By Trevor Waddington, Principal, Truth Tree
Unless your early-age educators are warming bottles and/or changing diapers, there’s a likelihood that you have schools or childcare centers that feed into yours.
Feeder school relationships develop and thrive for different reasons.
- Little or no overlap in ages/grades served
- Proximity to your school
- Philosophical/religious similarities
- And others
When I was in your shoes, I enjoyed cultivating relationships with feeder schools. In addition to making a connection that could help my school, it was a compelling way to glean valuable marketing research. The perceptions of feeder school officials can be the reality for families looking for next-level placement recommendations.
One way to win over feeder school folks and their graduating parents is to provide unique opportunities to interact with them.
So what might work best for you?
I asked colleagues to chime in and included a few of my own tactics along the way.
Chris Pryor, Assistant Head of School for Advancement and External Affairs, Congressional School
Years ago, I drove a bus to pick up feeder school students and transport them back to campus for a special visit day. ? I also created admission posters featuring feeder school alumni to promote our open houses.
Theresa Kiernan, Director of Advancement and Admissions, Trinity Hall
Our time-tested strategy is engaging students from the sending schools with our current students who graduated from that school. Our students sell our school so beautifully and have continued to do so during this virtual time. Although a student panel via Zoom is not as exciting as an in-person student panel or private tour, the connection is what matters.
Bill Diskin, Director of Admission and Financial Aid, Cannon School
If you are a high school, take recent feeder school alumni to the area high school information fair. They’ll be friendly faces and rockstars at your table.
Liz Yee, Former Director of Enrollment and Marketing, Lowell School, and current Director of Innovation, Truth Tree Plan an exclusive admissions event just for the feeder school’s graduates. They (and their parents) will enjoy the opportunity to see your school in action together. Ensure that feeder school’s alumni (your current students) are in attendance (kids and parents) and can share about their transition after graduation. Work with the feeder school’s leadership to tailor the program to the graduates’ interests and needs.
Use any program or facility changes to engage with feeder school leadership. Host an “insiders’ peek” at your school so that they can learn more about what’s new (and then share it with their soon-to-be graduates).
Here are a few tactics that helped me “feed” my former employers’ funnel.
1. Alumni Newsletter with a Twist – I can’t take credit for this idea, and it was one of the most successful tactics. Chris Pryor (who provided a great example at the top) was presenting at a conference I attended years ago. He suggested creating an alumni newsletter about feeder school grads and send it them. I took that idea and ran with it.
Each month, I repurposed the most valuable articles from the most recent internal e-newsletter and sent them to our feeder schools. I made sure each piece had at least one recipient schools’ alum mentioned and pictured (when available) throughout.
E.g., Jim Shorts and Julie Rhee, members of Truth Tree Academy’s Class of 2019, and the rest of the 6th-grade class…[continue the article as written]. Also, it never hurts to include a quote or two from those beloved feeder school alums.
2. Holiday Cheer – I spend most of my years working in Episcopal schools. For many Christian families, it was a natural transition to look in our direction. To strengthen those relationships, and with a little coordination with the school admins, I hand-delivered free Christmas Trees in a Santa costume to 3 area Christian feeder schools. After year one, it became a welcomed tradition each December. P.S. – I also handed out candy canes. I wish I had a picture of that!
3. Be Our Guest – Before open house season, I would schedule events at our campus. They would range from a Mad Science show to a children’s musical performed by our students (lots of arm twisting and extra lunch duties, but it is worth it). We would have a little display and subtle sign advertising upcoming admission events. For the most part, these events were for brand awareness, and they worked well.