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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Before the ASK" -- Must-Have's for External Facilitation

“Before the ASK” -- Must-Have’s for External Facilitation

By Dr. Ryan Donlan
Assistant Professor
Department of Educational Leadership
Bayh College of Education
Indiana State University

Graduate students in our Department of Educational Leadership course, School and Community: Collaborating for Effective Schools, are spending their summer vacations exploring the “how-to’s” of a school leader’s external facilitation and community support for schools.  Support involves gifts of time, talent, or treasure.

We often think of a school leader’s balancing the responsibilities of building management and instructional leadership.  However, a school leader’s role in external facilitation could be as critical to school performance as instructional leadership (Leana, 2011).

In external facilitation, school leaders must always keep in mind, “Withdraw less than what has been deposited.”

Ideally, leaders make deposits to their community resource accounts through mindfulness of image, action, and timing; withdrawals are then made through their requests of support from community.  A continued, positive, long-term relationship is key throughout these transactions. 

How as a school leader can you grow your account?


First, you need to maintain proper image in the minds of potential contributors. How are you portraying yourself?  Mindfully, we hope, in that you must:

See things from others’ perspectives, following Covey’s (2004) advice from his 5th Habit, seek first to understand; then to be understood.  Be genuinely interested in business and community leaders as individuals and in the organizations they run.  Do much more listening than talking.  Spend time with them without making too many withdrawals.

Continually remain optimistic and positive when discussing current legislation, especially that of which educators are complaining.  Be seen as the one who can make what others perceive as lemons into lemonade, and be consistent in what you say to various groups.  Embrace and respect those who cause you complication, as you can learn from their perspective.

Be gracious and humble when complimented, but DO accept the compliment.  You probably deserve it. At the same time, give credit to the great teachers and staff who make your school a great place for children.

Treat others (and be seen treating ALL others) with dignity and kindness, especially those whom others avoid or shun.  Making time to brighten another’s day just for the sake of doing so is the stuff upon which generalized reciprocity is made (Putnam, 2000).

Ensure visibility of you and your family in public, at the bigger events, of course, or simply to enjoy what your community has to offer. You are always being witnessed, so parent positively.

Tip well at restaurants. Be kind to clerks who check-you-out at shopping centers, exchanging money hand-to-hand as opposed to placing cash on the counter. Little things DO matter. Represent yourself well when no one is looking, and treat people better than others treat them. 

Finally, make the world a better place for those who have too many monkeys on their backs by striving to shift them appropriately to where they belong (Whitaker, 2012).  All will be better off.


Next, you must take professional action in your role as a school leader beyond that of building management and instructional leadership.  Particularly, you must:

Network and attend meetings with business and organizational stakeholders outside of the school, on their turf, at a time convenient for them.

Share with external stakeholders that you want better to understand their businesses and organizations so that you can do two things: (1) Ensure that your school is better preparing students to be a part of their workforce, and (2) Demonstrate how academic preparation is relevant to their world of work.

Open-up the school to your community during non-instructional times, offering early morning walking clubs for folks during the colder seasons, evening activity spaces year-round, and holiday meals for those less-fortunate.  Knock down all nonsensical barriers to access, yet be mindful of equal access provisions under the law.  Check with your school attorney.

Maintain impeccably clean and inviting facilities for students, staff, and visitors at all times, checking for even that crumpled piece of paper or broken pencil that may be dropped by students.  Anyone’s seeing dust, dirt, or clutter reflects upon your ability to steward resources properly.

Train students (and expect students) to meet and greet visitors and direct them pleasantly to the office, offering community members a friendly smile and “Welcome to our school.” Every visitor should be treated like you would treat the President of your Board of Education. Every student is your best ambassador. 

Perform a makeover of your school office waiting room, highlighting your community partnerships with artifacts, pictures, and informational materials of stakeholders’ time, talent, and treasure.

If you have an open campus, ensure that student off-campus behavior is stellar during lunchtime. Your kids are an extension of your image.  If they are not behaving well, your school’s reputation will suffer.

Highlight community “friends and partners” in school newsletters. Write them letters and give them plaques to hang in their businesses, with “thanks” for their generous contributions and ongoing partnerships.

Coordinate service-learning opportunities out of the building for students. 

Build capacity in your leadership team so that you can get out of the building each week to join a civic organization or attend external meetings.

Establish a Business/Education Partnership in your local Chamber of Commerce if one does not exist.

Schedule monthly breakfasts or luncheons with business or organizational leaders at your school and invite students to dine with them.

Embrace the concepts of educational choice and competition, or at minimum, work to better understand these perspectives, as these are assuredly supported by many with whom you could potentially garner resources.

Enhance academic and budgetary transparency in your school. Speak in terms of return on investment.

Finally, hold yourself continually accountable for each “next day’s, best work.”  Adequate yearly progress is simply that – “adequate.”


With the aforementioned accomplished and image and action intact, you’re nearly in a position to deliver “the ASK.”  Ensure above all else at this point that you know what others are requesting, at which times, from whom, and under what conditions, especially those within your own school districts.

The last thing you want to do is ask for a few thousand dollars from the planned gifts division of a local pharmaceutical conglomerate while your superintendent is planning a well-coordinated ASK for a quarter of a million.


Covey, S. (2004). The 7 habits of highly effective people. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Leona, C. (2011, Fall). The missing link in school reform. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 30-35.

Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Whitaker, T. (2012). Shifting the monkey: The art of protecting good people from liars, criers, and other slackers. Bloomington, IN: Triple Nickel Press.


Dr. Ryan Donlan hopes that you’ll add to the ideas above, or even take exception to them, by commenting on this blog article or by contacting him at or (812) 237-8624.  Thanks for reading!!

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