About fifteen years ago, one of the principals’ meetings in the Diocese for which I was working at the time held an all-day seminar on the principle of “Marketing IS Education.”  Marketing is not sales – it is an educational process, and since we are educators, we have the basic abilities to effectively market our schools. The purpose of marketing our schools? To attract additional INQUIRIES from parents and guardians of prospective students, since additional inquiries can lead to enrollment increases.  Great marketing doesn’t mean that enrollment will automatically increase.  Further, if marketing is education, then enrollment is sales.  We have to do both, since in order for our schools to survive, enrollment must increase. Decreases in enrollment provide the springboard to events that cause a school to close.

Schools across the country are realizing this, especially today in the situation we find ourselves in, and feel powerless to do anything about it.  About twenty years ago, it was thought that additional funding would save faith-based school, since the common thinking was that the decline in enrollment was a function of economics.  In other words, if we could get more money, then all would be well again.  This gave rise to development as an important function. We have since learned that development is more than money.  It’s developing the relationships among the school, parents, community and businesses which will lead to involvement with the school, which will lead to the desire for individuals to support the school. “Development” is actually the process of developing those relationships. “Advancement” has now become the term within the non-profit sector that combines all those activities (marketing, development, promotion, event coordination, public relations and corporate communications) to allow the organization to advance toward the vision that’s been set for the school or the organization, and allows it to grow.  For schools, that means increasing enrollment, increasing awareness, and increasing financial support.

It’s not enough for simply enrollment to grow, OR relationships to grow, OR awareness to grow – it ALL has to grow!!  That makes sense, doesn’t it?  After all, to change is to grow.

If you said “Yes,” then this is where the problem lies!  Sounds simple, logical…cognitive, in fact.  As educators, we’re  good at changing thinking.  It’s what we do every day.  The challenge is that we need to change emotions, and how others feel about things.

For some interesting reading regarding the potential of change, check out the May 2005 edition of FAST COMPANY magazine (https://www.fastcompany.com/52717/change-or-die). The cover story, “Change or DIE,” has some significant implications for the situations many schools find themselves in today.  Make no mistake – schools that have been able to pivot from classroom instruction to online classes during this coronavirus environment are the ones that that will find that their preparedness has met the opportunity and are making things work!  Those that have not been able to adapt because “that’s the way we’ve always done it” are the ones finding themselves in a dangerous place.

As an administrator, you need to first energetically and enthusiastically engage parents who are seeking the best educational environment for their children emotionally, and only then support their excitement by offering logical rationale about your school, rather than the other way around, as most schools have been doing, and wondering why their logical arguments result in declining enrollment trends.  That shift is at the core of what must change…or, well, read the title again.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2010-2020 (Original Publication Date: 20050411)