First Year Enrollment Director Makes A Huge Difference

Kaleen GoodeillThis interview is about a first time director of marketing and enrollment hired right out of college.

Two years ago, I partnered with the leadership of Riverside Christian School in Yakima, WA, to help them turn around their enrollment. As part of my process, I identified the need for them to hire their first director of enrollment and marketing. After several interviews, the position was offered to Kaleen Goodeill. At that time, Kaleen had recently graduated from college and her husband was about to begin medical school.

In her first year, she hit the ground running by leading the school through a rebranding effort, launching a new responsive website, implementing a parent ambassador’s program, hosting a Friend Day and initiating variable tuition. She did a lot in her first year and the enrollment numbers show the fruit of her efforts. This year the school experienced its first enrollment increase since 2007, which was fueled by a strong 92% retention rate.

Recently, I asked Kaleen several questions about her experiences in her first year at Riverside Christian to share with you in this blog post.

What has it been like for you to be in this position right out of college? What have you liked best about your role in enrollment and marketing?

“I feel incredibly blessed to have stepped into this position right out of college. The faculty and staff, as well as the families at Riverside Christian were so welcoming as I entered a brand new community and had a lot of names to learn! Although I had a lot to learn when it came to our online student database, admissions process, and the history of the school, I made a point to ask a lot of questions and get to know the heart of the community of the school.

When I started this position, I was expecting to favor the marketing aspect of the job, but was quickly surprised at how much I enjoyed the admissions and enrollment responsibilities. I love the opportunity I have to get to welcome families through our doors, show them our campus, and guide them through the enrollment process.”

How did you implement a Parent Ambassador’s Program at Riverside Christian School?

“With the help of the RCS administrative team, we wasted no time in implementing a Parent Ambassadors program. In early October 2014, we hand selected twenty to thirty parents from our RCS family and invited them to a Saturday morning breakfast at our Superintendent’s home. There, we shared how we wanted to be intentional in equipping our families with information to promote and share our school in their communities. We also spent a good portion of the morning brainstorming on how to better position our school to our local businesses, churches, and families who have not yet been to RCS.

I also met with our Parent Ambassador team as a whole a few times throughout the year to continue to equip them with important school information, to plan marketing events, and brainstorm new ideas. I found that communicating with Parent Ambassadors individually was a great way to stay in contact, receive feedback, and brainstorm new ideas. This school year I created a short video inviting thirty more RCS parents to join this program by becoming a:  1. RCS Cheerleader,  2. RCS Storyteller, or 3. RCS Connector.”

How did you use your parents to help you reach churches through your Rise Up Sunday’s? How did this work?

“A major project our Parent Ambassador team helped me with was our “Rise Up Sunday” events. Our school theme last year was “Rise Up” and we decided to continue that in the outreach and marketing efforts to our local churches. Parent Ambassadors were very helpful in contacting their home churches and asking them to host a “Rise Up Sunday” in which RCS would be represented in their Sunday service through a multitude of options.

We were able to promote RCS in ten different churches, showing our promotional video, holding an information session after services, having students share their school testimonies in service, including a touch card in the church bulletin, and passing out admission packets. Parent Ambassadors led the way in reaching out to other RCS families who attend their home church and recruiting them to “rise up” by wearing their RCS gear and sharing with families about our events that Sunday! We received a lot of good feedback and had several families tour as a result of this event. We are gearing up for our second “RCS Sundays” this year in March!”

You implemented a Friend’s Day to encourage your current students to invite their friends to visit RCS. How did you launch this event? What were the results?

“Friend’s Day was a new and fun way for our own student body to invite new families to check out our campus. By encouraging our students to invite a friend to experience RCS for the day, we were able to host over 50 new visitors for the day last Spring. We chose to host this event on a special Easter chapel day, as well as a scheduled half day. This allowed our students and their guests to have two hours of classroom learning, as well as experience the true foundation of our school through our Easter celebration, all while not overwhelming our teachers with a full day of guests. After such great feedback from this event, we held a second “Fall” Friends Day this November and have had two students enroll for the next year already. Our students and staff really love this event and we are anticipating another great Spring Friends Day this upcoming March.”

You’ve also been involved in a rebranding effort as well as a new website. Can you describe this process and the impact that this has made on marketing?

“Yes! I knew as soon as I walked into this position that a rebrand of our logo and website was necessary and critical in our marketing efforts. This process not only taught me a lot about applying what I had learned in undergrad, but it allowed me to learn a lot about the rich history of RCS. As a newbie to the school and community, learning the background of our original logo and seeking the vision for our new logo allowed me to understand and know a lot more about the context of our school. Rome was not built in a day and neither should any logo or website. Thanks to the great talent at North Star Marketing, we now have a beautiful and highly effective logo and website that allows me to do my job so much better.”

You also implemented Variable Tuition this past year, modeling your program after Eastern Christian School and Fredericksburg Christian Schools. How did this program work for you? What was the response of your parents?

 Variable Tuition has been a huge marketing success this past year. RCS has always offered financial assistance to families, however there was always a negative connotation associated with the term “financial aid.” By rebranding our “Financial Aid” program to become our Variable Tuition program, we have been able to reach a broader pool of families who are interested in attending RCS. Our Variable Tuition program also provides a great talking point for our parents and staff to share with other families in our community. Our parents have a great response to the launch of Variable Tuition because they new it meant we could not only open the door to new families, but also continue to retain our current families. I have received countless phone calls in the last year starting out with “So I heard about your Variable Tuition program, tell me more,” which has been a great first point of contact. Now, 20% of our families receive some level of Variable Tuition and has greatly contributed to our growing enrollment after years of decline.”

Kaleen 1What advice would you give to a first-year enrollment/marketing professional or someone interested in pursuing a position like yours?

“Fully invest your time and energy into the community of the school and don’t be afraid to fail.  Becoming a part of the school community will not happen overnight, however the more connected you are to the school, the better you will be able to do your job. I made a point to get to know the staff, the teachers, the students, and the families at RCS and that allowed me to become a part of RCS.  This has made all the difference as I share with new families why they should invest in their student’s education at RCS. Also, don’t be afraid to make a few mistakes. In order to continue to grow in your marketing and enrollment efforts, you have to dream big, press forward, and venture into uncharted waters. As long as you keep the mission of the school at the forefront of all that you do, you will excel and make a big difference!”

Thanks Kaleen for sharing your experiences at Riverside Christian School. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to help you navigate your first year. If you can accomplish all of this in year one, I can hardly wait to see your accomplishments after your second year. Keep up the great work!