ADVIS was established in 1983, having evolved from the Delaware Valley Independent School Fund, which had been established in December 1981; its objectives were "1) education 2) helping schools to raise money and 3) publicity for independent schools." Abandoned during the organization's life was the original idea that DVISF could raise money for scholarships to be shared by its membership of approximately 13 schools. In April 1983 the by-laws were changed and the organization became ADVIS.
In 1984-85, the Board of Directors consisted of 26 officers and members. The original board included two consultants, and a school trustee in addition to heads and directors of development. Today a committed Board of Trustees is comprised of a variety of school administrators and another independent school association executive director. The goal is to have broad representation of the region, school types, and administrative functions that we serve. Membership has grown steadily from 37 schools in 1983 to 125 in 1993, to 127 in 1999 when the current executive director took the helm. Membership steadily increased to 135 schools in 2008, to an all time high of 140 members in 2009, and after several school closings and mergers during a period of challenging economic times, 133 at the start of the 2017-18 academic year.
With the increase in members to be served, programs and services offered were also expanded, reflected in the membership fee, which increased from $100 per annum to $235 before the merger of PAAD (admissions directors group) and ADVIS in 1993. That year, the fee of $325 reflected a reduction of the combined dues of both organizations. A part-time director was named in 1982, working 10 hours a week. In 1983, Solveig Stetson became the executive director and evolved to full time. In 1993 a part-time administrative assistant was hired. As membership and services grew, this position evolved to 4/5 of full-time, and in 2003, a half-time Director of Professional Development was added, becoming full-time in 2008. As of the 2013-14 fiscal year, both of these positions had become full-time.
In 2015, MCRC, the Multi-Cultural Resource Center of the Philadelphia Area Independent Schools, merged into ADVIS to become MCRC@ADVIS, a rich diversity, equity and inclusion program track. In the fall of 2017, MCRC@ADVIS offered a full day DEI Conference, attracting record attendance of over 1100 participants. At the time of this writing, we anticipate that this will become a biennial conference.
In 2016, ADVIS partnered with the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education to offer a week-long, Summer Leadership Institute for those who aspire to leadership roles within independent schools. It was repeated in 2017 and it is now anticipated that we will offer it every other summer.
ADVIS members take advantage of the following benefits of membership:
Professional Development Workshops and Retreats: Historically there were between 5 and 7 seminars per year with additional support for special interest groups. The number of seminars, workshops and retreats has evolved to 30+ per year, and from the single focus of fundraising to a global focus on inter- and intra-school relationships and focus necessary for effective school sustainability and advancement. Audiences include school trustees, heads, division heads, directors of admissions, development, marketing and communications, finance, and technology, and their staffs, as well as teacher-leaders.
Marketing: The Marketing Committee was formed in the 1990’s and is charged with forging positive public relations and marketing initiatives for the general public and relationships with the press and other media, as well as developing policy and principles of good practice around individual school marketing and admissions activity and responding to media surveys and inquiries.
Communications: In 1983 all notices of seminars were sent by U.S. mail. A newsletter eventually was published seven or eight times a year. It included announcements of seminars, directions and maps, available job positions, newsworthy observations and announcements. In recent years, communications have moved more and more to email notifications via group listserves, and most recently, via event listings and an event calendar posted in a member “Ning” (virtual online learning community). Additionally, ADVIS regularly posts via our Twitter account regarding news and research related to education as well as our own programs and member school news.
“In Support of Independent Education”: In 1984, it was suggested that ADVIS publish a brochure to make the case for the annual fund, both for parents and for alumni. Literally tens of thousands of copies have been ordered by member schools to date. ADVIS generates a small amount of net revenue from the venture.
Research: ADVIS collected reference and resource books for use by the membership; and prior to the advent of internet resources, a special interest group for fundraising researchers emerged. ADVIS has also historically collected, and now assists NAIS in compiling, relevant data about our member schools. ADVIS also maintained a membership in the Foundation for the use of ADVIS members in researching foundations for potential funding. Originally there was a surcharge per school; this was eventually wrapped into the membership fee. As of the 2011-12 year, with most information readily available via the internet, ADVIS discontinued this membership.
“Soliciting Major Gifts: A Guide for Volunteers”: This video was produced by ADVIS in 1991. It has been sold and used all over the U.S.A. and in Canada, mostly by schools, but also by colleges and other non-profit organizations, as well as consultants.
Membership & Resource Directory and Networks: ADVIS historically has provided a networking system for its member schools, both through its programs and through the Directory, listserves, and Ning online community. The Directory also includes a section of corporate underwriters interested in working with our member schools. Increasingly the income from ad sales has had a significant impact on revenues for ADVIS. In 1992-93, income was $15,000, up from $8,100 four years prior. In 2008 we realized $55,000.00 in corporate underwriting, roughly 15% of budget. Reflecting economic conditions, corporate underwriting was down a bit from 2009 – 2010, and in 2011 we again reached the 2008 level of funding, which represented over 10% of our operating budget. In 2013-14 we formally began to offer corporate underwriting for all events, after easing in to this with select programs over a few years. In 2017-18 we expect to raise $104,000 from corporate underwriting, 15% of budgeted income. This is prior to any grant funding that may be received; historically, with grants factored in, fundraising represents 17% of ADVIS’s budget.
Miscellaneous Services: ADVIS prides itself on being considered “Resource Central” by its members - a place to go with a question or a concern. Numerous other miscellaneous services are offered, such as the common recommendation forms for admissions, e-rate technology plan approval (no longer required as of 2015), administrative job listings on our website, an annual group advertisement of policy of non-discrimination as required by the IRS, and more.
Memberships: ADVIS is or at various times has been a member of NAIS, ISANET, AFP, CASE, ASAE, BoardSource and the LaSalle University NonProfit Management Center – all are used as resources to benefit member schools. The ISANET group provides collegial relationships with like associations from across the country, and the world.