Have you ever received a prize from work for referring one of your friends to apply and they actually got the job? Or if you invite a friend to like a company’s Facebook page, then you receive $10? Why do you think companies provide these incentives? Because they want more people like you.
Today, we see multiple companies implement an Employee Referral Program because they are an extremely effective way to find top quality candidates, without a whole lot of overhead. We are hearing more and more discussion from independent and private schools admissions offices, requesting steps to create a successful parent advocate program to recruit prospective families.
But, what exactly is a parent advocate program?
A parent advocate program is when you empower your current parents to speak on your behalf, share your school’s success stories and invite other families to learn more. Luckily, there are many resources out there to help get you started.
This first step is probably the most time consuming and boring thing you will have to do, but trust us you need data. Here are a few data points you need to be tracking, let’s walk through them:
- Percentage of referrals – how many inquiries, applications, and enrollees came from referrals? From this data, you can see if there is a trend and if the same parents are referring students who are a good fit.
- Demographic and psychographic data – gathering this data from your applications gives you an idea of how to segment your applicant pool and have your parent advisory committee help reach those specific groups of students (we will talk more about this later under divide and conquer).
- Conversion percentages – know your funnel. You need this data to determine what your gaps are and easily set your goals.
Once you have this data, you can start to identify who your best parents are. Meaning…who are the ones referring “good” students to your school, that can help you fill gaps in your enrollment numbers or your funnel. Find those parents who that are super involved and love your school.
Create a Parent Advisory Committee (PAC)
There are three crucial parts here… gather, schedule, and train. GATHER your parents. You have your data together, right? Using that data, learn who your top “recruiters” are and connect with 6-8 parents and invite them to be on your PAC. We don’t recommend having a sign-up sheet at this point, some parents will be better equipped to find quality candidates than others. SCHEDULE and plan times to meet each month. TRAIN your newly selected parents on how to communicate your school’s story from their point of view, and to focus on the families that are a right fit for your school and best to refer.
Divide & Conquer
You still have the data you collected, correct? Okay just double checking. When you look at your data you should understand what your gaps are (not enough students in a specific grade or students interested in fine arts, low conversion from inquiry to an applicant, etc.). Delegate your parents to focus on those gaps, group them by their expertise (social media, blogs, event planner, etc.) and have them do what they do best and share your awesome school with their friends and family.
Say Thank You
Incentives can be tricky. We are not saying don’t give out prizes to your families, but just remember we cannot buy love. So as you think of incentives make sure that you have rules in place and think through the entire process (good, bad, if, and’s, buts – you get the picture). In our recent webinar on this topic, How Raving Parents will Drive Enrollment Goals, we had some schools mention they do a large dinner at the end of each semester to show their gratitude, another school writes a detailed thank you note with a gift card, and years ago, we spoke to another school that each time a parent refers another family to their school (and they ultimately enrolls) that parent gets a cash prize. There are many great options, you just need to decide what is good for your school and your PAC.
Always Analyze & Revise
What can be improved? How are we building loyal families? Set goals around participation and referrals received and measure your return on investment. Review referrals of previous years to see which were best and why. Then modify your program accordingly and as needed.
Any time you implement something new into your process just know it takes time to gather the right data and start getting results. Do not be discouraged when you’re not getting immediate returns, it will take time. Keep tracking data, keep encouraging your parent advisory committee and keep adjusting your program. You got this.
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