K12 schools are always an integral part of the communities they’re in. When it comes time to renovate or expand school buildings, the community is often the primary source of funding through a bond measure.
As we’ve helped dozens of school districts with projects over the years, the most successful have one thing in common: long before a bond measure is put to a vote, the school has been consistently communicating and engaging with the community.
Easy Ways to Maintain Communication with the Community
There are several ways schools can keep in contact with the greater community around them. The most obvious way is to engage with your local media—not just when you have “big news” from the school, but on a regular basis.
Use the Media
Having a regular column in the local newspaper (in print and online) that keeps the community up to date about what’s happening at the school. Likewise, local radio stations can be huge supporters of the schools in your community and are a great place for regular communication.
Broaden the Reach of Your School Website
While a school district’s website is primarily for the students who attend the school and their parents, it can also be a great tool for sharing news and information about the school.
Having a blog where you post regularly not only gives those NOT directly connected to the school a reason to come to your site, but it can boost your Google Search results when people are looking for information on your school ahead of or during a bond measure vote. Posting at least twice a month grows communication exponentially.
Leverage Social Media
Of course you should use the school’s social media accounts to share updates relevant to parents and students, but be sure to also share updates relevant to the community. Be sure to tag organizations that use the school, or those who may be interested in your updates for broader reach.
Also look to leverage other social media accounts from your city government, recreation department, and others in the community that utilize school facilities or have an interest in what’s going on at the school.
Most importantly, encourage your staff to share updates from the school.
We experience social media as individuals within a circle of other individuals. Someone who doesn’t follow your social accounts may be friends with one of your faculty or staff, so the more they share relevant updates from the school, the better the community visibility of your posts will be.
Engage Through Events
One of the best ways to engage the community is by getting them physically to your school. During bond measures, we often hear comments like, “I didn’t realize how badly the auditorium needed a renovation until I attended a community event there.”
Hosting community events at the school is a great way to get engagement, especially from those who don’t have children in the school. It helps them see the facility for themselves and understand firsthand what may need to be updated or expanded.
Additionally, sporting events are a fantastic way to engage your community. Everyone loves a winning team and rallying the community around your school is a fantastic way to get people with children in your school and those who don’t have children in your school to care about your facilities and programs.
Find Your Advocates and Keep them Informed
Companies across the world leverage brand advocates to tell their story—often times better than the brand can tell it themselves. The same can be true of school districts. It’s important to identify those champions of the school long before you need to ask for funds for improvements.
Whether they are parents, business people, community leaders, or government officials, your advocates and thought leaders will tell your story with tremendous credibility to their circles. Your job is to ensure they have the right information about the school and that you’re all working toward the same goal.
Setting up a private Facebook group or special email list for your advocates to regularly share information helps them understand your needs and discuss them with their friends, coworkers and others—and build broader advocacy for your school.