Some schools have been merging the functions of marketing and development at a leadership level, typically appointing Directors of Development & Marketing or Directors of External Relations with a team covering Alumni Relations, Marketing and Fundraising.
Smaller schools may not be able to commit to such a structure and one person is often hired to perform all functions. It is more common now for international schools to have a Marketing office while only some are operating or contemplating a Development office.
Development – isn’t that just fundraising and what has it got to do with Marketing?
Development is much more than simply fundraising. A development programme that integrates alumni relations and marketing with a broad fundraising mix, will create and sustain a fundraising culture in the school.
In the past, fundraising in schools was centred on periodic appeals and very little relationship building. Little relevance was placed on the benefits of regular contact with the wider school community and nurturing the wealth of talent that lay within. Now we see the real marketing benefits because of these ongoing links. Schools around the world that have a successful and ongoing fundraising programme, invariably have a major commitment to alumni, parent & community relations.
Marketing – what are we really talking about?
We know that marketing is much more, for example, than simply a good website, social media, advertising and PR! It is everything the school can do that will help generate the constant demand for pupil places. The list is extensive and includes such things as:
- Effective and respected Leadership & Governance
- Good academic results & performances
- Happy children, happy parents, happy staff and positive word of mouth promotion
- Research, follow up & a focus on conversion of enquiry to visit to registration
- Crisis management
- Appearance of the school
- Appearance & manners of pupils
- First impressions for visitors
- Public performances
- Alumni links and activity
- Corporate and community relations
Why should Development be linked to all this?
The importance in any business of acknowledging the value of existing clients is just as profound in schools, where word of mouth is a critical marketing factor. An important aspect is the school’s relationship with alumni. Former pupils are walking advertisements for the school throughout the world, and maintaining close links will greatly help to promote and increase awareness of the school. The advantages provided by an effective programme include access to an alumni network with unlimited expertise, work experience opportunities, career and university advice and ongoing advice and support for development projects.
Development & Marketing have the same goal – the sustained prosperity of the school; through enrolments and community support. Schools build relationships with prospective, then current families, past pupils and their families and potential donors. Some other benefits of an integrated structure include:
- The success of alumni can help promote the school; ex-pupil news can be a good PR story for the school.
- A school museum and archive provides an interesting historical record of the school and can enthuse potential families to join.
- The development of new facilities offer a positive marketing message.
- A former parents association, often linked to the Development office comprises those members who are keen to help and promote the school and happy to support development initiatives.
- Corporate links within the school and local community provide good promotion and potential for sponsorship support.
- Commercial letting of facilities is an excellent form of promotion and non-fee income source.
All aspects show progress and ambition: just what prospective families want to see!
What about events? The Development office is usually at the centre of organising school events; bringing together different members of the school community. Combined events for parents and alumni are great community builders, especially when schools have special gatherings in other locations. Guests will often bring friends, not necessarily connected to the school but hopefully happy to ‘spread the word’. A good community event may also focus on raising funds to benefit an aspect of the school.
In summary, the critical factor that will determine sustained development success (and constant demand for pupil places) is the performance and reputation of the school. It must be doing well to create the interest, enthusiasm and support, that both Marketing and Development need. Whatever stage your Marketing and Development activity is at, it will be enhanced by a coordinated effort with both functions working in an integrated way.
Ian McLean, firstname.lastname@example.org