Charters are born from the dream of offering a choice, an alternative to standard education options. While the topic of these schools continues to be a divisive and challenging nationwide, I love the unique characteristics of each school and the level of autonomy in decision-making for school leaders.
Working with charters is much like working with an innovative new tech startup company. The presentation of the message, aesthetics, form, and function are all things to consider. As I outline in my book, “Build A Strong Charter School Brand,” charters are presented with the simultaneous tasks of enrolling students, recruiting high-quality teachers and staff, and increasing fundraising efforts.
But the topic of “branding” and marketing is something that is often overlooked by school leadership, and it’s understandable. Day-to-day tasks of managing and running an effective place for children to learn and grow is a tall order. But branding plays a huge role in the success both now and long-term for every school.
At Proof, we tackle a variety of challenges in presenting creative solutions and opportunities. But there are a few key themes that are always in-focus:
Consistency across your team is key.
How you talk about your school — your mission, vision, elevator “pitch,” and even your values and beliefs — is understandably important. These are integral components of your brand. But it will do more harm than good if they’re communicated in different ways by different people in your organization.
Step one: Send out an internal memo that includes your school’s mission, vision, and core values. Ask everyone on your team to put it somewhere in their classroom or office so they can reference it daily.
Be tangible when communicating your fundraising goals.
A consistency across education and nonprofit clients is a lack of tangibility in fundraising. If you’re asking parents, donors, and the community to support you, it’s imperative that they know where that money is going. Budgets are tricky to navigate, and often citing where a dollar goes is impossible, but be as transparent as possible.
Step one: Take a look at your website’s “donate” webpage or donation materials. Is your ask general or specific? Is it clear where money is being allocated and what it is supporting? If you can’t get that specific, try things like “$100 will pay for one student’s lunch for an entire year.” You may not need to specify exactly where those dollars go, but giving a point of reference will enhance your fundraising efforts.
Be transparent with your school’s culture.
Ah, transparency. This is the sweet nectar of the branding world. Transparency is something we champion here at Proof. Client’s know everyone by name. We show what we’re up to on Instagram and Facebook. We even wrote an entire Playbook that we share with everyone who wants to learn more about what we do and how we work.
For your school, transparency is important and has benefits on a variety of levels. When parents feel like they know the teachers, they’re more likely to enroll their students. When teachers feel like they know the school’s leadership, they’re more likely to apply. When the community feels like know the school’s story and message, they’re more likely to support its growth.
Step one: Ask a parent, a teacher, and a donor how they would describe your school’s culture. Where do you find similarities? Where are there differences? Seek common ground and use that when you’re thinking about how the world perceives your school’s brand.
A strong brand is a valuable and important tool to increasing funding, securing talent, and bolstering enrollment. What story are you telling and what brand are you creating?
If my team and I can help in building a stronger brand for your school, we would love to help. Head over here and learn more about our work with schools.