Running a Private School

Get help and guidance on running a private school. Find guidance and resources related to administration, fundraising and marketing. Explore strategic plan development, creative fundraising ideas and the latest technology uses in marketing.
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In the first article in this series, Marketing the Small Private School: The First Steps, we looked at the resources available for marketing the small private school. The assumption which we made in that article was that your school probably couldn't afford a full-time marketing professional. Instead you would assign an existing member of your staff the additional responsibility of handling your marketing. That assumption still stands for purposes of this article. Now we will look at how to use the various resources and tools at our disposal.
 
The best strategy for successful marketing is to control your message. That means that you have to know who you are speaking to and through what means you can best communicate with them.  Let's use the proven journalist's approach to understanding our communications strategy.
 
  • Who are we trying to reach?
  • Why are we trying to reach them?
  • What are we trying to communicate?
  • How can we reach them most effectively?
  • When should we communicate our message?

This structured approach ensures that your message will be unified and on message as it progresses from your keyboard to the recipients. Let's look at examples of how we can reach each segment of our school community. My suggestions are merely suggestions deigned to get you thinking in a structured manner. Adapt my suggestions to suit your particular requirements.
 
Communicating with your community
 
Let's start at the top. 

Who are we trying to reach? Everybody in our community as well as everybody outside it.
Why are we trying to reach them? Because...
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I believe that accreditation is necessary for any educational institution. Simply put, accreditation is to a school or college what an academic diploma or degree is to an individual. That objective stamp of approval is earned by meeting a prescribed set of standards. The assessment of whether the school has met those standards is made by independent members of the accrediting organization. 
 

Why is accreditation necessary for a school? Because it confirms that the school is committed to obtaining the best possible outcomes for its students. Parents want to know that they are making the right decision in choosing a private school for their children. Accreditation reassures parents that the school's programs have been evaluated and have met the standards required for accreditation.
 

Accreditation is typically administered by regional associations which have specific areas of the country under their purview.
 
 
Here is a list of the associations together with the states and areas which they cover:
 
Covers: MSA: Washington DC, Delaware,  Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and Overseas
 
Covers: Utah, Idaho, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Nevada, Montana and Costa Rica
 
Covers: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming
 
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I suspect that most small private schools do not have much money in their sorely-stretched budgets for marketing. I further suspect that it is also true that most small schools do not have room in their budgets for a full-time marketing person. With those assumptions let's look at inexpensive ways in which we can market your school effectively.
 
In most small schools marketing tasks, such as they are, tend to be rolled into somebody else's portfolio. This article is aimed at those incredibly multifaceted professionals who have to juggle dozens of deadlines every day and still do a superlative job of getting the word out about their school.
 
What kinds of resources are available to help you market your school effectively? Probably more than you realize. Besides the old standbys such as consultants, books, blogs and affinity groups, popular social media has become a very effective part of any size school's marketing strategy. We shall look at each resource and see how it fits into your school's budget and your schedule.
 
Consultants
 
Having an expert review your marketing strategy is like going to the doctor.  It will cost you some money, perhaps even a lot of money. In return you will receive the benefit of years of professional experience and expertise when the consultant makes her recommendations. As a rule, hiring a consultant is not going to be as expensive as hiring an additional member of staff. You will incur a one time expense. If you plan to retain her services, of course,...
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I remember when many schools raised their collective eyebrows at social media a few years ago. You could almost hearing them saying under their breath "Over my dead body!" That was probably because few people understood social media and what to do with it.
 
Decades ago your beautiful school brochures and catalogs were the way you got the word out. They were expensive and time-consuming to produce. But that's all we had. Then along came the Internet. Schools built Web sites. Pretty basic ones at first. But as the technology advanced and professional graphic designers got their hands on those school Web sites, the result was a product just as elegant and compelling as those brochures and catalogs we used to have lithographed. In truth most schools still produce brochures and catalogs but now do them in house in most cases.
 
It seemed that you had barely got your Web site tweaked to dazzling perfection, replete with online applications, inquiries, video tours and all the bells and whistles 21st century Web designers could cram into them, when along came Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest. Social media was suddenly socially acceptable.
 
Let's look at social media and see how best to use it to promote your school and its mission.
 
Facebook
A picture is worth a thousand words. Essentially you need to post pictures to grab your readers' interest. Remember: absorbing information from the Internet is like drinking from a fire hydrant these days. There's just so much of it. We scan. We only read in...
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Who in their right mind starts a private school? Parents and teachers do. Why do they start a school? Because they are passionate about teaching a certain way or adhering to a certain philosophy or sometimes because they simply want to run their own school and do things their way.

No matter what the genesis of the idea might be, the recipe for bringing a school into existence is straight-forward enough. It requires equal parts persistence, business acumen and patience. To those basic ingredients you add huge lashings of money. Mix thoroughly. As you do, you discover that you will have to add more money regularly as the other ingredients soak up gobs of money.

Here is a template for planning and opening your own school. Good luck! I did it. Lived through the experience. I still recall it as one of the best things I ever did.

24 months before your projected opening date
Most school academic years begin in September or thereabouts. So you want to start the project at least 2 years out. You may need an extra year or two. The size and scope of the project and the funding resources at your disposal will determine how early you should start.

Determine what kind of school the local market needs. You may know what you want. But does the market affirm your vision of the kind of school you are planning?

18-24 months
Form a small steering committee of talented...
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Marketing the Small Private School: Communicating with Your Community
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Running a Private School

Administrative

Here you'll find information on the administrative side of running a private school. We'll cover strategic plan development, state regulations, human resources and school safety. Learn more about the obstacles of taking over a struggling school, get tips on hiring a headmaster, and receive expert advice on dealing with bad press.

Fund-raising

Private schools often need to be creative when it comes to funding. This section provides tools, tips and resources on fundraising. Learn more about supporting your school, how to handle major gifts, and why keeping in touch with graduates can benefit your budget.

Marketing and Technology

Advances in technology have changed the way businesses market themselves. This section provides tips on social media marketing, information on the latest technology being used and SEO basics for private schools.