When charter schools focus on enrollment marketing, quite often, the focus is on digital initiatives. Google Ads campaigns. Facebook advertising to drive enrollment. Email marketing efforts. A revamp of the website. And more.
All of these are excellent ways to drive enrollment (and we deliver all of these as part of our pay-for-performance enrollment marketing solutions). But often, school leaders underestimate the importance of analog efforts – what I call “the ground game.”
A charter school’s ground game consists of the strategies and initiatives the charter school leader may implement at the local level. These are “old school” promotional efforts, networking, and just plain getting to know folks.
Three key initiatives can bring amazing results and help fill the waitlist at a charter school. (These are initiatives that I’ve implemented myself, back in the day when I was the interim CEO of a multi-campus charter school organization.) I share them below.
Tour of the School (Weekly)
Tours allow parents to come in and see for themselves what your school is all about. Parents want to experience what you have that is interesting or unique, they want to see your classrooms and see the grounds, and they want to meet the staff and get a sense of to what degree the ‘vibe’ of the school aligns with their culture and their vision for their child’s education.
It’s important to note that I’m not saying that the CEO or Principal of the school needs to commit to this charter school tour weekly. Tours can be delegated to staff members or even volunteers.
While informal, the tour should be pre-planned and scripted to decide the topics you want to be included strategically, the key talking points to float up, the main areas of the school that you would like to showcase. Did your school get new equipment? Was the cafeteria recently upgraded? Did you add elements to the playground? Is there something unique or interesting in your class layout or materials that you’d like to highlight? Write these points down and have a printout that volunteers giving the tour can use as a guide.
Note that school tours should continue year-round regardless of when school is in session or not.
I encourage you to prominently display how to sign up for this weekly tour on your website, Facebook page, and other promotional materials.
“Back to School” Evening Session (Weekly)
This should be a presentation delivered by a member of school leadership. It can happen at the campus or a meeting place off-grounds – it doesn’t have to be at the school. Make sure the chairs are comfortable for adults and ensure ample seating to allow for all who attend.
This presentation should be about an hour. Ideally, it would include a PowerPoint-like slideshow. Along with being visually pleasing, a presentation will provide a ‘cheatsheet’ for the presenter to follow to avoid getting lost (Although be careful that the presenter doesn’t just parrot the words on the slides! The slides should just be a guide.). Here is a great TEDx talk on delivering strong presentations.
Coffee with the CEO (Monthly)
Promote a once-monthly event to meet the leadership of the school. Events could be “Pie with the Principal,” or it can include any other member of school leadership – perhaps on a rotating schedule. The important point is that parents get to sit down with you or a member of school leadership and get their questions answered.
Events are also an excellent opportunity to create a support system for the school. You’ll have a chance to find highly engaged parents and turn them into volunteers. A parent can then help you with Instagram, another can help with flyer distribution, another can help with the school tour. You can also create a team that will help lobby for charter school acceptance when proposed bills threaten charter schools.
Show up to these events fully engaged – with patience, empathy. Quite often, the most vocal parents, and one might even say annoying, turn into the school’s strongest supporters if allowed to participate and have their voices heard.
Many of the successful schools I’ve counseled in my role as VP of Business Consulting here at Charter School Capital have mentioned parent and caregiver engagement as a key element of their growth and success. Listening to parent input, tailoring the school’s offerings to what parents articulate as needs, showing them that their voices matter, all of this counts.
There are other components of a school’s “ground game.” You can network with the leaders of the local Boys’n’Girls Club, and you can make your facilities available for town events (when feasible and appropriate).
Over the past year, many charter schools became hubs for distributing COVID-19 tests, vaccines, and even food. While this should never be done strictly for promotional purposes, this kind of engagement with the community positions a school as a reliable resource and a positive presence in the community.
By all means, continue your email marketing initiatives, your website upgrades, and your social media efforts as well.
How to Keep from Being Overwhelmed
The key to avoid being overwhelmed is delegation. Finding trusted volunteers for activities such as the school tour and the Back-to-School night will take a load off your shoulders.
In the same vein, you can entrust your enrollment marketing efforts to us. Our pay-for-performance model makes the decision completely stress-free. We only get paid for delivered results. We can help with logo design, an upgraded website, paid advertising on Google Ads and Facebook, and a lot more. Reach out today to learn more!