School alumni and fundraising expert, and Educate Plus Queensland Chapter President, Lea Walker-Franks talked with trueAU.NEWS about school community engagement, alumni, and fundraising approaches and opportunities.
Educate Plus is the only Australasian organisation for professionals in the education sector, Educate Plus is run largely by volunteers who are passionate about supporting individuals in advancement roles.
Lea Walker-Franks took the time to dispel some myths around school fundraising.
“The other thing too, a misconception, is that it’s the alumni that always give big, and it’s the alumni that are the ones that give regularly, not current parents,” Lea Walker-Franks said in the podcast interview above.
“That’s not in my experience.
“It is the current parents that are your largest body of donors, stakeholder group.
“They’ve got a vested interest in seeing these things happen while their children are there, or purely philanthropically, say towards the bursary program, to really leave a legacy and enable students to attend who, without financial assistance, wouldn’t be able to.”
Further, Lea Walker-Franks talked about alumni fundraising and engagement strategies.
“It’s the alumni that, when you actually gently make it clear exactly what level of support is there, because they presume that, ‘Oh, every other old boy is giving a big gift, they don’t need mine,’ and across all the schools I’ve worked in, boys and girls, single sex schools, that’s been the case,”
“Once you wake up the sleeping giant too, that, ‘Thank you for this level of support from this level of donors,’ they’re usually quite shocked.”
This podcast publication is part of the Education Vision 2020 series.
Read the Lea Walker-Franks from Educate Plus podcast interview TRANSCRIPT:
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Thank you for your company once again. We are continuing our series looking at education, Education Vision 2020, so the state of education in Australia, the state of Queensland. We’ve been focusing in those areas, and looking at where it is now and where it’s headed to. Education’s very, very important. There’s a lot of research that’s out there that says very, very clearly that, for an individual that’s well-educated, they’re going to enjoy a more prosperous life, probably a longer life, definitely have more opportunities presented to them, but that’s also true for a country too. A country that has a well-educated people, that country is said to be far more prosperous as well. If you look at the countries around the world, they do put a lot of emphasis and investment into their education. Australia is no different to that.
To have a chat today, we have Lea Walker-Franks, now Queensland Chapter President, Organisational Board Member and Fellow of Educate Plus. We’re going to find out about the organisation, but first and foremost, let’s find out about Lea Walker-Franks. Lea, how are you?
Lea Walker-Franks: I’m well. How are you?
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Yeah, good. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Lea Walker-Franks: Originally, I trained as a teacher, so, economics business studies, and found that I loved working in schools, particularly the older intergenerational type schools with that lovely history and alumni, but worked out that, for me, my heart was more in helping them develop. Did some post-grad study and moved over to working in the not-for-profit business side of schools.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Yeah. On your day-to-day, what does that look like from the school perspective? Because we’re talking with you more in relation to Educate Plus, and we’re going to explore that, but you are not removed from schools on a daily basis either.
Lea Walker-Franks: No, I haven’t been removed from a school for many, many years, whether it’s been in the classroom, I have two grown-up sons, so I’ve been a parent as well, and President of the P & F and all of those sorts of roles. My current role is Director of Community Engagement, which is sort of the friend-raising side, but I’m also the Executive Officer of the BBC Foundation, so the fundraising side. Yeah, very much day-to-day in a school, but working with the whole entire community, so all of the current parents, the old boys. We’re even branching out to having alumni parents and alumni staff as well. Yeah, very much part of the day-to-day of a school.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: That’s terrific, and we are looking at, you’ve mentioned change in engagement and alumni. Let’s look at the Educate Plus for a bit. What is the organisation all about? Can you explain it to a listener that’s maybe never heard of it before?
Lea Walker-Franks: Yeah, sure. About 13 years ago, when I did make that change from the teaching side to the non-teaching side, the organisation then was called ADAPE, which stood for something like Alumni and Development Association for Professionals in Education. About 10 years ago or so, we rebranded to Educate Plus, because people could pronounce it, and it became a lot clearer that we were all of those roles that support education and educational institutions. Admissions, marketing communications, alumni and development, development being fundraising. I was immediately told, “Oh, well, you’ve got a membership with Educate Plus, and you need to get involved because they will support you in your growth and development.” I did, and I received two very different mentors. These two-
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Wow.
Lea Walker-Franks: Gentlemen could not be more different in every way, and that helped me really find my way of going about helping the school develop. I now see it as my opportunity to give back, and so I’m quite heavily involved now that I’m what’s called a Fellow or a Senior Practitioner.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Through your giving back through Educate Plus, can you tell us a little bit about, why a school would want to, you had your experience, but in general terms today, why would a school get involved in Educate Plus?
Lea Walker-Franks: Yeah, definitely. I explain it from the point of view of that, when you’re a teacher, you’re a part of a faculty, and so you have your tribe within the larger tribe, but for people working in our roles, there can be one of them, particularly in the younger schools, that perhaps the admissions person is also the Principal’s PA and is asked to juggle some major events like Speech Night and, “Can you throw out a bit of advertising and marketing,” and haven’t even thought about maybe starting an alumni program yet.
Joining an association such as ours means that you find your people and your tribe. It also means that it’s advantageous to the school, because these people in these roles don’t have to start from scratch. They don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Throwing out an email to the membership to say, “Does anybody have a policy on this,” or, “What’s your template for that,” “We’re thinking about doing “x”, has anybody gone down that path,” “What are your good, bad and ugly stories around that?” It’s very collegial. Obviously we promote and have awards and professional development to show best practice. Again, we’re just willing to share so that other people can take away from it whatever they like, and within their own school culture, turn it into something wonderful.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: You’re talking about Educate Plus being an external organisation that the school interfaces with. In your experience, how many times have you had a school just come maybe to Educate Plus for the first time and they’ve tried to do things internally, and it becomes this world and they think everything happens inside that, but then they reach out to Educate Plus, or it might even be the other way around, and then they go, “Hang on a second, why didn’t we do this earlier?”
Lea Walker-Franks: Yeah. Look, all the time. We actually had our Queensland Chapter end-of-year PD, and we married it with our very quick little AGM and then Christmas lunch. Yeah, there were a couple of brand new schools that had never engaged with Educate Plus before. They just sort of said, “We need help because I’m the only person across these two, or maybe three, roles. We’ve just heard great things from other people that we really need to reach out to this professional network, because we’ll just get so much back from being involved.” Yeah, we’re happy to just meet people wherever they are at the moment, and they can request a mentor, and just engage with that process as much or as often or as little as they want and need, and just take it from there.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: You mentioned that you’ve got a role with BBC, or Brisbane Boys’ College, but also with Educate Plus. That means that you don’t just see the perspective of inside one school. It’s many schools, and I believe that’s not even just from within the state of Queensland. It’s also across Australia and even the world. Where’s the state of education, the way that you see it, in this country at the moment?
Lea Walker-Franks: Oh, boy. That’s a really big question. I’ve been living in Queensland now for six and a half years. Prior to that, I grew up in Sydney, so I went to a number of schools in Sydney, and I was on the New South Wales/ACT Board of Educate Plus when I was down there. I guess another advantage for me and people that get involved, volunteer at this level, is the networks that you really make as well, so that I have incredible people that I have access to as well.
It gives you also access to so many other schools, because people are having these genuine, confidential conversations with you about what’s going well in their school or university. We have universities and residential colleges as well. It’s all of us working in these advancement roles in the education sector. Yeah, so you get an insight into, bigger isn’t always better, and how universities run, and big beasts, and then you’ve got residential colleges that are somewhere in the middle. They’re young adult boarding schools, really.
The state of education at the moment, well, in Queensland, obviously the big change is the to move over to the ATAR system, but I guess from my perspective, in the role I play now, it’s all about that community engagement. When the change comes through, we will continue to promote the good stories. We will continue to, I guess, engage with our boys to come in and help in whatever aspects that we require some expertise. We will just continue to move forward, and I think that’s what all the schools just need to remember, that we’re all in the same boat. Life will not end because the ATAR system is coming in, particularly this year, of course, have been guinea pig year that have had all of the changes throughout their whole career, but they’re all in this schooling career, but they’re all in the same boat.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: You can talk with an interesting authority and a perspective, because you have come from New South Wales into Queensland, and the time frame’s not that far about. You would’ve seen that system, and really Queensland, does it feel like, oh, Queensland’s catching up New South Wales from some sort of perspective?
Lea Walker-Franks: Look. I wouldn’t say catching up. There’s pros and cons with both systems. I think the really important thing is, in the six and a half years that I’ve been here, Year 7 has come into being part of secondary school.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Yes.
Lea Walker-Franks: I see that and the ATAR system as being along the lines of … I read not long ago that apparently the rail system in Australia, for many, many many years, didn’t connect because there were different sizes or something.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Yeah, that’s right, different gauges.
Lea Walker-Franks: Yeah, exactly. Don’t quote me if this isn’t for the whole of Australia right now, but most of them were different.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Yeah, Queensland and New South Wales is different, yeah.
Lea Walker-Franks: There you go. I see this very much, with Queensland now having Prep, so what New South Wales calls Kindergarten, Prep being part of big school, going all the way through to Year 12, and the ages too aligning, because just many incredibly young people in Queensland were finishing school at a very delicate age. That all sort of coming into line with the rest of Australia I think is advantageous for sure.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Being your involvement with Educate Plus, and being more inclined to interface with the professional teachers or the education facilitators, what would you say to them with this change coming across the horizon? They should’ve already done preparation because it is here, but right now, what should they be doing going into 2020?
Lea Walker-Franks: Oh. I guess because, over a dozen years ago and me stepping out of the classroom setting, whilst obviously immersing myself in the heartbeat of the college, that’s very much part of it, I think my focus just for the last dozen years or so has been so much more on the community side and the fundraising and philanthropy side, to be able to deliver what the Principal, his vision or her vision as to where they want the place to be. I’ve really stayed out of the nitty gritty preparations, and just speaking to obviously a few staff here at the college as they look to the Christmas holidays, I know that there’s a few saying, “Oh, I’m still going over programs, and the new programs that I’m wanting to tweak, and all the rest.” I think it’s just across the board, a little bit of nervousness, no matter how much preparation you’ve done.
As I’ve said, I’ve been up here for six and a half years. For years, at my previous schools, I’ve been hearing that the preparations starting and everything that’s gone into it. I think it’s, pardon the pun, going to be a learning curve for everybody, but yeah. Again, the staff are all in the same boat too. It’s really up to the leadership, as far as putting in place requirements and setting clear expectations. We’re incredibly fortunate here, Paul Brown, our Headmaster who’s been with us for two years, was previously in Sydney. He’s got that-
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: There you go.
Lea Walker-Franks: Background as well. Peter Franks, one of the Deputy Headmasters here, also comes from Sydney and has that background. He’s able to put his input into everything as well. Yeah, all I can say is, yet again, we’re all in the same boat. One thing with age that you come to realise is that the sun will still rise after this the system comes in. Then really, it’s about continual improvement.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: You mentioned community engagement. In fact, you’ve mentioned it a couple of times. How important is it for a school to undertake true, deep community engagement.
Lea Walker-Franks: Look, the bottom line is that, with government funding forever in the spotlight and never assured, that the cost of providing an education, let alone a leading education, are unceasing. Certainly every board that I’ve worked with works incredibly hard to keep the fee rises to a minimum. The thing that bridges the gap between the vision and reality is really philanthropy. That all comes back to the community.
It does still surprise me, every now and then, someone will suggest to me that we should just write a grant application to the Gates Foundation. I sort of say, “No, look, let me tell you that it’s all about relationship, and it’s all about the people who have some sort of connection with this place.” It surprises me when people say, “Oh, you can’t go back and ask people that have donated before.” In my experience, they’re the ones that have the real heart. Coming up with this idea that, I’m not saying constantly barrage them with requests, but just going back to those people, because they’ve shown you that they have a heart, that they’re invested in your vision.
The other thing too, a misconception, is that it’s the alumni that always give big, and it’s the alumni that are the ones that give regularly, not current parents. That’s not in my experience. It is the current parents that are your largest body of donors, stakeholder group. They’ve got a vested interest in seeing these things happen while their children are there, or purely philanthropically, say towards the bursary program, to really leave a legacy and enable students to attend who, without financial assistance, wouldn’t be able to.
It’s the alumni that, when you actually gently make it clear exactly what level of support is there, because they presume that, “Oh, every other old boy is giving a big gift, they don’t need mine,” and across all the schools I’ve worked in, boys and girls, single sex schools, that’s been the case. Once you wake up the sleeping giant too, that, “Thank you for this level of support from this level of donors,” they’re usually quite shocked.
Then when you’re clear with your case for support, “This is what we’d really like your help to achieve,” that’s when they do come to the fore, if they feel engaged. If the only time you’re speaking to them is to ask for money, then you’ve already shot yourself in the foot. Genuine community engagement is, like I said, the friend-raising, and it’s the genuine care, and then, when you work out what your needs are, having the courage to ask.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: From the engagement perspective, what are some of the practical things you can do as a school to really start engaging? Maybe if we can break that into two parts, the alumni, but also the parents that are coming into the school system.
Lea Walker-Franks: Yeah. Well, I always look at nurturing a culture of philanthropy along the lines of short, medium and long-term programs. Short term is your annual giving, your hopefully lots of little one-off gifts, sort of like the leaves in a tree. Then, campaigns have pledges, so people might pledge X amount over Y number of years. They’re sort of like the tree rings. Then you’ve got bequests or legacy gifts, gifts through Wills. They’re like the roots, some very large and some very small, but they’re really securing the financial firepower of the school into the future.
Basically, just making sure that you have programs where there’s those little one-off gifts that are banked straight away, you’ve got the pledges coming in in the medium term, and then you’ve got some people that, a very delicate area of philanthropy, but you’ve got some people that have felt comfortable enough to actually let you know that they have wishes regarding a legacy gift. You know that that’s coming in some point in the future.
Depending on the short, medium and long term is where you create programs to engage with different stakeholder groups. For example, a school like ours might have 200 new parents coming into the school every year. Part of our role in community engagement is in letting them settle into the school and get to know the heartbeat of the school a little bit, and then saying, “Okay, we’d like to invite you to this very casual, social type event, where we will explain the role of the foundation. You won’t be asked to make a gift on the night, but we’ll have some information for you to take away and consider.” Then, that’s how you get people considering making pledges, so while their child or children are at the school. We just recently ran a giving day, so that’s 24-hour, we had matches, so they’re all of your little leaves on the tree. Shortly, we’ll be developing our bequest program.
It’s very much just seeing it in a very big picture. Unfortunately, the school I was at in Sydney, years ago when it was their centenary, at that time, this was in the 1960’s, the common approach was, you got in an American firm to run a campaign. They came in and they ran it, and it was to build a school hall. They didn’t have a school hall in the 1960’s. They ran it. It was, I was going to say successful, but what I’ll say is, it achieved the goal that they built a hall. It burnt that community off philanthropy for 50 years. The next campaign, I led for their 150th, so the sesquicentenary.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Oh, wow.
Lea Walker-Franks: Because the community was so burnt by …
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: What was it that burnt them? Was it the attitude after the money was raised? What really burnt that community?
Lea Walker-Franks: No. It was that they came in with, first of all, obviously it was outsourced, and they just came in with a plan. That was that all of the board members and all of the foundation board members, and other people in the community that were well-connected and known that said they wanted to help, were basically given this approach where, they were given cards apparently at the time, with people’s names on them that they had researched, and the amount that they had decided that these people could afford to give.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Oh, wow.
Lea Walker-Franks: They were told to go and visit them within a certain time frame, and that they were not to leave the house until they had a commitment signed. There were some incredibly prominent Australians, it was a boys’ school, one in particular who had a knighthood and everything, said to me, “Lea, I have never been so nervous and never been so embarrassed in my life,” because obviously they had worked out who his friends and old boy mates were.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: They backgrounded him, yeah.
Lea Walker-Franks: All of that. It was just the most awful experience for everybody. I quite regularly say that, I believe that philanthropy should be an enjoyable experience for everybody, including me. The last thing I want to do is bother or harass anybody. I figure that, when we ask people to consider support in whatever setting, they’re only ever going to say, “Yes,” “No,” or, “Maybe.” There’s no surprise outside of that.
When I’m speaking to people, I’m just actually listening for what I call traffic lights. I’m listening for, hopefully, a clear green. If not, I just want a clear red or a clear orange. What I mean by that is, “No, we’ve decided that we’re going to support X, Y and Z, and that’s where our donation’s going.” Fine. Or they’ll say, “Look, we’ve just established a new business,” or, “We’re building a new house, but we really want to look at this. Can you please call me back in six months?”
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Which you do.
Lea Walker-Franks: Yeah. That’s a clear orange. It’s just about being clear, and I respect that.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Yeah. You mentioned earlier the heartbeat, like the parents coming in and becoming connected to the heartbeat, and I guess actually becoming a part of that heartbeat. Does that mean, not only do you have community engagement from the perspective to achieve financial obligations and outcomes that you want to, but you actually end up with a stronger school community too?
Lea Walker-Franks: Ah, absolutely. I guess, the other end of the spectrum there are the programs that you put in place with your old boys or old girls. For example, we’ve just decided on a new approach to our young old boys. I like to refer to them as BOBs, our Baby Old Boys.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Oh, cool.
Lea Walker-Franks: They’re five years out or less. We want that to be relational. Unfortunately, in so many schools or educational institutions, the first time that alumni hear from the place is to ask for money. It’s very sort of one-way. What we’re doing is putting in place some events, some events that are free, some that are very low-cost, some that are discounted because they’re a young old boy, to say, “We really want you to stay connected. If you float off, obviously that’s fine. We want you to always feel that you can come back home,” but that it’s a relationship and it’s two ways, and it’s not just about money.
We say, “Well, we want to provide you with free magazines, whoever you want them. We want to provide you with the opportunity to come to these events, to have a mentor, that sort of thing. We’d like you to consider, say, coaching a team or coming and speaking at careers night about, that it’s not that scary starting uni, or it’s okay if you change degree halfway through, and all of that sort of thing.” The engagement obviously is not just for the philanthropy.
Honestly, well, I know that, if you do your friend-raising correctly and you engage with the community correctly, the philanthropy will look after itself one way or another, in the short, medium or long term, big or small or anything in the middle. Even people that I can honestly say that I’ve had say to me in the past, they just give of their time and they give of their talent, and that they’re not going to donate, and then some point down the track, “Lea, I’d like to have a chat to you about something I’m thinking about regarding the bursary program or something.” It’s just planting seeds. You don’t know which ones are going to grow and that sort of thing, but you do it openly because it’s the right thing to do, and as I said, the philanthropy side will look after itself.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: How do you in a tasteful way, for somebody that’s been philanthropic, they’ve gone and put a lot of money into something. Now, if that turns into a building, it makes sense. You can put a plaque on a building or what have you, but when you get into bursary, it’s not necessarily that easy. How do you recognise that person, or the group of people, in a tasteful way?
Lea Walker-Franks: Yeah. Interestingly, the whole naming rights is a whole policy issue. Obviously, each organisation needs to work out what suits them and their culture, but generally speaking, in the old days, I think buildings and names on buildings were a lot more common and people had a heart for them. Now in society, particularly with old boys, unless they’re a builder, developer, architect, that type thing, we’re talking obviously about the larger end of the scale gifts, the idea of, it’s like the whole thing of planting a tree as a legacy. People like the idea much more of having a name on a bursary. It might be a 100% bursary, it could be 75%, 50, 25%, but just knowing that when they’re gone, there will be that continual person being educated thanks to their generosity seems to really resonate with a lot more people. The first couple of giving days that I ran in my career were actually all around bursaries. First year was only out to the old boys, and it went absolutely ballistic. That’s another whole story, because these 24-hour online giving days are the uber-disrupter of annual giving. We’ve all received the mail-out and maybe a card in the school magazine and, “Here’s the return envelope,” and you send them out and hope and pray that people remember to send them back by 30 June. Yeah, these giving days are that Uber disrupter. Yeah, I hope that’s answered your question.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: You’ve actually headed in a direction where my next question was going, which was, with giving, how has that changed? Because you go back 15, 20 years ago, it was always a cheque. A cheque got written out. How have you seen that change over the time? Where do you think it’s headed? Because you just mentioned Uber. Uber’s been a huge disrupter in transport. What happened with this sort of things?
Lea Walker-Franks: Yeah. Well, I think, definitely one of the things that most educational institutions are very keen to do is to engage with their young alumni. It’s always been this incredibly difficult space. I think a lot of places just gave up and said, “Oh, they’re too young to give. Maybe when they’ve been out for 20 years and they’ve got a son that they’re trying to get into the school, they might start giving.” Unfortunately, that is quite a common thing, because they will think that that will help possibly get their child into the school. Different schools have different policies on that.
What I’ve found with these online giving days, and in looking into the research, is that, first of all, part of the reason it’s so successful is because it gamifies giving.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Awesome. Yeah.
Lea Walker-Franks: It gamifies giving, it’s-
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: It’s that instant reward.
Lea Walker-Franks: It’s instant reward, and I couldn’t believe the statistics when we did the first two giving days that I ran. The engagement with five years out and 10 years out was completely off the Richter compared to anything in the years before. Basically in looking into the reasons behind it that I can see, is that they’re wanting to have that immediate reward, I guess no surprise there. The fact that the gift is matched in some way, that the leveraging of their gift, that they know it’s a small gift but they like the idea that someone else who’s got more money has got more skin in the game. They particularly like the idea of, “Well, if this matcher has said they’re willing to match up to” … One gift matcher I had at one point was $50,000, that individual was willing to go up to $50,000 from any number of donors. Yeah, “If he’s willing to do 50,000, let’s max him out, because my 10 bucks means”-
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Awesome attitude.
Lea Walker-Franks: “His 10 bucks.” Yeah, again, they want to know that their $10 is being brought together to make a real difference and a real impact, whereas I think in the old days, even when everybody was using cheques or having to pick up the phone and ring and all this sort of stuff, the young guys and girls just weren’t doing it.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Yeah. If we can just bring it back to education from a broad sense for a moment, but you mentioned legacy and people wanting to know, when they contribute money, that they are contributing maybe to a better educated society. When we look at investments on a country-wide scale, when we look at building bridges and roads and all of that sort of stuff, how does that stack up, when you come to importance, up against education?
Lea Walker-Franks: You mean, from all of the options that donors could put their funds-
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: For the future of the country, yeah. That’s right, yeah.
Lea Walker-Franks: Yeah. Well, I guess I’ll take it back to, I was educated through the state system myself, and I only have taught and worked in the private system. Obviously when I moved over to working in philanthropy for private schools, and I’ve worked in quite a few leading schools in Queensland and New South Wales, there’s always that question from some that say, “Oh, why should we support an institution that’s old and already has money and assets, and all the rest? They’re so many other worthy causes.” To cut a long story short, I tend to say, “Well, these are the think tanks that produce so many people that go out and” … For example, at my previous school, some boys who’ve got a passion for serving the homeless started a little organisation called Orange Sky that you might’ve heard of.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Ah, yes. Yeah.
Lea Walker-Franks: Had those boys not gone to that school and been involved with their house charity, which was feeding the homeless, that idea may not have been triggered. I guess my point is that, at the end of the day, none of us except Bill Gates is Bill Gates. We can’t support everything that is a good and worthy cause, so we have to decide where our heart is at that point. If it’s towards a particular architectural thing, if it’s towards a boy being able to attend a school and get opportunities that otherwise he never would, and then go off and be a heart surgeon or something … I think we’ve probably all seen that little video on YouTube where the person helps this little boy who grows up to be a cardiologist or something, and then that’s who operates on him in the future. It’s that sort of thing.
I’m very much into, I’m benefiting from the shade of trees planted by others. Now it’s time for me to plant some trees. Whichever orchard or whichever forest floats your boat, support that.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: I want to set you a challenge without any notice now, because we’ve been talking about alumni, we’ve been talking about fundraising. What about if there was a new school that was going to open in 2020, so starting, it’s not got any alumni, it’s just being dropped. We are aware of, there are schools that are being built all the time. Maybe the brand of that school just does not have any connection to that local community. Where would you start?
Lea Walker-Franks: Wow. Well, first of all, I’ll take some liberties as well. If that was a Catholic school, or if it was an Anglican school, or if it was a Jewish school, or if it was a private school of some sort, I would literally look to tap into the communities of the other like-minded schools. Because there would be a lot of people in those communities who would love the idea of supporting a school like theirs is, starting from scratching, because it’s just so needy compared to their own school. If their existing school-
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Well, they also get to be a foundation this and a foundation that too, don’t they?
Lea Walker-Franks: Exactly. We all love to be part of seeing something start and that momentum and it grow. It’s very, very satisfying. If I were a state school, or a public school, as they call it down south, this is a huge area that still surprises me, that has not been tapped into. As I said, I went through the state system, and I have actually reached out to my old school twice. One time, International Women’s Day or something was coming up. I grew up in a very multicultural part of Sydney. I said, “Look, International Women’s Day is coming up. I no longer live in Sydney, but I’d be more than happy to come down and speak about things.” Yeah, never even got back to me. If they were to reach out to me and say, “Lea, we need some sporting equipment for something or other,” even if they didn’t have the tax deductibility in place like older schools do, “We were wondering if you’d consider gifting X towards this,” I would.
I think the Americans have got this thinking, and this is very rare for me to say this, I lived in America for a while and I understand the culture and they have a different tax system and all the rest but, what they understand is this, is that, the school you go to is part of your personal brand. What nobody wants to hear is, “Which school did you go to?” “Blah blah.” “Oh, that used to be such a good school.” Because it’s part of who you are. You have a responsibility to at least make sure it doesn’t go backwards. Whether you send your children there or not, it’s a part of who you are.
I know that doesn’t really answer your question as far as state schools, because I think that’s difficult, but I guess I’d probably look at, well, who are the state-school-educated people in this area that have gone on to do really well? Success breeds success. If you get at least just one well-known, and I’m not talking about somebody who went off to become Prime Minister or something, but even just somebody who’s known to be a well-respected businessperson in the area, to sort of say, “Hey, I went through the state system and I’m going to be a foundational supporter of this new school,” yeah, it gets the ball rolling, and that’s what it’s about.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: It’s coming all the way back to really where you started. It’s about engagement, isn’t it?
Lea Walker-Franks: Yeah.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Engagement, engagement and engagement. Now, the future. Where do you see schools, probably like we’ve talked about, the fundraising and how that’s been changing, we’ve talked about the heartbeat and the way that that’s probably been changing as well, but do you think that Australia is going to remain or even improve in its funding for schools from the government? Or do you think that they’re going to need to continue to look for philanthropic avenues and maybe even more so?
Lea Walker-Franks: I definitely think that there will be more of a looking to philanthropic support. I guess this is another thing. The Americans, and it took me a while to work this out, so they have zero funding, even to today. Not a lot of people know this.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Wow.
Lea Walker-Franks: Private schools in America have zero public funding.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Yeah, wow.
Lea Walker-Franks: Yeah. It’s surprising, isn’t it? When it comes to donations to schools over there, or to anywhere, they see it as, their philanthropic dollar is like a vote for, this organisation deserves to survive or flourish. I do think that the Australian government seems to be saying, “Well, it’s your choice to send your child to whichever school you choose to. You can send them over here for free, or next to free, or you can choose to send them over there,” but they know that every child that goes to a private school really does reduce quite considerably resources being drained from the government. I’m not sure overall if they’re going to increase funding to schools, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how much of a noise parents who are tax payers actually make to say, “Hey, we know that you’re saving a lot of money by us choosing to have our children not put pressure on the state system.”
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: There’s been conversations where P & F’s or P & C’s, depending on whether you’re state or you’re private and all of that sort of stuff, where the parents, they used to, really just to get grass on the soccer field, they would do the sausage sizzles, they would come together, they’d even do car washes. It was fundraising, fundraising, fundraising, but it really brought that community together. Then, they’ve found that that school has got to a point where, it’s got the grass on the soccer field, it’s got this build, it’s got that build, it’s become quite established. Then, the other funding and the fees has put the school, say, in a comfortable position.
In your view, is that a good thing maybe from the perspective of the heartbeat of the school? Because what we’ve seen is that, those parents then aren’t engaged from that perspective. Sometimes that’s what they feel like they have to give. Should a school at any time go, “We don’t really want a P & C or a P & F to do fundraising,” or is that actually a really good thing, it gives them purpose?
Lea Walker-Franks: My answer to that would be, if that school or institution has a foundation that is playing the role that it needs to play, then it should be taking the pressure off the support groups or a P & F to feel the need, and then sometimes the pressure, to have to fundraise.
I was speaking to our Director of Rowing recently, and the President of the Rowing Support Group. I was speaking to them about the Australian Sports Foundation, so that, if they were wanting to have a new boat, not the cheapest sports equipment, that there’s ways in the past that I’ve helped support groups raise funds tax deductibly. At one of my previous schools, the President said to me, “Thank you so much. It’s taken the pressure off. Every single time you turned up to the boat shed, it was, ‘Buy a raffle ticket, buy a raffle ticket. Ah, we’re having another fundraising night. There’s auctions, there’s this, there’s that.’ It meant that the parents had time to actually just talk and engage. That’s where real relationships are made.”
Yes, we want them to still be here and be involved and help cook breakfast for the boys when they come back, and all of those wonderful community builders that, if we had to pay people to do all of those things, our school fees would be-
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Yeah, you couldn’t.
Lea Walker-Franks: Absolutely through the roof. It doesn’t build community to just outsource things and pay for them, but yeah. If a foundation is working the way that really it should be working, it takes the pressure off fundraising, and so that old boys and parents don’t feel like, every time they step foot in the place or they go to an event, it’s all about fundraising. You can see that, yeah, the friend-raising and the fundraising, it’s sort of like a ying and a yang. There’s a lot of grey in the middle, and yeah, that’s where the bonds are made.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: The final question. For a decision maker in a school listening to this, why would they sign up to Educate Plus in 2020?
Lea Walker-Franks: Because it will save them a lot of time and energy and effort and staff turnover through burnout.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Yeah, right. Can you talk about that a little bit more? I said last question, but that’s the second to last question. This is the last one.
Lea Walker-Franks: Yeah, exactly.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: That’s really interesting. Yeah.
Lea Walker-Franks: I’ll go back to my analogy with, as a teacher in the maths department, you’ve got your department, you’ve got your tribe, and you’ve got your head of maths and all the rest. For people working in these roles, as I said, sometimes they’re this one person, maybe two, and they’re spread across a number of roles. Educate Plus very much provides that network so that people don’t feel alone, and they don’t feel like they have to start from scratch with everything. When people just feel like they’re just constantly chasing their tail and never really achieving things, because they never have the time to, then that’s when people just, yeah, burn out and give up and move on. That’s what I would say to, yeah, decision makers about being involved with this.
Another very important part for them too is that, every two years we do a member-wide, we have about 2,200 members across Australia and New Zealand, we do a member survey. It comes back, and it’s very well received and participated in, because people it breaks it down by in the different roles, the different genders, the different levels of education, and the different levels of experience, within each chapter and then within each segment. The Catholic sector, the public sector, the independent private sector, even down to what the pay averages are. I get principals, for example, saying to me, “I really don’t know what we should be paying for this new alumni, slash, marketing coordinator.” I say, “Look, I’ll send you” …
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: The data.
Lea Walker-Franks: They’ll send you the data. Then they’re not moving in the dark. Each week we send out a careers noticeboard to all of our members. That is quite cheap, a lot cheaper than advertising in many other places, and that’s where we, the practitioners as we’re called, look when we’re looking to move, and that’s where principals look to get people who have got experience in these fields.
Andrew McCarthy-Wood: Lea Walker-Franks. Thank you very much for your time with our listeners.
Lea Walker-Franks: Thank you.