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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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 can 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 back then understood social media and what to do with it.
 
The way we used to market schools
 
Decades ago your beautiful school brochures and catalogs were the way you got the word out about your school and its mission. Those printed materials 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 any of those brochures and catalogs we used to have lithographed. While most schools still produce brochures and catalogs, most of these are done in house.
 
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, Twitter and Pinterest. Social media was suddenly socially acceptable. Not only was it acceptable but it was absolutely essential to include it as part of your marketing strategy.
 
Let's look at social media and see how best to use it to promote your school and its mission. As I usually do, I am focusing on
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Who in their right mind starts a private school? Starting any enterprise is a daunting project. Yet many parents and teachers are the impetus behind the dozen or so new private schools which appear on the scene each fall. Some schools begin modestly with a grade or two and grow by adding one grade a year. Other schools have much more elaborate plans. Why do these brave parents and teachers start a school? The main reason seems to be that they are passionate about teaching a certain way or adhering to a certain philosophy. Sometimes they do it simply because they 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, although there are many ingredients. Staring a school requires equal parts persistence, business acumen and vast amounts of 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.

This video offers an overview of starting a nonprofit organization like your school.
 
 
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.
 
36 months before your projected opening date
 
Most school academic years begin in the fall.
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Most of us like to start a project and see it through from start to finish. Signing on to run a going concern is a pretty safe bet. But what about tackling something which is going to make enormous demands on your abilities, energy and experience but which has a lot of risk? Such as taking over a struggling private school?
 
Actually, taking over anything which is struggling entails a lot of risk. Anyway, you have talent and experience. So let's examine what's involved in investigating a head of school position at a struggling school before you sign on. Here are eight keys to a successful business turnaround.
 
 
First of all, let's agree to define the struggling school as a school which is having financial difficulties. Once you understand that you are going to have to do some very heavy lifting raising money, that will help you focus on what has to be done. The truth is that most struggling schools didn't arrive in their present condition overnight. This is train wreck which the previous head of school and the board saw coming for several years before now. Things have unfortunately gotten to the point that either the school gets turned around or it closes its doors for good.
 
Let's look at some of the reasons why a school finds itself facing difficult times.
 
Its business model is flawed.
 
A flawed business model usually is the result of the trustees and administration implementing programs and structures which do not
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"Popular teacher murdered"
"Accusations of sex abuse at prestigious private school"
"Lavish expenditures on headmaster's house renovations"
 
I am not making these up. These are examples of incidents which have actually taken place at private schools. In the course of running any business things happen which can generate negative and unwanted publicity. A private school is a business. How you handle a crisis will have a huge impact on the future of your school.
 
It's a head of school's worst nightmare to read a story about something which happened at his school.
 
It's a parent's worst nightmare to read a story about something which happened in the school her children are attending.
 
It's a teacher's worst nightmare to be in the midst of the maelstrom which is the evolving story with all its investigations.
 
The Head of School
 
21st century heads of school know that they cannot simply circle the wagons and deny the existence of the story. A couple of decades ago when social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube email and blogs did not exist, the fortress mentality was how many heads handled tough situations. You expelled a few students, fired some staff and hopefully the matter was put to rest permanently. Not any more. Unfortunately smartphones flash photos, comments and opinions around the world in seconds. Your story better deal with all those reports. Effectively. Professionally.
 
Now when bad press appears, it takes on a life of its own. It is bad enough to see a column or two in a respected national journal such
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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.