Scaffolding and Co-operative Marketing

Scaffolding is an educational term – the processes of building new knowledge based on concepts that have already been learned. But remember, Marketing IS Education. As another school year begins, this Marketing Matter is the third in a series of three insights focusing on the importance of building community.

Some marketing individuals may refer what’s discussed here as “The Halo Effect,” but that seems to be a matter of coincidence. The Halo Effect happens when one organization in proximity to another or with a like mission enjoys a more successful event or initiative because the first had a very successful event or initiative. But let’s break it down a bit and get everyone on the same page with a common lexicon:

“Scaffolding” in this context refers to the process of having multiple opportunities at a particular event to benefit one organization.

“Co-operative Marketing” involves the creation of a unified approach between two organizations to appeal to a wider range of participants than just one of the organizations could influence, and thereby create a situation where the two together are more successful than each would be on their own. Both of these approaches are created by design, rather than coincidence.

Both have benefits; both have dangers. Let’s look at the dangers first.

We’ve all experienced scaffolding when we go to a school’s gala dinner. There an admission price which entitles the attendee to have a wonderful meal, entertainment and testimonials or award presentations, and the opportunity is also presented to sponsor a table so the attendee can bring friend to the event.  There are also silent auctions, magic hat and magic envelope happenings, 50/50s, basket raffles, and other happenings that occur during the evening to generate additional funds for the organization.

The dangerous “thought” is that us organizers will upset the parents and other individuals coming to an event, perhaps because they’ve already paid for the dinner…so what more can they spend? This is exactly the same mindset that some school administrators have when it comes to setting tuition. They fear the parent’s/guardian’s reaction when a technology fee, a fundraising fee, and application fee, a uniform fee, book fees, transportation fees and other fees are added, with the additional expectation that they’ll also volunteer in the cafeteria, be a homeroom mom, or serve at other events, such as the school’s Trike-a-thon/Walk-a-thon.

The point is that you DON’T want every parent coming to your school’s gala dinner. You want people bring their friends who want to have a good time, share fellowship, food and fun, and spend some money to help the school while doing so. Sure, a parent can attend, but have them bring three or four couples who are their friends who are not involved with the school. If they do that, then the parent’s tickets could be free. Parents also need to volunteer to make it a success, and if they’re sitting at a table, they can’t work the event.

The danger of co-operative marketing is that the organizations involved are so far apart from one another in philosophy that the potential for 1+1=more than 2 backfires. For example, a school might link up with a recognized community event – not just as a participative entity, but as a partner – sharing the costs of the event and then splitting the benefits. The result might be that most of the parents in the school are already involved with the community event. Therefore, there was no additional exposure generated for either entity, and both lose out.

Now for the benefits.

Scaffolding works because most people who go to event dinners and are familiar with them expect that there will be other fundraising opportunities there. Some will appeal to some, others will appeal to others. They have to be unique and fun, and prizes have to be attractive and attainable. The one thing that will kill enthusiasm for generating extra funds at an event like this is the person that says, “I don’t want to have a whole lot of things going on there, since I have a set amount of money in my pocket that I’m planning to spend.” That’s the person that should stay home and simply make a one-time donation of “what’s in his pocket,” or should volunteer to work the event.

Co-operative marketing works when one organization can expose their constituencies to the other organization, and vice-versa. In Southwestern Pennsylvania, a local Catholic high school hosted such an event that benefits the football team booster organization as well as the community’s Fire Department. There are food booths, games, face-painting, music from local bands and fireworks.

One must not, however, forget that marketing is only the first step. Once the community is built and enlarged, the next step is making it become “engaged” in the vision you have for your school.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2007-2017 (Original Publication Date: 20070827)