Why These Children?

Students and families fit into four groups:

Great Fit – They are the ones who are ideal. Your services fit their needs. They are passionate about what you do. Everything goes smoothly. They are the poster children for your mission and the focus of your anecdotes. They provide the statistics that everyone wants. Success seems to be effortless.

Average Fit – Everything is fine but both sides need to work at it. Success takes effort but it is usually achievable.

Poor Fit – Success is always out of reach. No one wants to give up but both sides should.

The Lost – They showed up. It looked promising but they disappeared. No one knows what happened.

Each group can teach your school many things about how to be more successful. Those in the Great Fit category are the prototype. If, for example, their typical computer skills are a 7 on your 10-point scale, perhaps the members of the other groups should have their skills brought up to 7 before being fully admitted to your program. If for some reason someone is unable to meet your expectations, it would be better to recommend a different school or service provider than admit another student to the Poor Fit pool or have them self-select into the Lost pool at some point.

Because you are unable to serve Poor Fits, there are several advantages to declining them. For instance, if the student is more likely to thrive somewhere else, declining them increases your success/admission ratio, you provide your donors with a better return on their investment, and your mission’s relevance is higher. It also tells you what you must do to serve a broader group of students. However, until you have broadened your offering, it is better to let someone else help them.

In a perfect world every student will be a Great Fit. There are probably enough students in your community who would be a great fit if only you could reach them. Now is the time to examine your marketing program to determine why some of your potential Great Fits are going elsewhere. You should also consider whether your referral sources understand which prospective students have the potential to be Great Fits.

The Average Fit students need a little more help so that each of them will be a Great Fit. Refining, broadening, or adding depth to your program will change good to great. While the Great Fits give you bragging rights (“Look at what our mission does for our students and community.”), the Average Fits provide the justification for donors to increase their generosity and engagement (“There is more we need to do for our students so that every student enjoys the full benefit of what our mission offers.”). When you do expand your services so that more Average Fits become Great Fits, you increase the relevance of your mission, broaden your admissions, and create the opportunity to serve a few of the Poor Fits who are currently outside your mission’s reach.

The Poor Fit students teach a Christian school discipline. While it is hard to turn anyone away, there are many who will be better served by someone else. It is tempting to try to serve everyone but that is experimenting with students’ futures. It is better to wait until your services expand and redefine what the pool of Average Fit includes. When the definition of Average Fit is broader, some of today’s Poor Fits will become tomorrow’s Average Fits.

Another more immediate way to serve those who are a poor fit is to merge with a Christian school who is able to serve them. When you combine with a strong and healthy school that serves a different segment of students than yours, the combination is strength building on strength. The combined school is able to offer more to each student. Serving a broader population of students means families can have more of their children’s needs met by one school. The combined school’s mission will have a broader impact on the community, attract more community support, and have a high level of sustainability. In addition, it will have a unique offering that will create a difficult-to-copy competitive advantage.

The Poor Fits can also help you to refine your marketing. They were attracted to your school when someone else would have been a better fit. What is there about your marketing that lead them to believe your school would be a good fit?

The Lost are those who never became engaged enough to sustain the relationship. It is important to check with them so you can improve your student and parent engagement. They can probably tell you why some other service provider was a better fit for them. In some cases, you will discover that they realized it would be a poor fit to continue. In other cases, you will learn about a misconception concerning your school. Each lost student lowers your school’s sustainability.

Next Step:

Analyze your current pool of students and profile the students in each group

Determine how to change your admission process to reduce the number of Poor Fits and increase the probability that more of your Average Fits will be Great Fits

Follow up with the Lost to determine how to prevent future attrition

Use the preceding to refine your marketing and referrals

Set specific goals for improving your success/admissions ratio, the size of your Great Fit group, and the elimination of your Poor Fits

Every Christian school needs more statistics because statistics provide a compelling reason for donors and communities to increase their support. When your statistics demonstrate that your success/admissions ratio is increasing, you will notice an increase in donor engagement and community support.

Your current collection of anecdotes needs to be supported by statistics that demonstrate the relevance of your mission, your impact on your students, and the value you create for your community.

Take It Further:

Ask your board to use the increase in your Great Fit pool as an indicator of the improvement in your programming, marketing, and referrals

Remind your board that donors care more about the number of students who succeed than the number of students served

Use the change in the cost of student success to measure your school’s efficiency rather than the change in the cost of students served



Comments are closed.