A new year means new possibilities, and new possibilities require new ideas.  Ten years ago, headlines in USA Today (January 6, 2010) announced that children are leaving private schools and are being enrolled in public schools.  At the start of the school year five years ago (August, 2015), headlines told us that the number of homeschooled children outnumber those enrolled in private schools in North Carolina.

There are two things you can do in response to these patterns of parents today: acquiesce or fight (and now you see one of the reasons why the acronym for the five elements of Advancement spells ARMED).

If you’re ready to fight, you’re going to have to be creative. Creativity is simply a connection – taking something out of the ordinary to create interest, and then connecting it to what you want to accomplish.

A number of years ago, at a meeting of school administrators and principals, I entered the room where the budget discussion meeting was, and brought a hammer to the table. Some people asked what it was for, others felt fearful, others were probably wondering.  The point of the exercise was simply to get people thinking.

When my part of the agenda began, I held up the hammer.  I said we were going to “hammer out” some new ways of using the “announced tuition” at their school as a marketing “tool.”   It also related to the fact that sometimes, you have to keep repeating the message over and over again, “hammering at it” until people “get it.”

Ten years ago, marketing experts told us that it took at least – let me say that again with emphasis – at leastnine exposures to a concept in order to simply begin a change in mindset.  Five years ago, with the amount of messaging that we were exposed to every day, that’ number climbed to around FIFTEEN.  Today, it’s significantly more than that, since there are many things that clamor for our attention (also known as Shiny Object Syndrome).  Recall that the Gospels follow a three-year cycle. The same gospel reading is presented every third year. Since we needed at least nine exposures to the same message, perhaps that’s why it takes some people to come to a “logical” realization of Christ during their 30’s or 40’s.  If the number is around 15 today, people will hear the same series of Gospel readings 15 times by the time they’re in their mid-40’s to mid-50’s – and that’s if they attend Mass every week!  An emotional experience, however, can kickstart that process much faster.

Here’s an effective way to share emotions.

My wife and I used to be part of a ministry to couples preparing for marriage in the Church.  During the preparation classes, there is an exercise presented which couples can use to share their feelings.  It’s one thing for a wife to tell her husband that she’s angry, for instance, but perhaps the husband can’t relate to the degree of that feeling.  After all, his assessment of the situation could have been completely different from hers. One must relate the experienced emotion to an experience that the other has had. Then, the other spouse can know what the one is truly feeling.  If the angry wife remembers how enraged her husband was when the neighbor’s dog dug up his landscaping that he had worked on for several weeks, buying new plants and shrubs, and meticulously trimming and edging the surrounding grass, she could use this imagery to vividly convey her feelings in a calm and rational manner.  Rather than saying, “I’m really mad right now,” she could say, “Remember when the Smith’s dog wrecked your landscaping? Remember how angry you were? Well, that’s how I’m feeling right now.” Now, he can more fully understand her feelings.

Students are leaving. Costs are increasing. Donations are down. Is your school still the best place for their educational experience? If you said “Yes,” then try connecting a seemingly unconnected idea to produce a creative connection to get your school recognized for its “remarkable differentiators.”  Remember, parents today expect excellence, and they’ll pay for excellent experiences.  If just one aspect of it is simply “OK,” there’s a good chance that parents may not be excited about the entire experience of your school.  Since this is the time of the year when re-enrollment efforts kick into high gear, ask your school’s parent community what one thing do they feel would make other parents excited about enrolling their children in your school.  Not what they “think” – what they “feel.”

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2005-2020 (Original publication date: 20050110)