On this episode of the RAISE podcast, Brent chats with Bill Kissick, Chief Advancement Officer at Kent School. (Bill was Chief Advancement Officer at Mercersberg Academy when we recorded this episode.)
Brent met Bill within the first few months of founding EverTrue, and Bill has been a source of guidance and perspective for us ever since. He has tons of valuable experience in advancement: he has worked in the Ivy League at Dartmouth and Yale; for a large public higher ed institution at the UCONN foundation; and has spent many years in the independent school world at St. Paul’s, Mercersberg, and now at Kent School.
This conversation illuminates what it’s like to fundraise for an international boarding school – a very special subset of the advancement community – and we are honored to host Bill on the pod.
Catch the full episode below.
Highlights from the episode…
Bill got introduced to advancement as a student at Denison University, where he eventually managed the student caller program. He coordinated 15 student callers on Monday and Thursday evenings from 8-10pm.
When Bill first graduated from Denison, the “objective” right below his name on his resume read “I want to advance, sell or promote a product, service, or cause in which I believe.” The “…in which I believe” part kept him from pursuing a career in advertising, and led him to explore higher education fundraising, instead.
It’s pretty rare that our RAISE podcast guests hold an MBA. And it’s rarer, still, that they hold a degree from Wharton. Bill explains that his father was a professor at UPenn, and so he was able to attend Wharton at no tuition cost.
Bill reflect on the deep sense of community on-campus at a boarding school. Faculty members live, teach, and raise their families there. The Head of School is like the mayor of a small town. Fundraising at a boarding school is very different from a 9-5 job in which you go home to your community after work. At boarding schools, your community is your school.
Bill has learned that when asking for money, “no doesn’t always mean no.” More often, it means not right now. Or, not that project. Or, not that amount.
There have been many times when Bill asked a donor for too little (evidenced by a donor writing a check on the spot), or too much (noted by the look of terror on the family members’ faces). Bill points out that “It’s just the human nature of what we do. The important thing is how we, with grace and dignity, allow the donor to move towards making a gift that feels right and impactful to them.”
Bill explains that a fundraiser’s main objective is to move wealthy alums from success to significance. An alum can have a great career and be very successful. Through philanthropy, they can be significant.