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Member Profile: Brian Hargrove

Brian HargroveBrian Hargrove joined Mercersburg Academy in 2012 as the assistant head of school for advancement. Before Mercersburg Academy, he served as director of development for St. Mark's School of Texas in Dallas for eight years. An alumnus of St. Mark's, Hargrove received his bachelor's degree in political science from Gettysburg College and master's degree from Texas State University. He began his career in advancement as a regional development officer and associate director of capital giving for Gettysburg.

At Mercersburg, Hargrove leads a team of 21 professionals. During his tenure, the school has successfully launched and completed a $300 million campaign. The campaign secured a $100 million lead gift from an alumna, 33 additional gifts of $1 million or more, 143 donors of $100,000 or more and 7,012 individual donors. During this same period, alumni participation in the annual fund has also grown from 34 percent to a high of 48 percent. 

What led you to work in advancement and in independent schools?
I'm a product of an independent school. My four years at St. Mark's profoundly impacted my life and expanded my horizons. Great teachers and coaches lie at the heart of that experience. So, too, do the resources required to support outstanding faculty. I left determined to remain involved as an alum and engage in whatever ways I could. After working in both educational advancement and the for-profit sector, St. Mark's gave me a unique opportunity 13 years ago—to return to my alma mater as director of development. It was a tremendous honor for me to return to St. Mark's and to work with such a devoted team of colleagues and volunteers.

How did you come into your role at Mercersburg?

I joined Mercersburg five years ago. Timing is everything, and at first, it was not the right timing for me. St. Mark's was nearing the completion of its campaign and head of school transition. Candidly, I was not planning on leaving St. Mark's anytime soon (especially after the birth of my fourth child earlier in the year!). However, the persistence of the valued advocates and the school's search team prevailed on me to talk with our then head of school, Doug Hale.

I knew Mercersburg by reputation. I appreciated the school's historic successes and respected the impact of my predecessor, Mary Carrasco. After I met initially with Doug Hale, I learned another important fact—the school was committed to taking the next step in its program and launching a historic campaign. Doug and I clicked, and he encouraged me to visit campus.

Once on campus, I was hooked. The beauty of the campus is extraordinary. Yet, it pales in comparison to the quality of the students, faculty and staff. After I met with board members and discovered the depth of their commitment to the school, I was in deep and ready to take the next step in my career. My wife, four children, and trusty dog moved cross-country just in time for Reunion Weekend.

What are some of the milestones you've reached since joining Mercersburg?

I am incredibly proud of our team here. Our tenures in our office range from one year to 25 years. We bring diverse talents but share a deep commitment to our school's mission. Whatever we accomplish, we accomplish together. We also recognize and celebrate our dedicated colleagues around campus. We know well that, to the extent we succeed in engaging a volunteer or donor, we are only picking up on the good work of a teacher, coach, or staff member who has given so much in support of our students and alumni.

During the course of the last five years, we have worked hard to build on the strong foundation laid long before we arrived. In doing so, we take pride in the growth of alumni annual fund participation (which now approaches 50 percent of solicited alumni), the broad success of our annual fund (nearing $3 million), and the historic success of the Daring to Lead Campaign (which secured $301 million from 7,000-plus donors).

As we completed our campaign, we also celebrated the end of the remarkable tenure of our former head of school. Doug Hale retired after 19 years at the helm. Our team valued its role in helping our community celebrate the school's success under Mr. Hale's leadership as well as prepare for the arrival of our new head, Katie Titus.

What are some of the challenges you've faced in your current position?

When I arrived here in the summer of 2012, our advancement team was in a state of transition after saying good-bye to an incredibly effective leader, Mary Carrasco. We were also all aware of the expectations going forward—the school had raised nearly $140 million in its last campaign and was ready to move forward with another campaign. In short order, we had to come together as a team, update a campaign plan and galvanize the leadership support to set the arc for the next campaign.

With the support of our head of school and board leaders, we outlined a plan for a substantially more ambitious campaign. Fortunately for Mercersburg, we succeeded in recruiting a dynamic pair to lead the campaign. Our co-chairs moved in quickly to shore up additional support on the board. Within a year, we had moved our campaign commitments from $60 million to more than $175 million.

We also had to reload our team. We had lost several talented folks in the course of our transition. While all this is to be expected during a leadership change, it is certainly hard in the midst of campaign planning and executing against all the other annual advancement goals. Again, the team members pulled together to do their jobs plus someone else's. In the end, we had a lean team with diverse skills ready to leverage them on behalf of Mercersburg.

Finally, we launched the campaign knowing that our head would retire in the next few years. He announced his retirement with two years remaining in the campaign ($100 million-plus to go). It put us all under a tight timeline as we worked to make sure that we completed the campaign in advance of his retirement and the arrival of our new head.

You've been a chair of CASE Summer Institute for Independent Schools for several years. What keeps you returning to lead in this role?

I believe we all have a responsibility to give back to our profession in any way we can. I began working on the Summer Institute thinking that this would be a way for me to give back. What a fallacy! I confess, I get so much more out of the conference than I could ever put into it.

It is humbling to be a part of the CASE team and help in this way. Every year, I am struck by the quality of my faculty colleagues. I learn so much working with such talented team members who bring best practices from their institutions from around the country. My idea folder is always full when I return to campus.

Of course, the energy and dedication of the attendees is also incredibly rewarding. They bring such good energy to our work. Making sure that we offer them everything we can as a faculty keeps all of us on our best game. Without question, we also benefit from learning from the attendees who represent such outstanding schools and programs.

How has CASE membership influenced your career?

I credit CASE with providing me with regular meaningful professional development. It has given me the opportunity to learn from giants in our work, whether at CASE-NAIS, the Summer Institute, webinars or publications.

Without question, the single greatest gift CASE has given me is a network of trusted colleagues. I benefit from longstanding, meaningful friendships with many of the leaders in our field. This has made me a better professional but, more importantly, a better person.

This article is from the BriefCASE 2017 issue.