Diary of a fundraiser - Jo Ballantine

Director of development Jo Ballantine is on a mission to grow the alumni network at the Royal Latin School in Buckingham

January

Having run live campaigns for ten solid years, I now have two new projects to plan. I'll be carrying out feasibility work for the next capital campaign (for a Theatre and Arts Centre) due to launch in 2024, as well as planning for our exciting 600th anniversary celebrations in 2023. So it's all about engagement, engagement, engagement!

I start by holding a 2023 strategy session with my two team members. We produce a project planner, terms of reference, stakeholder analysis, risk assessment, draft calendar of events and a summary of the 2023 project purpose and legacy. I then begin one-to-one meetings with a number of parents, alumni and former staff members who we would like to sit on a newly created 2023 Committee to oversee our plans. All say an enthusiastic 'yes', which is amazing.

I meet with the headteacher and the author of a book about our 600-year history to identify gaps in the manuscript, and discuss title, cover design and publishing route. I contact alumni as far afield as China and Holland to get their agreement to be interviewed for the book.

I also hold a review meeting with ek robotics, our Sports Campus sponsor, to review media coverage and plan activities for the year ahead, including the launch of our new robotics club.

February

I host four visits by headteachers and fundraisers from other schools, to show them our capital campaign work. I also start meeting suppliers of alumni CRM systems, and begin to plan how our alumni communications can strengthen and deepen engagement in future. I meet with our IT team to review alumni data, and with other colleagues to input into a planned refresh of the school website.

We hold the inaugural meeting of the 2023 Committee – an exciting moment! We begin planning the year-long celebrations including events, key messages and initiatives, all with a focus on how the school can give back to the town and the wider school community.

I meet with an archive software supplier to discuss the scale of our project to digitise the photos, documents and press cuttings from our extensive school archive so they are available online to our alumni around the world. I also meet with the National Trust (which looks after the Chantry Chapel, the school's first home), to explore how we can collaborate during our anniversary year.

March

I welcome an alumna back to the school for a session with our MedSoc students, and to give a talk to the whole of Year 12 about careers in health services. I finish reading the manuscript for the anniversary book, and have another meeting with the author to plan the timeline for publication. I hop online for the IDPE State School Forum – it's always great to see and hear from colleagues facing similar challenges. I also meet with two more state school colleagues to see what advice I can offer them about starting out on the school fundraising and development journey.

'I welcome an alumna back to the school for a session with our MedSoc students, and to give a talk to Year 12 about careers in health services'

I liaise with marquee suppliers and our caterer to get quotes for our 600th anniversary Gala Ball in 2023 – it feels amazing to be planning a large-scale live event again. We host the second 2023 Committee meeting, and report back on the progress we've made.

I spend a Saturday afternoon at school to interview one of our oldest surviving Old Latins – Lorna, aged 101. A wonderful afternoon (she's as bright as a button!) and once again I'm grateful that my role is so varied and that I have the privilege of carrying out such special duties.

April

I have a Zoom call with an Old Latin (from the Class of 1974) who will be guest speaker at our forthcoming Archive Day (when we invite alumni to browse the archive with us and bring in any material they want to donate or lend to the school). I'm really looking forward to welcoming alumni back to school after having had to stage a virtual event for the last two years.

I catch up with an alumna (the designer of our 2023 branding) to brief her about the progress on feasibility work for the Theatre & Arts Centre.

My team and I finally select an alumni database/CRM system, and get governor approval – hooray! I'm delighted to join the Toucan Tech family after so many years of making do with our own little database. I have lots of meetings to start planning our data import, plus an initial training session with Toucan Tech. I also meet with our careers and aspirations lead to discuss the huge potential of the careers and mentoring module.

We hold another 2023 Committee meeting to report back on a brilliant virtual timeline we're building for our website, share plans for anniversary lectures and podcasts, and dive into our proposed calendar of events for the year. The year ahead is looking incredibly exciting!

  • If you'd like advice on fundraising development, you can contact Jo via her website philanthropytree.com