5 Key Takeaways From the CASE-NAIS Independent Schools Conference

Jules recently attended the 2021 CASE-NAIS conference. In this blog post, she shares her key takeaways.

Jules Wilkins, CFRE
January 31, 2021 · 4 min read
5 Key Takeaways From the CASE-NAIS Independent Schools Conference

1. “Everyone is part of diversity.”

After a very difficult year, one thing is clear as we move forward – diversity, equity, and access work must be at the forefront of organizational strategy. But what does that mean, exactly? At this year’s CASE-NAIS Independent Schools Conference, Dr. Derrick Gay opened the conference with a deep dive into what diversity is – and what it isn’t. “Everyone is part of diversity,” Dr. Gay shared – even though only half of conference poll respondents felt that diversity included them.

Which brings the question— how can we ensure our organizations are listening, connecting, and learning from ALL our constituents?

2. Innovation is essential

It’s no secret that today we are communicating in whole new ways. So many conversations and interactions that used to take place in person have moved online – and there are more tools and resources than ever to make that switch.

I was inspired by the many sessions where schools talked about being innovative and agile in their response to pandemic-related changes, like St. Andrews Episcopal School, who had to cancel their in-person gala and transition to online just two days before it was scheduled to take place, or the Hawken School, which developed new online content (and a podcast!) that allowed them to better engage with current and prospective families.

3. Community matters (now more than ever!)

As schools grapple with the twin crises of the pandemic and growing awareness of racial injustice, it is more important than ever to cultivate diverse, inclusive, and strong school communities. I was inspired by how Foxcroft School used storytelling and a multi-channel communications approach to continue to inspire and engage their students and families during school closures. By maintaining focus on their mission and values, and keeping community at the center of their outreach, they were able to use new communications tools to engage, encourage, and inspire their community from afar.

4. Are you listening?

From the very beginning, as Dr. Gay shared the power of true inclusion, the importance of listening and understanding others came through throughout the conference.

From working on your “Emotional Quotient (EQ)” with The Hill School, to reminders from the University School of the power of listening when engaging with major donors, it was clear – sometimes the best way to communicate is to first take the time to listen.

5. The future is bright!

It was so inspiring to see more than a thousand people come together with one goal– to continue to support children and families and provide excellent education during a historic time of stress and conflict. I have more faith than ever that we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable field through innovation and a focus on creating strong communities as we move forward together.

WRITTEN BY
Jules Wilkins, CFRE
Chief Advancement Officer @ Montessori Center of Minnesota
Jules is the Chief Advancement Officer at the Montessori Center of Minnesota (MCM) where she oversees the fundraising efforts that support MCM’s programming and coordinates the strategy for all MCM communications. An expert on donor communications and board development, Jules brings more than a decade of fundraising and donor communications experience to her work. Jules has presented on donor communications and board development at the Association of Fundraising Professionals International Conference, the Nonprofit Innovation Conference, the MCN Nonprofit Leadership Conference, and many other local and national conferences. She writes and consults on donor communications at JulesWrites.com. Jules is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) and she serves on the board of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Minnesota Chapter.
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