Storytell Your School to Success!

The average adults understand children, within the United States.  Once upon a time in the United States, children in your city would attend a neighborhood, one-room schoolhouse.   In this multi-age classroom, students would learn the three R’s – math, reading, and writing.   Years later in the 21st century, students immerse themselves into science, technology, mathematics, religion, science, history, philosophy, and more.   Unless you live in a remote of a rural area, your students have a plethora of school options.  The typical mid-sized to large-sized city will have faith-based, Montessori, private, independent, magnet, and micro-school options.   Getting your schools’ name out is one thing.  In order to succeed, you must stand out!   The evidence of your school’s success in the ability to tell stories of how your school impacts the lives of young and old – students, alumni, parents, grandparents, faculty, staff, and others.  Stories evoke emotion and tell the reader how your school is unique in the world.    In addition, a good ability to storytelling will tell your donors what happens in your school’s ways and how those actions change the lives of the students.
Students:  Your student is not just one-dimensional!  He or she is a balance of physical, spiritual, academics, social, and emotion.  Every student is a walking human!  So each one of your students will have a story on how attending your school changed their life!  Find a student who has struggled with math in his or her old school and now is flourishing with the help of a caring, supportive teacher.   Seek out the student who have been accepted to a prestigious university, and would have never achieved their success in a public school.
If your school is faith-based, tell stories on how your school shaped the faith of a student.   Do you have an example of a student whose life has been deeply impacted by faith, and it has changed their lives upside down?   Did your school teach a young or girl to pray with their family and have meals together weekly?  Does your school drive students to do kind deeds in their neighborhoods?
Alumni:  How did your school shape the lives of alumni?  The best stories are the passionate alumni who have made something of themselves!  Are they so passionate about your school they are bringing their children back to your school?  Do you have alumni who resided in a tougher neighborhood, but because of your school was able to go to college, receive great mentorship, and land a dream job?  Do you have alumni who so appreciate your school they came back to teach there?
Parents:  How do parents experience with your school?   Does their child get so excited about school, it’s easy to get them out of bed in the morning?  Does their child have friends at school, and they are less anxious?   Are you parents able to connect with other parents and have relationships, they would not have otherwise?
Faculty:  Do they beam with pride about your school?   Have stories to tell how your faculty includes all members, treats people with dignity, and much more.  Tell individuals how your faculty love to come to school and teach at your school.
Staff:  Why do they work at your school?  If they are in marketing or fund development, why did they choose your school as opposed to another nonprofit organization or corporate entity?
Storytelling, if done correctly, can increase your school’s enrollment and donations!  Are you doing it correctly?  
Contact Dean School Consulting

Five Essentials for Larger Fund Development Results

Listening Skills /// School leaders, including development directors, must be able to effectively listen to current and prospective donors.   Do your donors give staff compliments on the flowers next to the school’s front doors? Does your donor want to know about your school’s curriculum?  Listen to your donor!  The ability to listen, to oral language and body language, can lead the donor to make a gift that makes them truly happy.   One donor might desire to fund a school garden, while another individual may desire to donate funds for scholarships.   Make sure your school is donor-centric rather than self-focused.  Being oriented to the gift giver can lead to bigger returns.

Big Vision /// Big dreams get big results. Strong leadership can propel your school to some major gifts! School leadership must develop a strategic plan and update in on a regular basis.   And, then communicate the vision and implement it accordingly.   Demonstrate your progress with correct documentation.

Management of Time /// Fund development takes a good dose of balance.  Research, cultivation, and stewardship of donors will take time and energy.  School leaders must acknowledge the time it takes for donor research, special events, gift cultivation, grants management and other related tasks, and must plan accordingly.    Especially in the one-person shop, development directors will need to multi-task and plan well ahead to not miss important deadlines.    Outsourcing development tasks can be incredibly helpful to a busy school leader without an advancement office, or small program.

Facetime /// School leaders need to spend time building relationships with donors face-to-face. They must spend time with prospective and current donors face-to-face.   Good leaders will develop a list of top current and prospective donors and build trusting relationships with those donors.  School leaders MUST out of their office frequently to visit their donors and update them on your ability to advance the cause of your school, get their advice on programs and projects, and obtain feedback on your school’s vision.

Transparency /// Good schools must be open about projects, programs, and finances. Leaders must be willing able to share the information with donors, parents, alumni and other stakeholders, as well as the general public.  Whenever possible allow for available access to your school’s 990 form. Remember donors want specific, measurable information about your school’s accomplishments, goals, and needs.

Does Your School Need to End the Golf Fundraiser?

When golf became an Olympic sport last year, only a few individuals cheered about it.  The sport that grew in the 90s is now dying a slow death.   According to the National Golf Association, less than one in ten Americans are playing it. Nationwide golf courses are becoming land for housing developments or are being converted into burial grounds. Seasoned golfers are rare, and Millennials golfers are more uncommon.   So, should your school keep its golf fundraiser?
Know Your Donor
If you have prospective and current donors who play golf, then a golf fundraiser is appropriate for your organization. Leaders look at your current statistical information from your golf event – the number of players, the age of players, and other important data.  Ask your potential and current donors do they engage in the game of golf, and how often they do so?  Get to know them, and keep good donor profiles, including age and lifestyle information.
Understand Your Donors’ Lifestyles
Today’s young adults are busy.   Those in their 20s and 30s are working the main job, hustling for side income, and taking care of household tasks.  They are either volunteering or raising children, rarely both.  (According to Jeff Fromm and Marissa Vidler*, expert authors on Millennials, less than 3% of parents with children under 18 volunteer.)  Don’t expect these youngsters to show up at a golf event that takes all day.
The parents of young alumni are yet busier!  Older Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are not slowing down!  Most of them are jumping from retiring from a position with a pension/retirement funds to starting their own business.   Outside of work, they are taking care of household tasks, providing elder care to their parents, helping out with children/grandchildren, keeping up with their friends, and volunteering for nonprofits.  Most of these individuals don’t have time to spend four or more hours on the golf course!
Get People In and Out Quickly
Develop fun special events where people can choose the amount of time they desire at the event.   I volunteer with my local Junior Achievement program.  I was greatly impacted by it, and I can give back to my own community on my own schedule.   A few years ago, the local chapter dropped their formal fundraiser and replaced it with a Beer and Wine Festival.      The event has been extremely popular, attracting individuals who want to support a worthy cause, and enter and exit at their own pace.    Many people would give up their Smartphones for a rotary phone than attend an event which takes up a large chunk of their day or evening.
Hold Off on the Big Event
Donations are due to the passions of your donors.  If school’s alumni are athletes, who don’t play golf, but run, bike, or swim, take a cue from other organizations.   Several schools and nonprofits have realized the power of tapping into athletes who participate in mini-marathons, marathons, and other competitive events.   Donors raise support from their own pool of individuals or businesses, then participate in the event and donate the funds to the school, or organization.
Keep Cost Down
Cost effectiveness is an important aspect of planning special events.   Golf and other fundraisers are a great way for school leaders to build relations with donors and bring in donations.   In this day and age, a sit-down meal may not be ideal.  A three-course dinner may not bring in a high return on investment for your school’s fundraising event, and it might make your event cost prohibitive to younger alumni.   One option may be to contract a local food truck vendor and ask them to sell food items to your event attendees and donate a percentage of the funds to the school.  Another option is to provide light snacks at the event.
Special events allow school leaders to build relationships with prospective and current donors around the mission of the school and the passion of the giver.  Do your research and plan accordingly!
*Millennials with Kids: Marketing to This Powerful and Surprisingly Different Generation of Parents. Jeff Fromm and Marissa Vidler.

Teachers as Marketers: 21 Benefits to Retain Educators

The education talent war!  Parents want great educators who are passionate about education, care tenderly for children, and continue to hone skills.  When parents can see their children’s teachers can commit to a certain school for the long haul, retention levels can increase.
Unfortunately, your private school is in competition for talented professionals with K-12 institutions, even universities/colleges, and nonprofits/companies.  How do you attract the best and brightest educators to your school, even if it pays a bit lower than others around you?   Be amazing.
The culture of your school will help retain educators.  From having a clean building to available leadership, faith-based, private, and independent schools can create a welcoming and caring culture for staff members.  Additionally, provide your faculty with adequate ways big and small ways help them to grow as professional educator.  The happier they are, the more like they will stay, and they will speak positively about your school.  Good word-of-mouth draws families to your school!  Yes, teachers market your school.
An amazing culture is great!  Another way to retain teachers is to develop out-of-the-box methods.  Think like a start-up company executive.  Entrepreneurial businesses, sometimes don’t have deep pockets to pay their staff.  So they must be innovative to obtain the best and brightest people.   Tiny perks can boost morale, help your staff to work hard and play hard, and live a fuller meaningful life.
Simply respect your educators as hard working individuals who love their positions to shape their lives of children, while giving them some perks to make their experience more rewarding.
Here are 21 great benefits to consider:
  • Free Coffee.  The locally roasted beans not the cheap stuff in the can.
  • Free Drinks.  Not everyone likes coffee.
  • Free Snacks.   Healthy, even not so healthy snacks, should be in the lounge on a regular basis.
  • Free Breakfast.   Start the day with a good meal.
  • Free Lunch.   Educators need to refuel, before their afternoon with students.
  • Food Truck Visits.   Educators can purchase a tasty meal from their favorite food truck, in your parking lot.
  • Off Site Events.   Gokarting, hiking, or picnicing can be great ways to form bonds between educators.
  • Happy Hour.  Every once-in-a-while, it’s fun to get together and not think about teaching
  • Monthly Learning Series.   Educators vote to bring in a speaker on a topic of their choosing, once a month. o – it does not need to relate to teaching.
  • School Swag.   Why make teachers buy their own logo wear?
  • Jeans Day.  Allow your teachers to dress causally each Friday.
  • Late Arrival/Early Dismal.  Allow your educators to have 30, 60, or 90 minutes of late/early arrival time as a reward/incentive, or a birthday gift.
  • Flexible Professional Development.  Credit for leading a Twitter discussion on 4th grade writing or high school biology.
  • Discount Gym Fees.   Ask your local gym for discount for your school’s teachers and staff.
  • School Sponsored Sports’ Team:   Encourage your adults to form a team and play on the local parks and rec’ league, and yes, it’s a great way of advertising your school.
  • Free Exercise Instruction.  Allow educators to de-stress after school in the gym.
  • Entertainment Discounts.   Ask your local places of entertainment for discount for your school’s teachers and staff.
  • Permission to Use the School’s Offerings.  Ability to use the school’s library to host their child’s birthday party, on the weekend, or gather a group of guys to play basketball.
  • Childcare Discounts. Provide your employees with a significant discount on daily/weekly care, if you offer a pre-school program on site.  If not, ask a nearby childcare program for a discount on childcare for your employees.
  • Housing Discounts.   Ask nearby apartment complexes to provide discounts to your employees including move-in discounts and monthly rent discounts.
  • Transportation Maintenance Discounts. Ask a local garage to provide discounts on oil changes,new tires and regular service.

The Uncommon Survive

Why the factory model of education is over?
In the late 1800s, the modern day school was formed.  School buildings were built like assembly lines – age-based cohorts, whole class instruction, and standardization.     In recent times, learning has been increasingly standardized.  Most of today’s students take the same tests,  get the same rigor, and learn the curriculum.   Many families who seek faith-based, private, and independent schools want the weird.   If your school is not different enough from the competition, expect it to go under in the near future.

Are you too similar like the public or charter school down the street?
According to Seth Godin, “People with more choices, more interests and the power to do something about it are stepping forward and insisting that the world work in a different way. By enabling choice we allow people to survive and thrive.”    Parents have more choices of where their children receive an education.  The more weird your school is – the more it will stand out from the competition.

Do you wander why families pursuit public education?  I get asked this question often.  Sometimes, there is not a sizable difference curriculum-wise between your school and the one down the street. Some private and independent schools follow the same state standards, engage in the same fads and use the same tests as the public schools in their area.   Many parents don’t see a difference between your school and public education.  Simply, they just see private or independent education as a waste of money.

Would a family packet up their bags and move from another country to attend your school?
Michael Strong, founder of Ko School, and I had a conversation recently about his school in Austin, Texas.   He founded a tiny school of around 30 students, so unique families move half-way around the world just so their kids can attend this microschool.   Today’s families, especially in the days of remote workers, entrepreneurs, and freelancers can pick up their things and move for their benefit of their child.

So how does our school develop the weird?
Encourage Students Unique Talents /// Some kids love music while other students will love science or sports. Each child has different skills and abilities. Private and independent schools must lay the foundation so each student can pursue their own talents. Leaders must develop networks, partnerships and programs with museums, theaters, farms, and labs so young people can explore, discover and learn.

Provide One-of-a-Kind Experiences /// Your school needs to stand out from the one down the street.   How are you different from that one?  Religious experiences are one way, and travel opportunities are another way.  There are several other ways from high school internships, off site locations, schools-within-schools, special programs, and more.  Figure out how your school can be different and run with it.

Ask Millennial Parents /// Forty-percent of Millennial parents desire a private school for their children. Christian schools have a huge market of future families!  You need to get the advice from your parents.   Give them opportunities to provide feedback on a regular basis, and co-create when possible.

Then Tell Your School’s Story of Weirdness
Share your school’s weirdness with those in your tribe.   After all your school is not fit for everyone, it’s set for a specific tribe, who will benefit from your people and programs.   Develop a marketing and enrollment plan, and continue to develop your story.

And Make Sure It Is Funded
If you want to ensure your school has a special program or a project, then get it funded.   Research to donors – parents, grandparents, alumni, and others – to ensure your weirdness can continue well into the 21st century.
Have any questions?  Contact

Don’t Lose Them

Keep Donors Giving
If your school lost 70% of it’s students last year, you would close the doors.   Many private schools loose 70% of donors each and every year.   Many leaders seem to be okay with that fact! Relationships with donors are crucial to the fund development: student scholarships, general operations, and building projects. has conducted research on why nonprofit organizations loose donors.  I have taken the top five, and provide suggestions on how faith-based, private, and independent schools can retain donors.
  • Your School Doesn’t Need Me // If you don’t tell donors about your school’s needs, they will think you don’t need them.   Alumni, parents of alumni, grandparents and other stakeholders need to understand why their funds are important to your school, year after year.   Segment donors and talk to them through multiple channels.  The more ways you interact with your school’s donors will increase the retention rate.
  • They Don’t Know How Their Money Was Spent // Donors desire to know how their contribution made a difference.  Remember the donor cultivation cycle – identify, research, cultivate, ask, thank and steward.   Once the donor has given their gift to your school, your leadership team needs to show how they spent the money. Invite a major donor to your office for a school tour, have a student write a hand-written note, or create a thank you video.  Upon request provide financial reports – tax statements and audits – to the donor.
  • No One Said “Thank You” // Donors want sincere appreciation and an explanation of how their donation was used.  According to research, 80% of donors say a thank you would convince them to make a second gift. For major gifts, a handwritten note should be sent within 24 hours.  School leadership and board members can call and thank the donor, and invite them to your school for an event or a tour.  For smaller gifts, a standard type-written note, with a short hand-written message on the bottom, can be sent.  You may ask them to sign-up to volunteer opportunities.  For e-gifts under $20.00, an e-mail can be sent to a person, especially if they are Generation X or Y.   Ask these young adults to follow you on your school’s social media channels.
  • Poor Communication // From the basics, spell your donor’s name correctly and promptly respond to their inquiries.  Donors, especially those who give major and mid-level gifts, should receive communication from your school a minimum of 12 times a year. Think simplicity – a birthday card, an invite to the graduation ceremony or a thank you note from a student.  Current major and prospective donors (20 – 25 individuals) should be physically in touch with your school’s leadership monthly.    Relationships must be developed with the later.   Eat lunch with them, invite them to an event (basketball game if the donor likes sports), take them on a tour, ask them to read to a class or invite them to a small intimate gathering – there are multiple ways to be in contact with donors.
  • Other Organizations Are More Deserving // Why does your school need a donor’s money?  Don’t you have tuition support or other income?  If your school only uses donor funds to fill the gap between the tuition and actual budget, without explaining the mission and vision to the donor, they will leave your organization and donate to a much worthier cause.   Know your donor and why they give to your school!  Example, your donor is passionate about helping students from needy families and donates to your school’s scholarship fund.  Keep a consistent message about academics and financial needs.   So, if you find an article in the newspaper, or in an on-line publication, about how your city’s poverty rate has increased by 10%, clip it out, attach a handwritten note and send it to them.

Customer Service Tips for School Leaders

Emma is a four year old, who will enroll in your school’s preschool class for the 2016-17 school year.  She is smart, friendly, and happy!  As a leader, you hope she remains at your school until middle school graduation. For every year she enrolls in your school, her parents will pay $10,000.00 – $100,000.00 over the next ten years.   Every year in which she likes to attend your school, she will persuade two other families to enroll at your school. Her satisfaction will add up to a lot of money! When Emma is happy, her mom and dad are excited.  They tell other people the wonderful things about your school.

Her story is about good customer service – internally and externally.   Internal customer service is how a school engages parents, students, faculty and staff. External customer service is how a school’s personnel engage the community. Customer service is the most important aspect of your school.   Poor customer service leads to dissatisfaction among families and lower enrollment.  While excellent customer service leads to high levels of happiness, and generally an increase of enrollment.

  • Learn How to Meet Customer Expectations /// Parents desire their children are in a caring, nurturing, and safe environment that allows their children to grow academically, spiritually, and personally.   Families want to be treated with respect and dignity. Parents need to have their questions answered in a timely fashion, and their children needs to be met in a reasonable manner.
  • Assume Personal       Responsibility /// School administration and faculty personally assume the responsibility of assisting or directing customers to the appropriate individual.    Principals and teachers should not pass off customers, especially those who are difficult.
  • Don’t Over-Promise and Under Deliver /// Don’t sell your school as something it is not.  Families will become irritated and leave, and your school will experience a lot of negativity.  Leaders are best to under-promise, and over-deliver.
  • Solve Problems in the Classroom /// Issues between parents, students, and faculty members should be resolved in the classroom, and should not escalate to where an administrator must step for in customer care.   If a parent comes to an administrator, he or she should refer the issue to the teacher.
  • Develop Good Systems ///School leaders should have a process to react to negative feedback and ensure complaints don’t get out of hand.  Ensure faculty members, parent ambassadors and student leaders don’t fuel fires by gossiping, lying, or slandering.

Request your time to chat now!

             Jodi Dean, Consultant
Dean School Consulting
Empowering faith-based, private and independent schools to impact their world through increased donations, awareness and enrollments.

Got kids on campus this summer?

Summer Camps: Do’s and Don’ts

School is out for the summer! Working parents often struggle with childcare during this time. Many schools have developed summer camps and day programs for June, July, and August. Does your school hold a summer camp? Here are five simple do’s and don’t for marketing and enrollment purposes.

Check Here /// Do you have families who enroll their child(ren) in summer camp, but don’t send their child(ren) to your school? Ask them if you can send them your school’s newsletter update. Families may be very content with their current educational option. However, your school may become an option in the future. Let’s say a family loves their public Montessori school, but it’s only K-5th. The public middle feeder school is overcrowded. Your K-8th grade school may be the perfect fit for their child in the middle years.

Ask Parents to Events /// Encourage your campers’ parents and grandparents to come to school wide events during the summer. If your school holds a rummage sale invite them to it. If your school has a picnic in the park for new and incoming parents, ask your camp families to come.

Send a Thank You to Families /// Send a personal thank you note to families who enroll in your camp. A simple handwritten can provide them with a lot of encouragement. They will feel their children are in the hands of individuals who care deeply about them. With the level of trust and committment, they will further look at your school for a great place of education and care.

Remember It’s just the Beginning /// Parents who enroll their child into your camp may fall in love with your school’s teachers, philosphy, or environment. Build a relationship with these prospective parents through social media, nuturing e-mails and simple events.

Give Every Camper a T-Shirt /// A simple t-shirt with your school’s logo and the camp slogan can do wonders for your school. Good kids attract similar children to them. Clothing can spark conversations among friends! Campers will be able to share your school’s goods with their peers. As more and more millennial parents allow their children where to decide upon school, peer branding will become more important.

Five Negative Subliminal School Marketing Messages

Your school’s marketing sends messages to parents and grandparents, even students. From website content to follow-up after the open house, how your school tells it story, interacts with individuals and conducts ordinary business gives a broader message to family. In each step, some schools send out a lot of negative messages.

I Went Here, Don’t Put Your Kids Here /// If your school feature alumni in marketing materials, ask yourself two questions: Does your school alumni currently live in driving distance to/from your school? Does he/she enroll his/her children at your school? An alumni who resides in a reasonable drivable distance with children and enrolls them elsewhere, should not be in your school’s marketing and promotional items.

Working Parents, Go Elsewhere /// It’s estimated that 70% of school age moms and dads work. Many can’t take time off work during work hours. Simply, a 9:30 a.m. slot for an open house will not work in their schedules. Make sure that your school has options for all parents – early morning, day time, late evening and weekend. You may desire a virtual open house for parents.

Thanks, But No Thanks /// When parents come to your event, follow up with them with a thank you! Take time before an open house to write the framework of a follow-up email. Snap a few photos during the event and include them in the email. A timely follow-up email within 24 hours of the event is a great way to further connect with families!

Our Teachers Are Boring /// Does your school’s website post pictures of teachers’ lecturing to students? Most students think lectures are boring and can send bad vibes to your prospective students. Capture teachers engaged in classroom discussion, small-group instruction or project facilitation.

Only Parents Can Decide /// Parents are not the only one to make the decision to attend your school. Grandparents are quite influential on where their grandchildren attend school! And, children are often the ones to make the ultimate decision.