9 Mistakes School Leaders Make with Parent Ambassadors

Learn from your mistakes, dreamstime_s_52417778
A parent ambassador program should be part of your enrollment and marketing effort. Over the years, I have seen many successful programs and have helped schools launch and enhance their program.

I have also seen mistakes and missteps along the way. The following are nine mistakes school leaders make with their Parent Ambassador Program:

  1. False starts – I’ve seen false starts too many times. You may have been to a conference, heard me speak or read the story of some other school’s successful program, and then you set out to launch your program with good intentions. However, the success of a Parent Ambassador program is not defined in the first meeting as some fizzle out after the initial launch. Success is defined by the involvement that parents sustain in the effort as an ambassador over time.
  1. Too many meetings – A successful Parent Ambassador program isn’t about a bunch of meetings over time. If you try to meet in monthly meetings, your volunteer force will grow tired and won’t accomplish much. You may only need to meet a couple of times of year. The key is that you must sustain the effort over time through personal contacts with your ambassadors to help facilitate their involvement. Your goal should be to motivate your parents to do something that will help you strategically expand the reach of the school.
  1. Asking too much – It is important not to ask too much from your parent ambassadors. Remember, they are not paid and are not signing up for a part-time job. I’ve always encouraged school leaders that if a parent ambassador does one thing to help them advance the school, then you should be very happy.
  1. Relying on volunteer or board leadership to lead the effort – One of the mistakes schools make is turning over their Parent Ambassador program to volunteer or board leadership. While they may have good intentions, they are still volunteers. I believe that a paid staff member—preferably the admissions director—must drive the Parent Ambassador program.
  1. Making it part of the Parent Association – Similar to number four, some school leaders will think that it might work best to include the parent ambassador program as part of their parent association. Again, this effort needs to be strategically led by the admissions director. The parent association will not likely have the same vision for the program as you do as part of your enrollment and marketing strategy.
  1. Inviting all parent instead of asking specific parents – Sometimes school leaders will send out an email announcement to all parents asking for volunteers for their parent ambassador program. However, this is a not a group that anyone can join. Rather, it is a group in which parents recruited and chosen because of their passion for the school, credibility among parents, connections in the community, and desire to advance the school. Parent Ambassadors are instrumental in expanding the reach of the school in the community and growing the enrollment.
  1. Diluting the focus – Remember, the goal of your parent ambassador group is to help you expand the reach intentionally into the community. While other ideas for the group, such as a sounding board for the head of school, might be filled with good intentions, these parents must be focused on helping you achieve your goals.
  1. Paying for referrals – I have seen many schools that have offered a tuition incentive program to motivate current parents to refer the school to their friends. However, I haven’t seen a successful program. And, as I have written in another blog post, Paying for Referrals, you shouldn’t have to pay your parents for referrals. Word of mouth is not something that you can buy as it will cheapen your effort.
  1. Not launching a program – A Parent Ambassador program is a core strategy that should be a part of every school’s enrollment and marketing effort. The final mistake school leaders make is to not launch a program.

Are you making any of these mistakes with your parent ambassador program?

Do you have a Parent Ambassador program as a core part of your strategy?

For other blog posts on Parent Ambassador programs, please click on the following: