Strategic Enrollment Dos and Don’ts

by | August 5, 2020

In the book How the Other Half Learns by education writer Robert Pondiscio, he begins a chapter focused on charter school lottery systems by asking the reader to “envision three mothers, identical in race, income, employment and marital status. Each has a four year old due to start school next year.”

Playing that scenario out here, we can imagine that in every community, you will have a mother  who assumes that the only path forward for their child is to attend the neighborhood school where they are zoned. In Pondiscio’s scenario, he describes another mother who has done her research and is hoping her child is selected via the lottery system for a specific, well-established charter school in the area. He also describes a mother who has heard the neighborhood school is not safe and wants a better option for her child. She doesn’t have a specific one in mind, but may apply to other schools she comes across.

Knowledge is indeed power. Strategic enrollment ensures that each of these mothers is given access to more information that will help them to make an informed choice for their family. Too many families are denied opportunity because of lack of exposure, and strategic enrollment is an important way to level the playing field. In Pondiscio’s example, only one mother has a fixed and researched point of view on where her child ought to be educated while the others simply may not have all the information they need.

How are parents currently learning about charter school options for enrollment?

  • “Boots on the ground” approaches where reps approach parents at community fairs, tables at grocery stores and other public events
  • Mass marketing through direct mail pieces or non-targeted approaches such as ads in local print, radio or TV media outlets.

Do these strategies work? To some extent, yes…

  • Face-to-face marketing only reaches a certain number of people, many of whom are already part of the community and already know about your school. Due to COVID-19, face-to-face marketing is less possible and high risk.
  • Print publication readership is decreasing, and the US postal system is often slow and unreliable.
  • Families no longer watch live TV so will often miss commercials.
  • Mass marketing tactics have been proven to be expensive and cast such a wide net, that the return on investment is often disappointing or simply unknown.

Children often end up at a particular school based on circumstance, and without all the information available.

How does strategic enrollment work?

Nearly 80% of US parents report having a social media profile. Today, most Americans spend three hours daily or more online. Strategic enrollment allows your school system to display digital ads that run online (social media, websites and email) using specific targets around grade levels, age ranges, geography and more. Matterlab will pay the upfront costs for these ads, and the school only pays for the applications that come in as a result.

This approach has had proven results and raises awareness among more families who may be open to other options for their child but are simply unaware of the possibilities. It is a valuable addition to a marketing strategy designed to generate awareness when opening a new school or to fill open seats.  Since schools only pay for the applications received, it is a low-risk investment. Contact us to learn more.

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