Recruitment, Retention and New Parent Orientation
by Gerry Ebbers, SCSBC Consultant for Stewardship and Development ◊
This is the time of year to review your recruitment and retention procedures so that your programs will be in full swing when they should be in the spring. And if you have not already done your orientation for new parents, then this is a good time to plan it for next year.
I phoned one of our schools this summer (a school that is experiencing a decrease in enrolment) and got a voice message that told me when the school would be open in late August. There was no opportunity to leave a message, and there was no information on how a parent could enroll their child for the new school year. Board members: phone your school at different times throughout the year and listen as if you were a prospective parent. Not only do schools need to facilitate enquiries, but they need to have staff available throughout the summer to respond to enquiries while the interest is there. Rule of thumb: Every phone message needs to be responded to within a day of receiving it.
So you recruit enough students every year to replace those that graduate, but your enrolment is still decreasing: you’re failing to retain the students you have. Do you know why? Find out by doing exit interviews of those parents and students who are leaving. Do a survey of current parents and students to find out what they like and don’t like. Discuss the results and plan the necessary changes. There may be things you can’t do, like add a program that is financially unsustainable. But there may be little things that can make a big difference, like adding some soft seating so that students have a place to hang out at the school. Some changes may require decisive action, such as letting a staff member go who is just not the right person for the position.
New Parent Orientation
Explaining Christian education to new parents starts with the tour through the school and continues in the interview process. But it can’t stop there. New parents need to be matched with existing parents who will walk them through the first semester and address all the concerns that will surface. Best practice is to hold one or two good orientation sessions at the beginning of the new school year. Then ensure that new parents are involved in the school, rubbing shoulders with the veterans.
Obviously there is much more that needs to be done in each of these areas. If your school has a development director, then he or she probably has a whole program in place to recruit new students, retain your existing students and orient new parents. The role of the board is to support these programs and ensure that other issues are not being counter-productive. If your school needs additional support with any of these important areas, please get in touch with me so that we can get together to strategize some initiatives.