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 this overview of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for private schools we take a look at what your readers see each time they visit your web site. SEO for Private Schools - Part 1 explained some of the elements of SEO which have to happen behind the curtain. Now we are focused on the exterior or what your readers see and experience.  

Message

What is your message? If you don't have a message, then how can your readers determine whether your school is a good fit for them and their requirements? I can hear you saying "Parents have to visit our school in order to truly understand what it is we do." That's true, but in this age of instant answers, parents make snap decisions based on their perceptions and first impressions.

So, right there on your first page or Splash Page as it is called, you need to make sure your message appears. Let me give you an example: One of the things a reader will see first is the Title Bar at the top left of his bowser. That's one place where what you do behind the curtain with meta tags is actually visible to your reader. Take a look at Andover's web site to see how this works. As soon as the page comes up the title in the top left corner identifies Andover as an independent boarding school. If that's not the kind of school you are...
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Introduction
SEO or Search Engine Optimization is a mystery to the uninitiated. It is one of those arcane sciences that webmasters everywhere have to be aware of. Unfortunately the mention of SEO for the rest of us prompts most of us to start reading email and texting friends. It's all so technical. The truth is that good SEO can enhance your marketing efforts. It can make your school more visible to the audience which you are trying to reach. Poor or non-existent SEO will bury your site so that it is practically invisible. So, ignore SEO at your own peril. At the least get your arms around the basics so that you can supervise your web management and design team authoritatively.

Basics
What is Search Engine Optimization? In its simplest terms SEO is making sure that your site's meta tags and content are optimized so that parents and students can find your site easily when they type specific words into a search engine. For example, if you ask Google to show results for the words "private schools" , it will oblige wWith millions of sites which have something to do with "private schools". But be more specific and ask Google to find you private schools in Raleigh, North Carolina, for example, and instantly your search results will narrow and be more focused. That's the point of SEO. To make your Web site more visible.

10 years ago SEO didn't matter much. The Web was just beginning to...
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You worked harder than you ever thought you possibly could. Your teachers demanded excellence. Your best. There were many times when you doubted your own ablities to make it. In the end they knew what they were doing. They also knew what you were acapable of. They helped lay that solid foundation for success in later life.
 
Your coaches refined your game. Showed your tips and tricks which made your more competitive. All without losing sight of good sportmanship and the benefits of regular exercise and physical activity.
 
But most importantly you graduated from your school with the best thing of all: a network of friends and classmates which will be yours for life.
 
Now it's time to consider how to give something back to that amazing school which nurtured you. Don't worry that your gift will be too small to matter. Give what you can.
 
Here are five ways in which you can support your school.
 
Annual Giving
 
Annual giving is the foundation of most private schools' fundraising efforts. Typically graduates, or alumni/alumnae as they are called,  are encouraged to make a gift every year in support of their school. It's the same concept as the gift you make to support your public radio station or other charity. The gifts range from small amounts to $5,000, $10,000 or more depending on the graduate's financial strength and capabilities. Parents and grandparents are often asked to support the school in this way as well. This has a certain appeal to families which have sent several generations...
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Editor's Note: When social media first came on the scene, most institutions including private schools tended to dismiss it as something kids did. But Facebook and Twitter gained enormous traction once schools figured out how to use them effectively. With that in mind I asked Jeff Kirchick, a Roxbury Latin alum, to tell us about SCVNGR, one of the newest social media tools. He was kind enough to answer my questions. ~ Robert Kennedy.
 
1. SCVNGR is the newest social media tool on the scene. Tell us a bit about it, how it works and how it came into being?
 
Founded by CEO and “Chief Ninja” Seth Priebatsch, SCVNGR started as a project at Princeton University. Noticing his friends’ fingers glued to their phones, Priebatsch wanted to come up with a way to leverage mobile technology as an engagement tool.  SCVNGR started focusing on universities, museums, and other institutions but has now expanded to a business with more than 1000 partners and 65 employees. 
 
Used as a recruitment and retention tool at over 350 Universities, SCVNGR is part game and part game platform. Playing is simple and students go places on campus, do challenges, and earn points. Students can play custom challenges and treks on SCVNGR’s iPhone/Android app or via SMS.
 
As a proud Roxbury Latin alum, Jeff Kirchick decided to introduce SCVNGR to independent high schools over the summer. Since July, Exeter, Andover, and Roxbury Latin have all signed on. In regards to the high school and university market...
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Several private schools have received major gifts over the past several years. For purposes of this article we shall define a major gift as one million dollars or more. In addition to highlighting the generosity of the donors we also want to illustrate how the gifts are being used.

If you attended a private school and can afford to make a major gift to your alma mater, call your head of school. Discuss it with him or her. Once you get some broad agreement about how your gift can be used, then work out the legal and financial details with your advisers. The estate planning and tax consequences of a major gift are far too complex to be left to chance.

If you are a fund-raiser at a school, assume nothing. That shy 3rd grader who became a school teacher and never married just may surprise you. On the other hand the 8th grader who became a famous Wall Street trader may or may not have the means your school teacher alumna has. Cultivate everybody who attended your school. If they live far away from the school, Facebook and Twitter will keep them involved if you use those social media imaginatively and tastefully. A monthly email and an annual mailing via snail mail will complete the communications side of things. We'll look at some of the other things a private school can do to raise money in a separate article.

Finally, this article is aimed at...
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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.