When working on advertising materials and donor stories, sometimes a specific headline or case study piques your interest more than the others. However, when you show it to a parent representative you trust, they don’t react to it as strongly as you had hoped or anticipated—thus changing the course of your prospective marketing or advertising campaign.
This example illustrates the need to have quantitative data to back up your marketing decisions. You, as the administrator of a private school, are not (necessarily) your target audience; neither is every family with a school-aged student or every philanthropic business person in the neighborhood. To ensure the solicitation of mission-appropriate donors and prospective families, you must put yourself in your audience’s place while identifying (and acknowledging) personal bias.
Homeschooling is increasingly becoming a viable option for parents looking for alternatives to traditional classroom learning. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), for example, showed a 54% increase in the practice from 2002 to 2012 (1), and stories like the wunderkind twelve-year-olds starting their engineering degrees at Cornell University (2) inspire other families looking to nurture their gifted children.
However, rather than looking at homeschooling programs as competition for your private school, look to them as you would any other “feeder school”—as an opportunity to expand the pool of prospective students. This month, let’s discuss the ways in which you can leverage the unique opportunity of homeschooled students.
Two years ago, The Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association ran an extremely successful fundraiser that encouraged people to donate to their organization, film themselves dumping buckets of water on their heads, and challenge others to do the same. We wrote about the lessons to be taken away from the viral episode and filed it away as a one-and-done subject.
We were wrong to dismiss it so easily, as The ALS Association beautifully leveraged their previous success to offer those of us in the development world another great lesson: Remind your donors what their sacrifices have accomplished, and so grow the relationship.
In the last issue of The Source for Private School News, we discussed the impact that the new mobile game Pokémon Go may have on the private-independent school community. The Admission Office, in particular, could leverage the gaming sensation to great benefit during its recruitment sessions this fall.
We wish everyone at the Development Office and your entire school a sun-filled summer full of relaxation—and professional development. Sure, the classrooms might be empty of students (for now), but your work is rarely done. The temporary breather offers you some time to catch up on that list of books you promised yourself you’d get to this year—and we’ve got a few suggestions for you to tackle while catching some rays.
Every year, the Giving USA Foundation publishes one of the most highly regarded reports on philanthropic giving in the United States, offering organizations of all sizes and missions a benchmark set of data against which to evaluate their own advancement efforts. While every school’s Development Office faces unique challenges in donor cultivation, the Annual Report on Philanthropy offers interesting food for thought when considering the broader giving landscape.
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