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.
- 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.
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 email@example.com.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.