Preparing Your Independent School for the 2020-2021 School Year

Read Time: 3 minutes


A great deal has changed over the last two months, and our schools have been the epicenter of so much upheaval and adaptation. As development professionals, we need to support our independent school communities by checking in, asking for feedback, involving volunteers where we can, and helping to plan culmination celebrations.

While we steward our communities today, we also need to prepare for a 2020-2021 school year that is shaping up to look very different from the past. Below, we walk through several ways you can manage uncertainty and set the stage for a successful year, from new family engagement to fundraising planning.


Use technology to bring new families into the fabric of your school.

Families will still feel all the excitement and anxiety associated with starting at a new school, but it’s likely to be amplified during this time. While you can’t say for certain when you will be able to meet face to face, you can use the technology at your disposal to ease their anxieties and begin welcoming them into your school community right away.

Ideas include:

  • Setting up virtual campus tours
  • Scheduling Zoom meet and greets with the Head of School
  • Recording a series of short videos that outline plans for the 2020-2021 school year
  • Holding a mock virtual teaching session for new families
  • Livestreaming a Q&A session, where new families are encouraged to join and ask questions
  • Collecting remote learning stories to share how current students have navigated this new learning environment so far

Offering a variety of flexible options allows new families to be as engaged as they want and choose the activities and content that are most meaningful to them.

Set up a “buddy system” for new parents.

Parents often find social connections and build community through their child’s school, so organizing a “buddy system” between parents can offer support even if they cannot meet in person. Pair new parents with longer-tenured parents for virtual coffee meetups and phones chats.

This system also offers the opportunity for longer-tenured parents to educate new families about how your school works and what the expectations are for parents. Sometimes hearing this from a peer can reinforce what the school administration has already shared.


Conduct a wealth screening of all new families.

By this point in the crisis, your school has likely adjusted its budget for the current year and is planning what will be possible next year. The next few months are the time to consider how to recalibrate goals for the annual fund and other fundraising initiatives.

Because so much is unknown, it will be important to build multiple scenarios for fundraising goals to understand your options, what levers can be pulled, and what pivots to make. Your fundraising scenarios may include:

  • Scenario #1: A higher concentration of major gift prospects that have given leadership gifts year over year.

  • Scenario #2: A broad-based scenario with more prospects giving gifts under $25,000. (If you expect prospects won’t give at the same levels, this scenario can help you determine how many prospects you need to make up for this gap.)

  • Scenario #3: A large matching gift that will allow for specific solicitation of a small group of prospects.

A key way to build multiple scenarios is to conduct a wealth screening of all new families. This allows you to identify their giving capacity and then incorporate that data into your current understanding of the donor community’s capacity to give.

We advise completing a wealth screening for the full community if you haven’t conducted one in the last few years. If you undertake a comprehensive wealth screening process, be sure to incorporate all new families.

Use wealth screening data to segment prospects and inform fundraising goals.

Once you have up-to-date wealth screening data, you’ll have a much clearer picture of your community’s full giving capacity. From there, we recommend segmenting prospects based on their capacity and likelihood to give, further informing the possible scenarios for fundraising goals.

Beam Insights scores and segments prospects on an ongoing basis. This allows your school to take a comprehensive look at fundraising potential, with the added ability to drill down into specific segments of prospects. By analyzing your donor information in this way, your school leadership can make data-driven scenarios about what might be possible for fundraising over the next year.

While we cannot predict what will happen in the next few months, we can take practical steps now to prepare our schools for the upcoming school year. We hope these recommendations help you set the stage for a successful 2020-2021. In the meantime, please visit the Campbell & Company COVID-19 resource page for more guidance and reach out to me at if you have any questions.


Kate Effland

Kate Effland is a Consultant at Campbell & Company. She understands that data-driven strategies paired with sound fundraising operations are critical pillars for any successful organization. Kate is passionate about helping organizations unearth the resources they need to make a difference in their community.