will fund the plan

Review your business model every six months to determine how to strengthen or evolve your business model and strengthen your infrastructure

Every six months gather your senior staff, board committee chairs, board chair, key supporters, and select students and parents to discuss your business model and how to evolve its key elements to be more effective. Six months may seem like too often. However, the current rate of change demands that we frequently review all that we are doing. Frequent reviews will result in minor changes to just a few elements which will be less expensive and less disruptive. Frequent reviews also makes it easier to manage a school because there are fewer urgent interruptions.

Your donors and parents want your mission to be effective, your services to be excellent, your students to be successful, and your sustainability to be high. Constantly evolving your infrastructure will increase donor generosity and loyalty as well as attract new donors and families.

Take It Further:

Set operational standards for each of the elements of your business model

Use the semi-annual meetings to raise the expectations for each element (pursue excellence – make the evolution of your infrastructure purpose driven)


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