A number of years ago, I became aware of a tradition at a school in the Archdiocese of Chicago. It hosts a breakfast for local political leaders, real estate professionals and alumni, and recognizes members and alumni of their school community with a Distinguished Graduate Award. When I coordinated a scholarship foundation, I did the same thing to recognize our business donors along with local political leaders. Principals and the pastors associated with the Catholic schools they sponsored were also invited.

The first year we held the event, about 50 people attended; the second year, about 75; the third year, we almost broke 100. The fourth year, it grew significantly, and we had to make it a brunch. Not only were more people attending, but the attendees wanted to stay longer and network with each other. Breakfasts were only scheduled from 7:30 until 9:00. With a brunch, I could start at 9 can carry it through until noon if necessary.

The thought was that the breakfast would allow business owners and representatives to attend and then get back to work. I found out, though, that being out of the office and networking with others was a major part of their business. The political leaders used this opportunity to talk with constituents, and business leaders talked with other business leaders. Some principals weren’t very happy about the change, because it meant they had to be out of their school, but the lesson learned was that if you want others to know about your school and support it, you can’t stay within the walls of the school. Not only do you have to think outside the box, you have to go outside the box.

Marketing is all about getting the word out, making your school visible and known.  Today, your parent community does that with social media to attract other parents to help grow enrollment, but as a school leader, you also need to be visible in the community to let it know that your school is a vibrant part of it.

As far as marketing to increase enrollment is concerned, once a parent has decided to visit your school, then marketing’s job has been successful.  Now, it becomes, for lack of a better word, a “sales” process – one which we can call “enrollment.”  Marketing and enrollment are two different processes.

One of the major problems with our schools is that these processes are grouped together. Let me be clear – these processes must happen together, but they must be known and implemented as unique processes.  These processes have been gleaned from non-profit organizations, profit-making organizations, and educational organizations that have had success implementing them.

You need to do the same for your school.

Now, before you say “But we’re a school, not a non-profit organization,” please note that there are now for-profit schools, like the University of Phoenix and Propel Schools, that are doing very well. Your school does not have to be a non-profit to provide an excellent educational experience – but you must use the tools that help to make your school an excellent educational experience.

As for the A B C D Es, it’s not a grading system…it’s a mindset that must be present in every school staff and administrator:

You must go

Above and
Demands and

If not,


Here’s an example of going above and beyond.   A few years ago, a school in Buffalo, NY held an open house where the students acted as guides for those who attended. A woman came up to one of the young gentleman guides and asked where the ladies’ room was. The young man pointed the way down the hall, and gave her directions. After observing this, the development director for the school counseled the young man, saying that he did a fine job and was very polite, then said, “But next time, say to the person, ‘Let me show you. Just follow me.'” Then, escort the person that asks. That’s an example of paying attention to “the little things,” and going above and beyond what a customer demands and expects, providing a customer “experience,” and not just customer “service.”

Remember – it’s not all about the money; it’s not all about the technology; it’s not all about the academic excellence; it’s not all about the safe and caring environment.  It’s all about ALL of it!  That’s what “The Experience” is all about.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2011-2021 (Original Publication Date: 20060306; updated 20110502)