One of the most effective ways to recruit new students is by partnering with local preschools. That’s probably not news to anyone who’s done recruitment. Unfortunately, preschool engagement often resembles a group of toddlers building a snowman: a flurry of activity without much to show for it (Seriously, that kid's totally exhausted, and I don't see a snowman).
An effective strategy to building long-term preschool partnerships relies on 3 key elements.
Effective outreach covers a wide range of organizations, but you want to spend most of your time where it will have the largest impact. Many cities have online resources with information on preschool centers, but you can't beat hitting the streets to understand the preschools in your area. Plus it gives you an excuse to drop in and introduce yourself.
Once you’ve built a list of potential partners, prioritize them into 3 groups based on:
- Size – How many children (especially in prekindergarten) do they serve?
- Quality – What ratings or reputation does the organization have in the community?
- Location – How close are they to your school? Do they offer transportation?
- Relationship – How friendly and open is their leadership to partnering?
Develop a set of engagement activities ranked by the amount your time, effort, and energy needed to complete them. For example:
- K for a Day - To show families (and staff!) how amazing your school is first-hand
- Director’s Visits – To get to know staff, their priorities, and how you can partner
- Graduation Sponsorships - To support the preschool and talk to families
- Parent Meetings - To describe your school to a receptive audience
- Information Tables - To meet families during drop-off or pick-up
- Drop-Ins - To drop off literature and say hello to staff (bi-weekly or monthly)
Set an engagement activity goal for each preschool based on their priority level. You plan the basic engagement activities -- Drop-Ins and Info Tables -- for all preschools. More time and labor-intensive activities (Director’s Visits and K for a Days) should be reserved only for the highest-priority preschools, based on their size, quality, location, relationship. Setting annual and monthly engagement goals for each preschool is critical to keeping your engagement plan on track.
It’s too often an afterthought, but tracking your activity is the real secret to the success of this strategy. Regular tracking and reporting ensures all of your preschools are getting regular contact, while reserving your highest leverage activities for your highest priority preschools. It really helps to have a reporting tool, but even a spreadsheet can make a big difference.
For some, this type of “relationship management” might feel disingenuous. It’s important to remember that the objective is to build genuine, long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships. This systematic approach is about changing your own behavior rather than the behavior of the people with whom you are hoping to partner. By prioritizing, planning, and tracking, you can effectively develop lasting relationships with a braod group of preschools while ensuring you spend the most time where it will have the greatest impact.