While scanning the Internet for information about marketing Catholic and Christian schools, as well as talking to people about what they need to market their schools, it seems that administrators and board members are looking for “free” ways to get the message out about their schools. Here are some of the “free” things that have been suggested:
Pulpit talks from parents and students. After all, parents are attending Sunday Mass or Worship, so the message is being conveyed to a captive audience. The individuals giving the presentation can linger afterward to answer questions prospective parents have about the school.
Bulletin announcements. After all, everyone takes a bulletin when they leave and reads it as soon as they get home (or even before the service is over).
Placing school brochures in the Narthex of the Church. After all, there are other publications there – some for free and some for a small donation – so schools would be remiss if they did not have a presence there as well.
Although all of these things should be done, don’t expect to increase your enrollment by only doing these things. This is “easy marketing” (which is why, “After all” was inserted in all of these), and marketing doesn’t increase enrollment. Marketing increases inquiries to your school, and it’s how you handle those inquiries through an effective enrollment process that will increase enrollment. Further, if only 28 to 35% of the members of the parish or congregation are attending Sunday Mass or Worship (and in some places, attendance is even lower), it’s not the most effective use of a parent giving the presentation since the audience might not be appropriate. It would be if most of the folks gathered were young parents. But research is showing that’s not necessarily who populates the pews today. Most Pulpit talks only provide a 3 or 4 minute presentation. While this can be considered “Word of Mouth” advertising, there may also be questions presented by a prospective parent that a current parent is not equipped to answer. Therefore, this type of marketing is excellent for reinforcing the message that faith-based schools are important to the life of the community and, indeed, the life of the Church…but it’s not the most compelling way to make parents and guardians want to enroll their children.
Bulletin announcements are also good for reinforcing the message – but only if they are consistently presented, and somehow highlighted. If school happenings are only sporadic, there is no continuous exposure to the message; if they blend in to the rest of the bulletin, the message becomes transparent – or, at best, just another activity highlighted among the craft shows and trips to outlet stores. Faith-based schools are so much more than “just another activity,” and deserve to be promoted as such.
Placing school brochures in the Narthex of the Church is my favorite, though. Here’s a test – take 50 brochures and number the backs of them 1 to 50. In four weeks, see how many of them have been taken. This would be a great place to market the school if parents of young children hung around in the Narthex. However, when worshippers leave to shake the pastor’s hand (who is standing outside at times), I doubt that they’re going to go back in to pick up a brochure.
Here’s a way, however, to give people a reason to visit the Church, and perhaps linger a little longer…create mailboxes for each family. For a parish with 1200 families, consider two units with 20 columns and 30 rows. Each family gets a bulletin put inside their mailbox every Sunday; each mailbox gets a school brochure put in their mailbox in September, January and May; religious education and other informative flyers now have a place to go rather than stacking them on a table by the door. If you’re still using envelopes for offerings, mailboxes can save on mailing costs by using these mailboxes. And, if a mailbox gets full, it can be a reason for an evangelization visit by a member of the church’s evangelization team or the pastor. Not only are we marketing our schools, but we’re going out to do what Jesus told us to do!
© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2007-2017 (Original Publication Date: 20071022)