What I’ve Learned This Year – 2012

Since one of my strengths (according to a great book called “Teach With Your Strengths”) is “Learner,” I thought, as the last Marketing Matter for 2012, I would continue the tradition I began in 2007 and share with you what I’ve learned this year. Since one of my mantras is 3 Leads to 4 Leads to 5, I’ll offer 5 quick items, since it’s difficult to hold 5 ideas in mind constantly at the same time.

Actually, that’s the first thing. Steven Jobs said most people can only hold 3 things in mind at the same time, and some people can hold as many as 4. But 5 is the number that we all must aspire to.

Second, we need to be open to shift our thinking. We’re always hearing about change, and how people hate change. That’s because change is always thought of in a “macro” sense. Change is big, it’s going to cause all kinds of grief, and it’s immediate. But if we just “shift,” then we can see that a shift can be small, it can lead to better things, and it implies a period of transition. Just as a transmission of a car needs to shift so that the engine doesn’t burn out, we need to be able to shift our attention to the different aspects of our lives. Otherwise, we could be labeled as “obsessed.” Everything in moderation is important, and a shift of a mindset (let’s call it a mindshift) can make great things happen.

Third, schools are open to the concept of the need for marketing, to spread the “good news” about the school into the community it serves (dare I say, “evangelize?”); the need for enrollment (bringing in new students and keeping the ones currently enrolled), since all the funds in the world won’t do you school a bit of good if there are no children in the seats; the need for development, since parents can’t bear the financial burden alone, and effective engagement of parish, community and businesses are crucial to the stability of the school; and the need for solid asset management and sound financial practices. Schools want to focus on a particular area of the advancement process, and then move on to the next one once practices are developed, implemented, and processing nicely.Sadly, this type of approach won’t work – everything has to work together, so everything must be implemented at once! It is a living system that’s being formed.It’s just like the formation of the entire person, which is what our schools are purported to do.Since the words of Scripture tell us “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind, and your whole strength,” we have to make sure we are the best we can be emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically in order to carry our the mission for which He has designed us.It’s OK to focus on particular areas, and shift those foci as necessary, but one can’t say they’re going to make sure they focus on their physical aspects, but only after their mental abilities are completely formed.

Fourth, increasing enrollment is crucial to the success of a school, but if it’s done in a subsidized financial model, schools could be fighting a losing battle.In a full-cost tuition/need-based aid financial model, increases in enrollment can mean decreases in tuition, since the cost of education is spread over more and more students.However, increasing enrollment in a subsidy model may raise concerns for pastors since the parish subsidizes the cost of education by up to 50% on the average.Therefore, more enrollment for the school can be perceived as less money for the parish or church budget.

Fifth (actually, a re-learning), Catholic schools need to take some clues from our non-Catholic Christian school neighbors. Why? They never had the advantage of having the good sisters that taught in our schools for so many years in their schools.They have always had to pay wages to their teachers, or be grateful for their volunteer service.As we struggle to find how to pay just wages to our teachers – including those sisters still in Catholic schools today – we tend to hold on to the past. While it’s commendable that faith-based schools want to honor tradition that have been long-standing, strategic traditions (Faith Identity and Culture, academic excellence, and a caring community combine with a resulting effect of a remarkable and outstanding experiences) can lead to growth, but nostalgic and sentimental traditions can lead to closure….both mentally and physically.

Looking forward to 2013, there are some very exciting things happening! I’m looking forward to enhancing my BASIQS program and offering a really cool tool with 5 components (!) to help you increase enrollment in your school, complementing my two books – one on Marketing and creating a marketing plan for your school, and one on Retention as the first step to growing your enrollment. Here’s hoping 2013 is a prosperous one for all, where we are blessed with the peace of Christ.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement 2007-2012 (Original Publication Date: 20071231)