Make Program Sign-up Convenient
Include program information and an application in back-to-school packets. Allow parents to sign up for SchoolPool during other school functions such as Back to School night, Kindergarten registration, parent-teacher conferences, open houses, PTA meetings and other organized events. The program will work best if the principal or other high level administrator promotes the program at these events.
Set up an attractive, colorful table at events to attract attention. If the event has a registration desk, try to set up your table next to registration, where it will receive the highest traffic. It is beneficial to have the school staff make the suggestion to parents to complete a SchoolPool application and direct the parents to the table. Parents who sign up for a SchoolPool could receive a gift for completing the application at the event. The application could also be postage-paid so parents who receive an application in their school registration packet can mail it in at no cost to them. To make processing even easier, have computers set up at the table so parents can register online.
Communicate With Your Community
Publish articles in the school newsletter, and/or develop your own newsletter or flyer. Speak to the PTA and other school groups. Invite the community to a special SchoolPool program meeting to explain the program. Post notices, advertise in your school newsletter, and e-mail or call everyone who has expressed interest. A personal contact will make people more likely to attend.
Repetition, Repetition, Repetition
Repetition is the key to the continued success of your SchoolPool program. The program should be promoted by maximizing its visibility through repeated outreach to potential parents. The rule of thumb in marketing is that people need to hear and/or read about an event several times before they pay attention. Personal contact increases the likelihood of participation. The more times children and parents hear about the program, the better the chances of participation. Having teachers and respected adults promoting the program can greatly increase visibility and results.
Flyers and Banners
Post flyers around the school. Make your flyers attractive by using eye-catching graphics; you might even find a volunteer who has experience in graphic design to help you design your flyers. Be sure to include all of the important information—including the overview map - but don’t load up your flyer with too much text. Pictures often tell the story better. Make sure your flyers are easy to read and that the most important information is big and bold. You also can make large banners.
Many schools have a day every week when they send home notices with the students (“backpack mail”). This is an excellent and low-cost opportunity to communicate with parents on a regular basis. Send home your flyers along with more detailed information on the program. This might also be a good way to distribute the maps and/or sign-up information.
Some schools have newsletters that are sent home or emailed periodically. Use the school newsletter as an opportunity to talk about the SchoolPool program. Contribute brief articles to the newsletter on a regular basis. Be sure to announce deadlines, events, and other information in at least two separate issues of the school newsletter. Publish success stories so parents can see how others are benefiting from SchoolPools.
E-mail is an excellent tool for communicating with busy people. At all meetings and events, collect email addresses and develop a comprehensive e-mail list to keep individuals informed. Keep your e-mail messages short and to the point. Many schools have their own e-mail lists and you may be able to make use of these. Captains should communicate with their lists on a regular basis to keep people up to date on their progress and successes.
Websites and Social Networks
Create a presence on your school web site so people can find the maps and any up–to-date information on the program. Make use of Facebook and other social networking venues to communicate. Your neighborhoods can even set up a group Facebook site so they can communicate about schedule changes and special events.
Many schools set up phone trees for each class. Some schools even have sophisticated phone systems that can call all school parents with automated announcements.
Alameda County (link) has created themes for every month. For example, in April use the theme of Earth Day to promote Schoolpooling for environmental reasons. Invite the school nurse or other health professionals to give talks on the importance of clean air. Invite the local air district or the heart/lung association to give out information. Hold an environmental fair at the school. Classroom-based activities help to raise awareness and get students excited about the program. Combine classroom activities so that they happen in the same week or in the week leading up to your event. This helps to build enthusiasm for the event.
Media Relations (link to SchoolPool info media info)
Send out press releases to announce your events and contests. Follow up every press release with a phone call. Media outlets receive numerous press releases, so a phone call will increase your chances of getting their attention. Form a relationship with the editor or a writer and be sure to call them every time you have a newsworthy story. The editorial page is also an excellent opportunity to get more publicity for your program. Have team members write letters to the editor, or longer opinion pieces.
Have fun with your SchoolPool program. People are attracted to those with positive attitudes. You will get more cooperation from your city and school officials when you are positive and upbeat.
Remember, you’re not only an organizer, you’re a cheerleader too!