In our recurring Spotlight blog feature, we chat with CASE members from around the globe about insights and strategies that have helped them in their advancement careers.
Member: Melissa von Stade, assistant head for development at Peddie School in Hightstown, New Jersey, and chair of the 2017 CASE-NAIS conference.
Background: Previously assistant dean for advancement, alumni relations and communications for the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine and director of development at the university’s Morris Arboretum. Graduate of Taft School and Denison University.
CASE: What are today’s key challenges for independent schools?
von Stade: While not a new issue, so many schools are looking at the cost of private school tuition and having to continually articulate the value of the investment. We are all chasing after the same small market of students and working to define what differentiates our school:
- What sets our school apart?
- What distinguishes each school?
- Why would our school be a good fit for your student and your family?
- What is the return on this considerable investment?
- What are the outcomes beyond college acceptance that parents can expect?
- What values will be instilled?
- How does each school define success?
I believe the pressure to answer these questions and to truly distinguish our respective schools will continue to be imperative as we work to admit the top students and reach larger fundraising goals
CASE: What are some of the milestones you’ve achieved at Peddie School?
von Stade: We are working on engaging our alumni more robustly and have expanded our outreach through events and social media. We are keeping new metrics on alumni engagement as we work toward launching the largest campaign in Peddie’s history. We are tracking and correlating attendance at events and impact on giving.
In addition, we recently launched a new alumni leadership organization, the Peddie Leadership Council, which is made up of 60 alumni from across the globe who return to campus twice a year for updates and serve as our ambassadors by spreading news about Peddie.
CASE: What led you to work in the independent school sector?
von Stade: After 30-plus years working in development mostly in higher education, I was eager to work for a school where I could be very close to the students and faculty and see up close the impact of philanthropy.
At Peddie, I enjoy getting to know the students and their families well. I also enjoy the additional duties of staffing a family-style dinner table, being on dorm duty or overseeing a weekend activity. It is an honor to be part of such a close-knit community and being so close to the students helps me market and raise money for the school.
Read more in our BriefCASE member profile.