Parent & Family Engagement
The Parent Experience
When prospective parents conduct their research with your current parents, teachers, and alumni, what they are really finding out about is the experience that each of those stakeholders has had with your school.
The parent experience is all-encompassing, a composite of every interaction a parent has with or within a school. To really get a handle on the parent experience in your school, you have to step into the shoes of your parents and see it through their eyes. To some degree, that also requires you to see through the eyes of the student. The experience of the student (the user) will have a profound impact on the perceived experience of the parent. The parent’s experience is influenced by their early contact leading to registration and by all their interactions as a parent of a student and as part of the school community. If a child is learning and developing in the way and to the degree that was anticipated, the parent experience will be positively affected. When a parent chooses a school, they are anticipating both their child’s experience at the school and their own. In many ways, the student experience is a part of the parent experience.
In every interaction, you want parents to feel like they made the right choice in sending their child to your school, and so it must be thoughtfully planned and designed.
The Parent Perspective
It’s not surprising that regular and personal communication with teachers and advisors is critical to parents. That includes ongoing communication about classroom activity, but what is more meaningful is personal, high-touch communication about their children. A notable example that one parent described was a handwritten note from a teacher saying, “You won’t believe what she volunteered to do. I observed her being such a great leader in the classroom.”
Parents are also impressed by the quantity and quality of school-wide communications. These messages fulfil a need for information, but as one opinion makes clear, parents are also looking for validation. “When we pay this much money to send our kids to school, parents want to know how the school is performing and how the school ranks compared to other choices.”
Parents have come to expect and value personalization and responsiveness. The benefits of personalized approaches to stakeholders or customers are well documented. Our interviews confirm that parents have a more positive experience when they feel that schools care about them and their children as individuals, starting with the admission process. Responsiveness can be a key differentiator even if parents don’t get the answer or the result they sought. Knowing that the administration is accessible and will listen to parents’ concerns has a beneficial impact on their experience.
Enriching the Parent Experience with Technology
According to a survey commissioned by Blackbaud and conducted by YouGov, parents value educational quality, character development, special programs, and college acceptance most when choosing a private K–12 school for their children. In 2020, they also weighed heavily on the response to Covid.
Parents also view a school’s use of technology as important criteria in choosing a school. When asked how important each of nine aspects of technology are in selecting schools, even the lowest-rated choice—virtual tours— was selected by 70% of respondents. Parent portals that provide a wide array of information about the school and students were the most popular choice at 90%.
By a better-than two-to-one margin, parents view technology as a critical teaching tool, though they were more enthusiastic (more than three-to-one) prior to Covid. On the other hand, parents felt significantly more satisfied (by a two-to-one margin) about the impact of technology on their relationship with their child’s school during the pandemic than prior to it. Most of their technology priorities involve administrative functions— access to grades, involvement with the school, tuition, and financial aid— than pedagogical functions.
This suggests a pathway forward for employing technology to deepen the relationship with parents. From embracing virtual distance learning and reducing your manual processes through workflow automation to thriving in remote administrative working environments, institutions must adhere to a new focus on delivering strong, digital experiences to their stakeholders. While a focus on retention and stewardship will advance your efforts, you’ll also want to be sure that you are speaking to your stakeholders through the channels, experiences, and platforms that they are embracing.
For more information on this topic, please visit: Annual Giving
Most donors begin their philanthropic relationship with annual giving. However, as K–12 education development teams craft new annual fundraising programs, many are finding success by starting with an understanding that major gift donors are not only giving larger gifts, but they’re also giving for a shorter length of time. With this in mind, gift officers are focusing on finding strong donors early on in their lives and moving donor relationships forward—no matter their gift band—to pave the way for a more sustainable future.
For more information on this topic, please visit: Annual Giving
The last six weeks of the year are the most important for your school’s fundraising program. Independent schools may receive up to 35 percent of their total yearly contributions between U.S. Thanksgiving and the New Year. Plan to spend the final two weeks in November laying the groundwork by building on the cultivation work you did all year, and then make your asks during the month of December.
Year-end giving should be treated like other school fundraising programs, such as the annual giving campaign. This means that your year-end effort should have a theme, a look, and feel, and its own mini-case for support.
Why are you asking donors for money at the year-end? What will you do with the money? Why do you need it? How much do you need? Answer all these questions and design a theme for the campaign that you will use consistently throughout your three-to-six-week year-end fundraising effort.
For more information on this topic, please visit: End-of-Year Engagement Strategies
Board Leadership & Board Involvement
Your school’s board of directors (or board of trustees) can be a huge help to your development program…but only if they are actively engaged in the school’s fundraising efforts.
This means that the board should not only hold an organized board giving campaign each year, but that the board should also help build a fundraising network by leveraging their own relationships to help the school grow its prospect list.
For more information on this topic, please visit: Leadership
Combining the art of fundraising with the science of data can create a new and exciting future for schools and the communities they serve. In K–12 schools, the old model of the classroom had to be re-invented. Now some schools have adopted this new model permanently, believing it better serves their students.
Similarly, you may need to re-think your fundraising model to encompass new and innovative approaches. A database allows you to create reports and evaluate giving levels, frequency, timing, and even predict future giving. But none of these systems work without practice and using the tools that the software offers. Learning how to optimize data will take trial and error, if not outright failure, but it is imperative to move forward. Combining this science with the art of developing a compelling case for support will lead to fundraising success.
For more information on this topic, please visit: Analytics