How to Create An Annual Recruitment Plan & BudgetGone are the days of just relying on constituent churches to funnel kids and donations into your school. Today, you need to be actively marketing yourself to your community.
Creating a marketing plan to increase your school's enrollment is no easy task. Your title might be Principal or Marketing Director, and you might be the point person at the end of the day, but it's going to require team effort and some real conversations about your school's current status and growth goals to see an impact with your marketing efforts. Here are the basic steps we recommend as you get started creating your annual recruitment plan.
1. Recruit an enrollment team
There is simply too much to do in overlapping areas for one person to manage successfully. Under your guidance, your enrollment team should focus on growth and rally together to identify and reach your goals. Creating a group not only gives you additional wisdom, but it helps foster a creative environment where feedback is encouraged, new ideas are explored, and internal communication increases. (When people feel heard and they believe their opinions matter, you'll likely see more engagement on the frontlines of your enrollment efforts, too.)
Aim to meet once a month as you look at your current state and define your goals, and then perhaps switch to quarterly once you get into a good rhythm where you are developing strategies and putting them into action.
2. Define Your Mission & Ideal Student Goals
Understanding your school's mission and core values will help you stay focused on what is important to you as you explore ways to bring awareness of your school to your community. Stay true to who you are and the values you represent, and reflect that in your efforts. (If part of your core values are "engaging young minds in both faith and science", try hosting an event that brings in a creation science demonstration with real fossils for kids to see and touch and advertise it as a free event for the community.)
Determining your ideal student diversity (think Adventist vs. Non-Adventist as well as athletes, minorities, constituent, non-constitent, etc.) will help you know which subpopulations to target in your surrounding churches and in your community to help you reach your goals. Diversity here is key. You should be aiming for a mix of student subpopulations. This will protect you from a drop off in admissions if you take a hit from one subpopulation, plus diversity is good for your students. Adam Brown, Dean of Student Success at Kettering College says, "Heaven is going to be very diverse, why not start practicing now?" Students develop better social skills when they are exposed to more cultural diversity, so consider what you can do to help facilitate this aspect of student life on your campus.
(See the downloads section below for a blank Enrollment Data sheet you can use to help you define your goals.)
3. Review Your Current Status & Enrollment Data
Start by honestly assessing and identifying your strengths and weaknesses before you look for opportunities to grow. This will also help you identify some roadblocks early on that might come up as you work toward your goals throughout the year.
Brainstorm as a team and identify your strengths and perhaps some weaknesses. (Write them down on a piece of paper, or download the free documents at the bottom of this page to get a blank SWOT template.) Knowing what you now know about your school's strengths and weaknesses, think about some opportunities to utilize those strengths, and maybe not highlight the weakness (make sure you work on improving them internally, though). By the end of this review, you should have several items and you will start to get some ideas. For example:
A Strength: Teacher student ratios are low, offering more one-on-one time for students in the classroom.
A Weaknesses: Some lower grades are grouped together due to staffing challenges over the last few years, so this strength only applies to higher grades.
Presents an Opportunity: Host community events geared toward recruiting younger grades so you can potentially hire 1 more teacher.
Then look for what could get in the way of this opportunity. You don't have to think of every worst case scenario, but maybe list out some potential roadblocks or conditions that could impact the success of the opportunity. (For example: hosting a community event outside might be impacted by weather, so it should probably be indoors if hosting in winter or early spring. Can your campus facilitate this?)
(See the downloads section below for a blank analysis sheet you can use during your assessment.)
4. Plan to do several things throughout the year
Look at your analysis and then write down some ideas for your key recruitment strategies. We've started a list for you, and left room for you to add some of your own ideas. You don't have to do everything, but don't give in to the temptation to throw all your eggs in one single basket and hope for the best. (Just doing one mailing, or running one open house event won't cut it.) Different efforts will reach different audiences, and one single effort won't have a lasting return. It is important that you stay focused on what is achievable, but identify several good ideas that could directly impact your enrollment trends. By focusing on a few things you'll be able to give a concentrated effort without getting overwhelmed.
Grow My School is powered by SermonView Evangelism Marketing. We take a multi-touch approach when helping both schools and churches reach their community by running a mix of different types of advertising such as social media ads, printed mailers, and outdoor signage. If one of your marketing efforts is an event, decide how you want to advertise it and choose several ways to get the word out about it.
Also, think about what can you handle vs. what you should get outside help with. If one of your ideas is to run a year-long YouTube branding campaign to build awareness of your school in your community, you will want to record your own videos to get your face and school out there, but you might need to hire someone else to edit the videos and manage your ad campaigns. (If this idea sounds intriguing, we can help!)
(See the downloads section below for Key Recruitment Strategies you can refer to while planning your marketing strategies.)
5. Set a budget and action plan
Some of your marketing strategies may require more volunteers than funding, while others might take barely any effort by your team, but might have a higher financial cost. Writing out a game plan that includes all the requirements to get it done will help everyone get on the same page and allows you to start delegating and shopping.
If a marketing strategy will take more volunteer work than funding, pass it off to another team member or a small group to own the tasks. They can handle recruiting staff and even students to help too, which will allow you to focus on managing the rest of your marketing efforts.
Your marketing strategies that require funds will most likely need to go through an approval process. Get that started sooner rather than later, and provide documentation that shows exactly how the funds are to be used to help make your pitch easier, and increase the likelihood of it getting approved.
(See the downloads section below for a blank Recruitment Strategy Action Plan you can use as a template for planning how you are going to execute each of your recruitment strategies.)
6. Don't be afraid to ask for additional funding
You can work with your local constituent church, individual donors, or go directly to your conference to get some or all of the costs subsidized. It's easier to get funds if you can show exactly how much you need and how you plan to use the funds responsibly. Once you have a strategic document showing your goals, methods, and budget, don't be afraid to ask for help, you might be surprised by the response!
If you choose to work with Grow My School, we can get you a detailed quote that will show exactly how your budget will be used throughout the year. You can take this directly to your donor or conference (along with the board packet!) to demonstrate goodwill towards their financial contribution.
7. Get moving!
Planning takes time and effort, so don't wait to get started. You might not be able to do everything on your initial plan documents, but you can make great headway in the first year, and have half the work will be done for the following year. By continually assessing your values and goals as well as giving yourself an honest review, you'll be able to look back within a few years and see just how much your efforts have blessed your community and built up your school.
We've compiled documents that you can download for free to start creating your own marketing plan. Click here to automatically download the full collection.
Marketing Mindset is a resource for Adventist schools in Northern California, and beyond. Click here to go to their site and see what will work for your school.
Grow My School offers a wide variety of marketing resources, from social media ads on platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram to printed resources like banners and family recruitment packets. If you'd like help increasing your community's awareness of your school, click the link below to connect with our team and get a free estimate and informational board packet to take to your next team meeting.