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Making the NBOA Difference

NBOA’s rebranding positions our incredible community as one that is more accessible and approachable to a wider range of school roles and school types.

Feb 25, 2024  |  By Jeff Shields, FASAE, CAE

From the March-April 2024 Net Assets Magazine.

Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE
NBOA President and CEO

If you are in school leadership, you are likely familiar with organizational branding. Independent schools, not unlike for-profit companies, undertake the process at regular intervals to clarify messaging, attract new families, update the school image, and ensure alignment with mission and value. If you can believe it, NBOA had never undergone a comprehensive, formal branding process in the first 25 years of the association’s existence.

This is consistent with our resourceful and up-by-the-bootstraps origin, when staff and board members alike were doing everything soup to nuts, from program management to newsletter design, in order to stand up our organization. In terms of branding over the ensuing years, a logo and tagline were developed — how many of you remember “Find Solutions. Exchange Ideas.”? — then replaced. The next tagline, “Advancing Business Excellence in Independent Schools,” came about during a strategic planning session, offered up by the planning consultant and was spontaneously adopted by the Board with great enthusiasm. Until now, the association had not conducted targeted research to identify key strengths and develop consistent, association-wide messaging. Never before had we developed stylistic guidelines beyond a few colors and fonts, which would enable us to provide a consistent look across all of our programs, products and services without reinventing the wheel. With an unwavering commitment to immediately practical matters, brand had never been an area of focus — until this past year.

rebrand sample

As we prepared to celebrate NBOA’s 25th anniversary in 2023 and reflected on a quarter century of growth in an increasingly complex landscape, the Board developed a new strategic framework, which was adopted in May 2022 and will guide our work through 2027. A key initiative of the framework, among many others, was to conduct a brand assessment, which we began in fall 2022.

I have learned throughout this process that branding is not just about “look and feel” and slick appearances. Rather, it’s about presenting the organization in its best and clearest light, so that everyone who encounters NBOA understands immediately who we are, what we do and what they can expect from us. In short, it reflects our mission, vision and “promise” to members and the entire independent school community.

Our new logo propels the long-used NBOA swirl into three dimensions, in a nod to our broad membership and global presence. It visualizes NBOA’s deep and well-rounded commitment to serving and inspiring our active and welcoming community, as well as our holistic and open approach to the world of school business excellence. Our primary colors have shifted to lighter and darker blues, and we have removed the red to reflect our service to schools well beyond U.S. borders. Most importantly, we will deemphasize the association’s founding name, National Business Officers Association, but will continue to use the NBOA acronym, with the new brand extension “Business Leadership for Independent Schools.”

The rebranding process made it crystal clear that we need to position NBOA as equitable and inclusive to all of our members and the independent school community. NBOA will continue to serve the chief business officer role as our primary member contact within independent schools. But the extensive research we conducted at the start of this process showed that some of the roles that NBOA has grown to serve over the years, including controllers and human resource professionals among other business office staff, were not included in our original name although they are a vital part of our association community. Further, other members of a school’s leadership team, including enrollment, advancement and heads of school, who are critical partners to the business officer, also desire access to association resources, information and tools, which they have with our school-wide membership. The overwhelming majority of respondents in all roles did show allegiance to the acronym and, more importantly, appreciation for all that the association has done over the years to help school business leaders move their school’s financial and operational health forward.

Thus, this evolution preserves the brand equity NBOA has built over 26 years while adopting a more inclusive name and tagline. It’s abundantly clear in our “lock up” — the logo and tagline presented together — that we serve independent schools (as opposed to any other type of organization), and that we serve any leader who is concerned with the business aspect of our schools. 

Changes in our brand also acknowledge the elevated and critical role that business leaders play in independent schools' overall health and sustainability. 

I don’t need to tell you that independent school business and operations have become increasingly challenging over the decades, with an ever-widening portfolio for chief business officers, new roles created within the business office and traditional roles expanded. Now more than ever, business leaders are integral to key decision-making processes in schools, contributing to not just financial management but also risk management, legal affairs and strategic planning. Thankfully, the business officer community is known to be tight-knit and willing to share ideas, experiences and solutions freely. And as NBOA has expanded our base to include other impactful school business leaders, NBOA has expanded its programmatic offerings in scope and depth. Changes in our brand also acknowledge the elevated and critical role that business leaders play in independent schools' overall health and sustainability. “NBOA clearly approaches the brand assessment from a position of strength,” NBOA Board Chair Duncan Booth remarked. “We are more inclusive of the broader roles in independent schools and offer a wider breadth of services. Accordingly, the branding is more representative of where are today and a wonderful foundation for the future.”

All that said, I want to make clear that while our appearance has changed, our mission remains steadfast: to develop, deliver and promote best business practices to advance independent schools. With these visible and relevant changes to the association’s “look,” what we do should be clear to anyone within the independent school community, and to anyone who picks up an NBOA product, attends an NBOA program or partakes in an NBOA service. Our new look conveys our value to you and your schools, our promise to fulfill the high expectations you have for your professional association, and your important place within it.

I have only excitement and optimism regarding NBOA’s next chapter and hope you share it as well. Here's to a bright future — TOGETHER!

Jeff Shields signature

Follow NBOA President and CEO Jeff Shields @shieldsNBOA.


Jeff Shields

Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE

President and CEO


Washington, DC

Jeff Shields, FASAE, CAE, has served as president and CEO of the NBOA since March 2010. NBOA is the premier national association serving the needs of business officers and business operations staff at independent schools. Shields, an active member of the American Society of Association Executives, has been recognized as an ASAE Fellow (FASAE) and earned the Certified Association Executive (CAE) professional designation. His current board service includes serving as a director for AMHIC, a healthcare consortium for educational associations in Washington, DC, as well as a trustee for the Enrollment Management Association. Previous board service includes serving as a director for the American Society of Association Executives, as a director for One Schoolhouse, an innovative online school offering supplemental education to independent schools, and as a trustee for Georgetown Day School in Washington, DC. Shields holds a BA from Shippensburg University and an MA from The Ohio State University.

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