Learn How to Raise Charter School Community Support, Engagement, and Awareness
The point of your charter school is, of course, to provide a quality education for your students. But if families don’t know about your school, you’ll have trouble meeting your enrollment targets. Aim high! Charter school community awareness should be developed and nurtured in such a way as to open each school year with a wait list. It’s a simple metric, but it’s a great way to show the world at large that parents believe in you and that students want to attend your school. For new schools and mature schools alike, the ultimate goals are to have a wait list before you open your doors each school year and to become an integral part of the fabric of your community.
To accomplish these goals, you’ll want to:
- Create awareness among your community and make friends and allies with business leaders, vendors, and community groups. You’ll build valuable relationships—and share your mission with hundreds of parents.
- Create a strategic plan for growing community support, including milestones and benchmarks. For this, don’t start from scratch—tap into your founding team, community members, or volunteers who have marketing expertise.
Six Actionable Ways to Build Charter School Community Engagement
Getting engaged with your community (both in person and online) will provide valuable opportunities to let your community meet and get to know not only your school’s staff and students, but also your school’s culture, values, and mission. You can have a great school, with an innovative curriculum and the most dedicated staff in the world, but if nobody knows about it, enrollment will suffer. Here are six actionable ways you can build strong community engagement:
Community Events: A consistent presence at community events, such as farmer’s markets, seasonal festivals, holiday parades, and cultural and arts events. This may include a table or a booth—but be creative; the goal is to stand out.
Social Media: Draw on the expertise of a founder or volunteer who does this full-time. Facebook and Instagram are great ways to engage the community, but only if you have regular, engaging, and sustained updates.
Informational Meetings: Provide regularly scheduled informational meetings for parents to learn about your mission and vision. If you don’t yet have facilities, consider using meeting rooms at your district office or reserving free spaces at a library or community center. Provide webinars and in-person presentations at different times of day to cater to working parents.
Business Outreach: Be sure to reach out to the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Clubs. It’s never too early to build strong relationships with members of your business community.
Facility Tours: Once you have a school, conduct frequent tours to show the public what they’re supporting.
Public Relations: Tell your story to anyone who will listen including local news, podcasts, bloggers, and well-connected community leaders. You’ll build goodwill and reach parents who may not have previously considered a charter school for their children.
Take action! Create a strategic plan to implement these six tips for engaging your community—and get the dates on the calendar now—because everything you do to share your story helps!
Three Best Practices for Building Charter School Community Awareness
- Consider speaking for free at events such as Rotary Club meetings and community groups—it’s a great way to give back to the community even as you create allies and position yourself as an expert.
- Use every opportunity to share meaningful stories and demonstrate improvement through metrics in order to continue to build goodwill in your community and spread your message.
- Don’t hesitate to promote the ways that your students and staff are giving back! Share their efforts on your website, the school newspaper, and with local media.
How to Build Charter School Community Support
Support your community and your community will be more inclined to support you back! So how do you build community support? As your charter school continues to mature, you’ll have the opportunity to become a cornerstone and leader in business, arts, and civic organizations. Here are some key questions to ask:
- How can your students play a prominent role in the community? Think about school-wide volunteer days, food and clothing drives, or hosting a talent show that showcases your students and raises funds for a local hospital or shelter—and generates positive local media coverage.
- How can you position your staff as community leaders in addition to expert educators?
- Can teachers present at local meetings or conferences?If your school has extracurricular clubs, how can they give back to the community? Volunteering is a great way to demonstrate your values as a school and to authentically share your story.
Ultimately, community support means more than having a strong turnout at authorization hearings, though that’s important, too. It also means having strong relationships with business leaders, vendors, community groups, local media, and other charter schools.
If all goes well, you’ll be operating in your community for decades to come, and you’ll need your neighbors behind you every step of the way—including well before it comes time for authorization hearings.