(This was the first Marketing Matters article published on SchoolAdvancement.com back in 2004.  That means this site is celebrating 15 years of being on the Web as a free resource.  Some schools have followed the articles faithfully, and, as one school leader told me several years, said he has a different kind of problem now – he needs a bigger school.  As for other school leaders, because there are still schools shrinking, merging and closing, it may be time to start diving in.)

Since the first quarter of the school year is now history, this is the time to start recruiting next year’s Kindergarten class.  If your elementary school has a pre-school or a pre-K program, prepare a letter to send to the parents of those children with a tie in to an election theme because they will be making a choice regarding where their children will go next year.

You may already do this, but you may be waiting until after the first of the year, after the holidays, or, if you administer a Catholic school, during Catholic Schools Week.

That’s too late to start.

Asking them to consider your school at the same time they’re finding they have Christmas bills to pay, and also handing them a financial aid application focuses their attention on the cost of your school, and not on the excellent educational experience you offer to every family.  Approaching parents now with information and an invitation for a tour (if they’re new to the school) sets the stage for positive impressions about the great learning environment your school has to offer their child, without the pressure of completing financial forms.

If your school is not associated with a pre-K program, this would be a great time to plan on starting one for the 20-21 school year.  In the meantime, locate pre-K programs in your area.  Since many of them might not let you distribute information to their parents (they might have their own Kindergarten programs), some strategically placed yard signs publicizing your school in their vicinity could take the place of those political yard signs once Election Day is history.  Be sure to ask for permission from the landowners, and ensure that your community allows the placement of yard signs in, well, yards.

So what about all those empty seats in your upper grades?

Perhaps you’ve heard of William Francis Sutton Jr. (1901-1980), infamous for robbing banks.  During his forty-year robbery career, Willie Sutton stole an estimated $2 million and spent more than half of his adult life in prison, escaping three times in the process.  Because of the disguises he wore, he gained the nicknames “Willie the Actor” and “Slick Willie.”  Supposedly, when asked by a reporter why he robbed banks, he said, “Because that’s where the money is.”

Fishermen know the same thing about fish.  They fish at certain times of the day when the fish are near the top of the water, rather than when they’re deep in the water for resting or spawning.  When you read the story of Jesus telling the fishermen to lower their nets and prepare for a large catch, the reaction from the soon-to-be disciples may have been, “Okay Mister Carpenter-man.  Let’s see what you know about fishing.”

Fish swim in – that’s right – schools.  So, if you’re looking to fill your school, and there are other schools (like the public ones) that are teeming with students, some strategically placed yard signs near those facilities might cause parents to consider the opportunities offered at your school.  Invite them to “Come and see.”

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2004-2019 (Original Publication Date: 20041102)