On July 1, SchoolAdvancement.com celebrated its 15th anniversary as a Web site.  It began as a blog in 2004 called “Marketing Matters,” and another blog was started on Development activities called “Development Development.”  It was then suggested by the CFO of the Diocese I worked for at the time to combine those into a Website.  It was then I learned as much as I could about online publishing since I had my Master of Education degree in Technologies Enhanced Learning and Instructional Design and could write html code, and decided to create a Web site.  Today, I’m creating more in my spare time to launch as a project somewhere down the road.  Doing so will change SchoolAdvancement.com a bit, as it will be an integral part of what has the working title of “The Machine,” since Systems Thinking is essential to a school’s success today.  One of the thoughts I’ve developed in my work with schools is, “Don’t think ‘plan,’ think ‘machine,” since plans can change – but if all the components of a machine are not in top working order, then something is going to suffer.  If you’d like to learn more about Systems Thinking as it relates to your school, drop an email to schooladvancement@gmail.com with the words “Systems Thinking for Sustainability Success” in the subject line.

Further, realizing the importance of Vision to a school’s future, SchoolAdvancement will be formulating new materials to take advancement beyond advancement (For education professionals, think of it as the Advancement of Advancement, or MetaAdvancement), focusing on professional development for leadership, going beyond growth to sustainability, and the tools necessary to support practices, strategies and the systems thinking necessary for advancement success.

Today’s Marketing Matter is a combination of several ideas, and speaks to the need for change.  There’s a saying in business today: “If it ain’t broke, break it.”  That’s because it takes more and more effort to achieve equal results from year to year utilizing the “tried and true” methodologies, let alone achieve improved results.  Parents don’t understand this “Law of Diminishing Returns,” and here’s proof – does this sound familiar: “Why do you have to change?  We’ve always done it this way, and it works for me.”

We have to change because there is SO much more to do today.  Compliance issues abound; transparency is paramount; new rules – from Protecting God’s Children to Every Child Succeeds Act to Payment Card Industry (PCI) changes and Teacher Certification requirements, just to name a few – have dramatically impacted education in the last few years…not to mention the changes in technology during those few years.  We simply have to change (or at least “shift” our thinking and our mindsets) so we can have time to do the things we need to do, wear more hats, and avoid experiencing burnout and disillusionment.  “It works for me” is a mindset of Generation X, and will not fly with the new generation of Millennials who are enrolling their children in elementary school, and are coming into high school starting this year.  Whatever “it” is has to work for as many people as possible – and, sometimes, for everyone, where exceptions are exceptions rather than the rule.  If the system isn’t functioning as it should, and can considered to be broken, then it needs to be fixed, and systems must be repaired systemically, not linearly.

About 10 years ago in Nashville, TN, I heard a presentation given to public school administrators by a retired public school Superintendent who was raised in the South in an economically disadvantaged community.  “The interesting thing,” he said, “was we never thought of ourselves as poor.  Because we didn’t have a lot of money, Daddy said we were broke.”

Read that quote again…it’s a revelation!  It indicates a current mindset that must be changed in order to have our schools marketed more effectively, and make an impact on the audience you’re trying to attract to your school.

It can be argued that Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you.”  Indeed, as a faith-based school, we must have a preferential option for the poor.  However, if everyone who thinks of themselves as “poor” will always be poor, then there may be little hope for their future.  And with no hope for the future, then why, indeed, should a child be enrolled in your school, especially when you’re going to ask a parent to pay tuition?

The difference between “poor” and “broke” is that “poor” conveys a mindset of despair. “Broke,” on the other hand, represents a mindset of hopefulness, because if it’s “broke,” it can be fixed!  It’s all about the mindset, and not all about the money.

So let’s address money issue since you may be trying to fix something that’s broken.  As you get ready to start a new fiscal year and start planning for the next one, consider adding 10% + $30 to your overall per child tuition.  3% of the 10% goes to cash incentive, 7% goes to a financial aid fund, and $30 goes to pay for asset management services to provide payment options to parents along with real-time reporting and family payment reminders and follow-up so that you can focus on other processes vital to the continued operation of your school.  If you’d like more details about how this works out in a scenario basis, send an email schooladvancement@gmail.com, with “Add Ten Percent Plus Thirty Dollars” in the subject line.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2011-2021 (Original Publication Date: 20110627)