It’s no secret that in faith-based schools, there have been many discussions about the school’s “nature.” Is it a business, or is it a ministry? Some writers and school leaders have claimed that in Christian and Catholic schools, there should be no argument, since it’s both a business AND a school. There should be no problem with duality because of the dual nature of Jesus Christ as both true God and true man.
But a faith-based school’s nature isn’t one of duality; it’s one of “triality.” A faith-based school is a ministry, a business and, a SCHOOL!
But just as we like to take things one step at a time (and that’s usually the cause of the problems we encounter), let’s focus on the business nature of the school by comparing it to a business, and take a look at how an insurance company might generate revenue. Before that, however, let’s take a look at the difference between a customer and a client to make sure we’re on the same page.
A customer is “the recipient of a good, service, product, or idea, obtained from a seller, vendor, or supplier for a monetary or other valuable consideration” (Source: Wikipedia.com). For instance, I can go to the supermarket to buy some lettuce, tomatoes, onions, croutons and dressing to make a salad. This makes me a customer of the supermarket. The purchase is “transactional” since there is usually no negotiation involved (it’s a three-line poem): I go in to the store, find what I’m looking for, pay and go out the door.
A client, on the other hand, is “a person or group that uses the professional advice or services of a lawyer, accountant, advertising agency, architect, etc” (Source: Dictionary.com). When a company enters into a contract with a business to provide them with professional advice or services, they may sign a “professional services agreement” specifying what the business will do for the company, how much they’ll charge, and renewal as well as dissolution terms, among other protections and understandings. When I go to the supermarket, usually the only advice I would ask is, “Where can I find the croutons?” but the only thing I sign is the credit card slip to pay for the ingredients.
With that in mind, what are those five ways the insurance company can increase its revenue? It can:
– Find and capture new clients;
– Have current clients use additional products;
– Raise current fees, rates or prices;
– Have additional family members of clients as “also insureds”; and
– Hope the family grows so that more family members will become customers.
Note how the company can exert some type influence over each of these ways – except for the last one. The last one is up to the family, since, as I’ve heard it said, “‘Hope’ is not a strategy.”
The same thing happens in faith-based and private schools, since they can:
– Enroll new students and generate income from tuition;
– Find new revenue streams by having parents fundraise or seek outside sources for funds from alumni, businesses or the local community (including the church or churches the school is affiliated with);
– Increase tuition and fees;
– Enroll more students from the same family; or
– Hope that the family grows so that more children will be enrolled.
Note again how the school can’t really influence that last item…although the faith community should support the family in their decision to grow.
Realizing these five elements, you can see why it’s important to learn as much about the family as you can, and not simply the child that’s considering being enrolled in the school. When a family decides to investigate enrolling their child in your school, your captured demographic data regarding the family should include all the children in the family. The child which the family is enrolling could be the eldest child, but it could also be the family’s second or third child. If it’s a new family that moves into the area, they may immediately enroll all three of their children. But in many areas of the country where populations are declining, families may not be moving in. If this is the case where your school is located, it becomes even more important to capture as much data about the family as you can, and refer to it often.
You also need to ensure that your school remains the educational environment of choice for the family. After all, there may be another school in the area that would love to welcome that family to their educational environment, or homeschooling may be one of the options that parents are considering. Keep in mind that teachers today are finding it more and more difficult to find a job in certain areas of the country as school districts cut back on expenses and seek teachers with more than one certification. Therefore, many teachers who are starting their families are fully qualified AND certified to teach their own kids. Some neighbors may hear about it, inquire about it and, lo and behold, a new school is being formed. Think that can’t happen? Keep reading!
Today, it is in your best interest to have someone at the school who is responsible for tracking all this information, as in a full-time Enrollment Director, who may also be responsible for student retention. If they also have responsibility for marketing the school, as well as seeking and securing those outside sources of revenue, they become the school’s Advancement Director. Because this professional needs to be building relationships with the community, it’s important that this vital post not be an “add-on” for a teacher, since the teacher spends most of their time within the walls of the school, and this person will need to establish a presence within the community.
Why is this issue particularly important now, at this point in history? A new generation of parents is enrolling their children in your school. The members of the “Me” Generation, Generation X, are almost out of the K-12 educational space and are parents of college students and graduates, and the Millennials make up the majority of parents in the PK-12 educational environments.
In 2019, there was some interesting research about Millennials in Kansas City which shows that there’s nothing that changes the habits of these folks more than a specific event: parenthood. Millennial parents aren’t relying on Dr. Spock for advice; they communicate with each other, especially if they find great deals on diapers, need formula, or want to trade clothing.
It could also be assumed that if these young parents are communicating with each other, they are building a community that’s supportive of their values, which are very different from the individualistic focus of Generation X. Millennials are also in a more unfortunate economic position at this age that GenXers were when they were young parents. Many members of Generation X were products of single-parent households which fostered their independence.
Millennials, on the other hand, while more spiritual in nature, may have children before marriage, and are laden with student debt.
Communities are formed when individuals find themselves needing the support of others, as was common when ethnic groups came to this country in the early 1900’s. Today’s communities may not be the “neighborhoods” that were formed when Slovaks, Poles, Italians and the Irish came to this country, but they are definitely found on Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks.
Additionally, if Millennials are staying home longer before venturing out on their own, then those values of home and family will also become deeply embedded in their set of personal values.
As for that “hoping” that the family grows, could we on the verge of another baby boom since Millennials are more “community-oriented,” or are the number of children per family continuing to decrease? This is why you need to track the demographics of families in your market, and analyze the data. As The Temptations sang back in the 1970’s, “You might be surprised at what you might find.”
© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2012-2024