March Madness

It certainly is a “mad” month – and it has nothing to do with basketball!  Budget preparation, financial aid applications, enrollment building goals and preparations for the coming school year are upon us, and will continue until the 2015-2016 school year begins.

Ten years ago, when a group of us development directors were creating a Yahoo group to communicate with one another and share ideas (the precursor to the eCommunity on the original Web site), I called the group MAD – since we were all involved in Marketing And Development.  We took inspiration from St. John the Baptist, since we all sometimes felt like we were alone in the wilderness.

It’s important to remember that Development is all about developing relationships – so when you feel you’re out there alone, you have to realize you’re in relationship – by contacting another development professional, by contacting a donor just to say “Thank you,” by trying to build a new relationship, or just by praying.  Getting together for lunch with a colleague for fellowship invites another person into the conversation too.  He told us He’d be “where two or three are gathered in His name.”

So how does that deal with this week’s “Marketing Matters” column?  How will this bring more students to your school, since I’m sure you’re trying to increase enrollment for the coming school year?

May I be so bold as to suggest that it might be a little late to hope that marketing activities (like your school’s Web site, positive word of mouth, yard signs, door hangers and social media) will increase enrollment for the coming year.  Indeed, some schools have already made the difficult decision that this year will be the final year for their school.  Remember that marketing is at the “origin,” or the center, of the other four elements of the DREAM framework.  You have to market your school’s successes to your donors and to your prospective parents…but your also have to market your school in a different way to your current parents and your supporting parishes or churches.  In that respect, marketing is a medium-term strategy designed to increase inquiries to your school.

This is crunch time.  Follow up with all those families that have expressed an interest in your school this past year – even if they’ve said that they’re not interested.  They may have changed their mind, and unless you invite them in to take a second look, they might be thinking they have no time to reach out to your school on their own.  After all, it’s crunch time for them, too.  Taxes are looming, Easter is just around the corner, and who knows what else is going to happen in the coming months that will be a priority for them.

If your school’s deadline for financial aid has already passed, then consider making an exception.  Perhaps there’s a family with three children that just moved in to a neighborhood.  Ask your current parent if anyone’s moved in recently.  Easter is just a couple of weekends away – and you know that a lot of people will be attending Mass or Easter services.  Who do you have in place to distribute information about your school after those events and be there to market your school to the large number of people who will be attending.  Perhaps several families can help so that every Mass at every sending parish is covered.

Perhaps you’re saying, “You’ve really lost it!  It’s Easter! You must be mad!”  Maybe.  But if you’re involved in marketing and development, you must have some wild ideas sometimes in order to break through the status quo.  And if you’re looking to find where a lot of faith-filled people will be, there’s no better place that where they have gathered to celebrate the joy of Easter and Christ’s resurrection to new life!

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2010-2015 (Original Publication Date: 20100322)