This is a guest post by Rhea O’Connor, Sr. Marketing Manager for Peachjar’s K-12 segment.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that your parents are online. In fact, mothers spend an average of 3.5 hours per day online. Parents, in general, spend 75% more time online shopping vs. non-parents. If you aren’t meeting parents where they’re at, you’re missing a tremendous opportunity to get your parents more involved with your school. We’ve put together some tips on how you can get parents more involved utilizing digital engagement techniques.

Tip #1: Replace paper communication with emails

In the age of digital communication, it’s essential to start migrating from paper to digital. It’s how parents expect to get their information, and according to Blackboard’s 2016 survey, an email notification is how 81% of parents prefer to get information from their child’s school. First, ensure that you are setting your school up for email success You can do so by utilizing online student registration; most student information systems offer their own, or you can create a form with a free tool like Google Forms. If you already have online booking capabilities, ensure that email is a required field. Another great resource for email addresses are your teachers. Teachers often have their parent’s email addresses, but more often than not, those emails never make it into the SIS. Communicate with teachers about the importance of these emails, and allow a path for them to easily submit those to their school office for inclusion in your district’s SIS.

Tip #2: Move registration & payment online

Online registration for programs and events is complementary to your digital engagement plan. Paper registration may require a parent to print your form and then mail it with a check. Many of the items required for that transaction no longer exist in households, for example – printers, mailing supplies, and checkbooks are all becoming things of the past. There are other benefits to online registration, it reduces human error and administrative burden, plus it’s proven to increase sign-ups and payment amounts.

Tip #3: Highlight opportunities on your website

Now that you have your online registration, share it. Your website is a great place to showcase parent contributions as a way to encourage more parents to participate. Share success stories and include upcoming events with a link to register. Most importantly, make all of this information easy to find – parents won’t dig too deep to find facts. If you aren’t able to have them on your homepage, include a link to your events from the homepage.

Tip #4: Engage on social media

79% of parents who use social media do so to get useful information, so make sure yours is front and center. Use Facebook to add your upcoming events with a link to register, and encourage parents to mark “interested.”By doing this, the post will share with their friends as well. Additionally, consider sharing a video of last year’s event on your page to get parents excited about participating in this year’s. Lastly, try to interact with parents as much as possible. Commenting and liking their posts and responding to their inquiries will go a long way in how parents view your school’s interest in them as individuals.

Tip #5: Refine your emails

Mass emails are great if you want to reach a large group, but make sure you are also sending more personalized emails. For example, send a personal email to someone who volunteered for a previous event, compliment his or her past contributions, then ask about interest for an upcoming occasion. Also think about how you can pair a parent’s expertise with opportunities, for example, asking a parent who works in marketing to help out with the newsletter.

Tip #6: Survey Parents

The best way to figure out if you are offering opportunities that are of interest is to ask. You can use Blackboard’s survey tool, and include questions like: “Rate the following volunteer opportunities from highest to lowest interest” and “Which volunteer activities would you like to see in your school?” Share the results with your parents and make sure you implement their suggestions. Your parents will feel more connected to your school and its mission when their comments and suggestions are listened to and acted upon. When parents have their comments and suggestions listened to and acted upon,  they will feel more connected to your school and its mission.

Tip #7: Digitize marketing materials

If you aren’t already using a digital flyer management system, consider making the switch – pairing your digital registration with digital flyers will increase your chances of getting parents to take action. Through Peachjar, you can include a call to action (CTA) button like “Sign Up Now” and “Donate Now.” CTA buttons makes it even easier for parents to get involved, since they can simply click to take action from their mobile or desktop.

The takeaway? Create multiple touch points where you can ask parents for their participation in school activities. By moving your sign-ups online, you can drive parents to them on your website, social media pages, via email and by a digital flyer. Contact us if you’re interested in learning more.  

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