Effective Practices : Enrollment
Outreach and Promotion
Enrollment Section 1
1. Is there a person or group formally charged with responsibility for enrollment outreach and promotion? If so please describe the person’s job or the group’s mandate. Attach a copy of the job description or mandate if possible.
2. Is there another group or individual responsible for other types (non-enrollment related) of outreach and promotion at the school? If so please describe this individual’s/group’s responsibilities and the manner in which this group works with the person described in Question 1 to ensure consistency in the look and message of the school’s promotional materials.
3. What are the school’s primary outreach/promotional tools for building enrollment? Which are most effective, and why?
4. How do the various promotional events/materials described in Question 3 relate to each other? Is there a calendar for these publications/events that illustrates the interaction of the various elements of your school’s promotional strategy?
5. Do you have a defined “target audience” that you use in selecting the promotional techniques and materials used to build enrollment? If so, what is your target demographic?
6. What role does your school’s early childhood program play in your enrollment marketing program?
7. What are the key elements of the philosophy that informs your policies, practices and procedures in the area of enrollment outreach and promotion?
8. What is particularly effective in your work relative to enrollment outreach and promotion?
9. If you could change any aspect of your enrollment outreach and promotion program, what would it be and why?
Is there a person or group formally charged with responsibility for enrollment outreach and promotion? If so please describe the person’s job or the group’s mandate. Attach a copy of the job description or mandate if possible.
A typical large school employs an Enrollment Director, a Development Director, and an Outreach Coordinator. In general it is the work of the Enrollment Director to coordinate on-campus events such as the Walk Through the Grades, Early Childhood Orientations, and High School Information Events. The Outreach Director supports the Enrollment director and the Development Director by creating direct mail pieces, placing flyers in various venues, coordinating advertising, and organizing outreach events for the general community at public venues and on campus. The Outreach Director is also responsible for public relations, arranging for articles and other positive coverage in the press. She also works in concert with the Development director to create the annual report and other fund raising collateral. (See: Outreach Director Position Description)
In smaller schools there is typically less advertising and promotion. This work is often carried by the Enrollment Director, often in partnership with the development office or a volunteer development committee. This partnership ensures that there is consistency in the way the school is promoted to the public in all printed collateral.
Is there another group or individual responsible for other types (non-enrollment related) of outreach and promotion at the school? If so please describe this individual’s/group’s responsibilities and the manner in which this group works with the person described in Question 1 to ensure consistency in the look and message of the school’s promotional materials.
As noted in ENR 1-1, larger schools tend to have one person, the Outreach Director, who is responsible for all promotion and printed material, whether for enrollment purposes, fund raising, or general community outreach. At times this Outreach Director has skills as a graphic artist; in other cases the Outreach Director works with graphic artists to create visually appealing and consistent collateral. Some schools employ a part time graphic artist on their staff, but most contract for this work with outside professionals.
In schools without an Outreach Director it is especially important that the Enrollment Director and Development Director/Committee work in partnership to ensure consistency in look and message.
What are the school’s primary outreach/promotional tools for building enrollment? Which are most effective, and why?
The two most effective approaches to building enrollment are good word of mouth and getting people onto the school campus. Several Enrollment Directors stressed the importance of staying in touch with the school community and working to ensure that it is strong, vibrant and positive. This community building effort is a shared one, with the Development Director, the Board of Trustees, and the College of Teachers having key roles in building and maintaining a positive community feeling.
A web site is often the first place that an inquiring parent turns for information about the school. The school web site should be consciously developed with this understanding, and should provide helpful information to both prospective and current parents. For a prospective parent information on the school and Waldorf education are very helpful, as are a calendar of upcoming events that will allow the parent to visit the school and see Waldorf education in action. The web site should be designed in such a way that parents can request additional material about the school, allowing the capture of valuable name and address information along with the ages/birthdates of the children in the family for future promotional use.
Schools report that a visit to the campus is worth a million words, and consciously design events that allow interested parents to see the campus and experience a Waldorf classroom. Typical events are a Morning in the Waldorf Kindergarten, Early Childhood Orientation Sessions, a Walk Through the Grades, and High School Previews and Information Evenings. Community events such as a Pumpkin Patch, Holiday and May Faires, jazz concerts and art shows are also good vehicles for getting members of the wider community to visit the Waldorf school campus, although their emphasis is on community building rather than on promoting enrollment. Most schools send postcard notices to all the families on their prospect data base whenever a special event occurs on campus. At times schools also purchase mailing lists of families that match their target demographics to promote events with a broader community appeal.
Print advertising is done in a limited way by most Waldorf schools. Typically the Enrollment Director, in concert with the Outreach Director, will test various publications for response. Schools seem to prefer monthly and quarterly publications as these have a longer shelf life, and tend to choose those that have an emphasis on children or that target special groups of parents. One school noted that even events that are not expected to draw heavily from the general public are still promoted in local newspapers, as the school continually works to build name recognition and positive word of mouth. Another school reported advertising in a very high quality publication that is distributed free of charge to homes in upscale neighborhoods, again in the hope to build name recognition for enrollment and development purposes.
Several schools participate in off-campus fairs of various types. These can be preschool and kindergarten preview events at which many schools have booths and make information available to inquiring parents about their early childhood programs. In other cases the fairs are held by schools which end their programs in the middle school years, presenting an opportunity to attract students into the upper grades and high school. At both types of events the Enrollment Director is responsible for ensuring that the booth is staffed with qualified personnel, while the Outreach Director assists by providing promotional material such as a table top display and appropriate brochures.
One school noted that it works to give back to the community, and has received excellent word of mouth promotion as a result. The school recently participated in a park clean up day, and gave their students t-shirts with the school logo to wear while they were working. The press was notified of this contribution to the community, and positive coverage occurred as a result.
Many schools generate press releases on a monthly basis. These can be for events such as the regional medieval games or pentathlon, a holiday faire or a spring concert. It is also a common practice for notification to be made to the local financial press of large gifts or other donations received by the school.
Other promotional techniques used by the schools include yellow page advertising, radio advertising, and public presentations at various venues.
Every school noted that the key to full enrollment is a strong early childhood program. More information on these programs and how they are promoted can be found in section 1-6.
How do the various promotional events/materials described in Question 3 relate to each other? Is there a calendar for these publications/events that illustrates the interaction of the various elements of your school’s promotional strategy?
The promotional calendar used by one school is fairly typical for Waldorf schools. In this school the Morning in the Early Childhood Center is structured as a largely experiential event at which children are encouraged to play in a kindergarten classroom prior to viewing a Waldorf style puppet show. The puppet play is followed by a period of unstructured outside activity, allowing to parents to mingle and chat with teachers and each other while their children play and enjoy the yard. These Morning events are followed a few days later by an Early Childhood Information Evening, an adults-only event that is heavy on information about the school’s early childhood program and Waldorf education.
This school also schedules a Walk Through the Grades six times during the school year. One month the event will walk through grades 1,3, 5 and 7; the following month grades 2, 4, 6, and 8 are toured. This approach allows parents to see the developmental changes that take place in the classroom as the students mature, and prevents the Walk-Through from becoming a burden due to its frequency. Parents who attend the Early Childhood events are encouraged to attend a Walk-Through, giving them another opportunity to experience Waldorf education and get a look ahead at what comes in the grades.
High school events are generally scheduled in the fall, as students and parents typically make decisions soon after the holidays about high school for the following year. This is in contrast to events in the Early Childhood area which are held year round, a pattern that matches the more flexible approach parents take with regard to enrolling their very young children.
Do you have a defined “target audience” that you use in selecting the promotional techniques and materials used to build enrollment? If so, what is your target demographic?
Several schools view the “cultural creative” as their target audience. They also target higher income professionals and members of the international community. Schools typically choose the zip codes in which a large number of their current families reside to target mass mailings.
One school noted that parents with school age children are of course the primary audience. The school advertises in both main stream and holistic publications. They also advertise in publications that are of interest to special industry groups that are widely represented in their parent body, in this school’s case to diplomats, the IMF and the World Bank Community.
What role does your school’s early childhood program play in your enrollment marketing program?
The answer to this question was the same for every school - the early childhood program is the gateway to a full and healthy grade school. It is the most important vehicle that the school has to promote enrollment.
As a result of this understanding most schools have early childhood programs that support and embrace parents and their children from 18 months to 6 years of age. The key elements of these programs include:
- Parent education classes for families with children under six years of age,
- Parent/tot classes for young children (typically 18 months to 2 1/2 years old), Nursery programs for children 2 1/2 to 4, and
- Mixed age kindergartens for children 4 to 6 years old.
Parent education classes are taught by experienced Waldorf educators, and are open to all members of the wider community. They are typically offered for free or at a very low cost as a public service.
Ideally the parent/tot classes are held in specially created classrooms reserved just for this purpose. The chairs and other furniture are quite small, and the environment is specially designed with the developmental needs of toddlers in mind. Some schools also have a separate play yard with sand boxes and other equipment sized appropriately for very young children. One school program, which is typical, is offered six days a week throughout the school year, and at times during the summer as well. Families may elect to attend one or two days a week, with 8 to 10 families attending each day. Classes meet for about two hours.
Many young families have two wage earners, and schools today are finding that a nursery program is an important support for these young families. The Waldorf ideal is to have young children at home during these important developmental years, but for families where this is not possible a warm, nurturing, Waldorf nursery program is a tremendous support. One school has two nursery classrooms that operate five days a week, offering full and half day programs. This school also has three mixed age kindergartens serving students from 4 1/2 to 6 years of age.
Not every school is able to develop such a complete early childhood program as that described above, usually due to space limitations. However, the schools with complete programs encourage other school’s Boards of Trustees to seriously consider investing in the structures and salaries to support expanded early childhood programs. The experience of schools with success in this area is that the early childhood center provides a valuable community service while also generating significant positive cash flow that can be invested elsewhere in the school. The program also is responsible for allowing the school to fill its first grade classes almost entirely with internal candidates, creating a stable group of families well versed in the perspectives of Waldorf education for the grade school program.
What are the key elements of the philosophy that informs your policies, practices and procedures in the area of enrollment outreach and promotion?
Be concise in your presentation. Hit the key points and present the essence of Waldorf education. Avoid jargon that outsiders wouldn’t understand.
Find issues that are of keen interest to parents of school age children, and use these as a key focus of the ad.
Be honest and clear about what the school offers. Remember what it was like to not know about Waldorf education, and try to focus on the elements that might have been important to you then. Some parents may be excited by the art and music aspects of the program while others may require after school care from any school they might consider.
Try to cast your net as wide as possible. Even with a limited budget the school tries to participate in as many vehicles as possible rather than focusing all of its resources in just one magazine or promotional vehicle.
The key is to focus on early childhood education for parents and to offer a nursery program for the young child. The earlier that parents are exposed to Waldorf education the more certain it is that they will enroll at the school.
Having a playgroup for parents with very young children is a key.
Once a month the parents in the playgroup program attend a parent education meeting to learn more about child development and education from a Waldorf perspective. Parents of very young children are very open to learning about parenting issues, and have been very interested in the material presented.
It is also helpful to build relationships with local preschools so that families are aware of and likely to transition to the Waldorf school.
It is critical to get prospective parents onto the campus. Once they are here, the students and the program sell the school. For this reason the school does not make applications available online or by mail; parents must come on campus to receive an application.
Plan events that get people on campus! It is important for people to see the school for themselves, and to have an opportunity to speak directly to teachers.
Get people to the campus for a visit!
The school works to be very clear and forthright about what it believes and how it approaches education and the developing child. It is also very strict about its expectations for enrolling families, which has transformed the quality of the parents who are attracted to the school.
The tuition adjustment program at the school has been a positive factor in building full enrollment. It has allowed the school to bring its interest in the Three Fold Social order into its economic processes, and has inspired both those who receive and those who support tuition adjustment.
The school has great word of mouth, which is part of the reason promotional dollars can now be redirected toward development.
Engage your parents in the word of mouth process.
Feature alumni in your newsletters.
Don’t forget internal marketing.
The school tracks inquiries very carefully. The information is maintained in a computerized data base. Track what is working and adjust promotional funding and placement accordingly. Keep good information and use it!
Know your stats - who is applying from where and when do they call. Study how people find you.
Have a warm, interested person to answer the phones, and be sure you have great promotional materials ready to send to people. They should be well designed, contain pictures, and describe the school and its emphasis well.
The Walk Through the Grades is another key event in building enrollment. It makes it possible for parents to get a real experience of what Waldorf education is all about, and makes it easy for people to see if the school is right for them and their child.
In the past the Walk Through the Grades was open to current parents. It was a very effective retention tool. As the Walk Through events are now filled with prospective parents the school has stopped this practice, but has created Curriculum Evenings for current parents.
It is important for schools to find free marketing opportunities. Events like the Park Cleanup are relatively inexpensive, but get the school’s name out and build awareness in the community. The school’s May Faire also gets listed in the promotional material for the county’s month long Imagination Celebration event. City Hall loves art exhibits, and the school has displayed the students’ work there and in local art museums several times. All of these events are free or low cost; they just require volunteers and staff members to get out and schmooze with members of the community to identify and take advantage of appropriate opportunities.
It is important to explain how each stage of the curriculum prepares the child for the next stage of learning.
The school does not specifically market to fill openings in the upper grades, even though many schools in the area end their program after fifth grade.
Be very clear as to your niche and who you want to fill it.
Create a budget just for marketing and outreach. Spend money on quality materials.
What is particularly effective in your work relative to enrollment outreach and promotion?
We have beautiful high quality materials.
The Walk Through the Grades is very effective.
We have a clear process for responding to inquiries.
Having a person devoted to off campus promotion has built school awareness, as has the focus of having events that bring people on campus for non-enrollment oriented events. Shows of student art work, performances by students and events like the Pumpkin Patch are all great ways of sharing what is going well at the school.
The physical layout of the campus is peaceful and beautiful. This is very attractive to parents, and stands in real contrast to what they have seen at other schools and institutions.
The play group program and the parent education part of this have been critical factors in our successful enrollment work.
The web site is generating lots of inquiries with some enrollment. But most of the actual enrollment is from word of mouth. The tracking system at the school allows adjustments to be made in where the school invests its limited promotional dollars.
The school has great word of mouth from its satisfied parents, and works hard to ensure that a positive feeling exists in the community and that parents will be eager to tell their friends about the school. Involved, committed parents are the most effective means of promoting the school.
The school has identified publications that seem to garner quite a few inquiries. This is possible because the school has strong tracking mechanisms for measuring ad responses.
The open houses and other events that bring people on campus are the most important. The prospect list receives mailings inviting them to class plays and other events at the school that might apply to inquiring families.
If you could change any aspect of your enrollment outreach and promotion program, what would it be and why?
It would be great to add an open house program for the grade school. The programs for the early childhood and the high school programs have been helpful, and it would be valuable to add a program here.
Additional advertising dollars would be helpful, allowing the school to experiment further with various promotional vehicles.
The school is considering eliminating its weekly tours, and substituting a monthly Walk Through the Grades. The time of the tours will also be changed to occur during main lesson, rather than later in the day.
The focus of the school’s promotion effort will likely shift from being purely enrollment related to one of general awareness of the school and Waldorf education.
The school’s outreach program continues to change and evolve as the school matures. There is a real emphasis on seeing what is effective and changing things that aren’t working. The challenge is not to get too comfortable and assume that things will continue without conscious work and attention.
The school’s web site is being revised.
The events are all under review to see if they can be updated to better answer parents’ questions, and to explain more clearly the developmental aspects of the education.
The administrator would love to have more opportunities for speaking engagements in the community.
It would be great to have more hours funded for marketing and enrollment work.