Reaching out to disengaged parents can be made easier by use of a school notification program. A school notification program utilizes broadcast phone, email and text messaging to reach parents with timely information.
From my discussion with our customers, I have learned that parents tend to fall into three categories – engaged, somewhat engaged and seldom engaged.
School principals know who their engaged parents are -they are the ones who consistently show up for meetings, volunteer their time, submit forms when asked and are always about. These folks, you know by name when you see them. The somewhat engaged are those that infrequently attend functions, and respond to requests but typically late. They volunteer and attend meetings occasionally; you probably recognize them as school parents, but may not know their names. The seldom engaged are those that never show up for meetings, never volunteer, and are habitually late with forms and fulfilling information requests.
To be effective your communication strategies for these groups must be different and to segment your communications to each you will need to segment your parent population. To do this you will need to compile or amend your parent directory with an engagement indicator – like Active, Moderate, Inactive. Once you have done this, you are set to use a targeted communication approach. This is how businesses work their customer lists; much can be learned from business marketing because we are all consumers of something.
Engaged/active parents will respond to just about anything you do. They are well organized and motivated and take time to mark their calendars to attend or respond as requested. All they need is the information and they do the rest. So, for them you can send information well in advance via newsletter, website or email and use of your school notification system will work great with this group. Typically, the more contact the better, because they want to know what’s going on.
Seldom or moderately engaged parents will respond best to reminders and information sent the day of or night before the need. This is where the school notification system works its magic. Use a personally recorded phone broadcast to motivate this group to engage and respond. Be friendly and upbeat in your message and point out how their support helps improve their student achievement. Often members of this group have very hectic schedules or poor organizational skills; the last minute reminder will help them focus and respond quickly. Also, try having multiple sessions of meetings to meet varied schedules of this group.
According to John Wherry, President of the Parent Institute, in his article Engagement Ideas for Disengaged Parents, the best way to reach this group is through personal phone calls. Automated phone call and emails will likely go unheeded and you may find that they do not have email service and frequently changing phone numbers. Reaching out to them personally will increase their response and uncover these issues. Try offering free meals or other incentives to bring in this group. This is where segmenting your parent list pays off; use the parent notification system on the first two groups and personal calls on the last. In addition, use volunteers from the Engaged group to help reach out to the Disengaged. They may love the challenge!