If your Christian school has been established for several years, you have likely built up a list of alumni. How are you using this list to help market your Christian school? If your answer is "nothing," this article is for you! Alumni offer rich and meaningful opportunities to further the mission of your school, both to interested and currently enrolled families.

Alumni, like a satisfied consumer in a business setting, offer something your school can never do: give a third-party perspective of their experiences in your school. They can also voice their recommendation (or testimonial) of your school, which is more powerful than anything you can ever say. Positive experiences are often underused in marketing of Christian schools. Alumni are the perfect avenue to spread your school's credibility and quality reputation to the public, the media, and families.

If yours is a brand new school that doesn't have a long list of alumni, you can also gain ideas to market your school using tips and instead apply them to parental support, volunteer support, and church or community member partners.

1. Gather a List and Find the Best

Start by getting together a list of your alumni or supporters. Get their names, contact information, and graduation dates, and put the information in an easy-to-read format. For supporters, find out if they have currently enrolled students or recently graduated students. Typically, many alumni begin to lose touch with their alma mater the longer time goes along. Thus, the more recent the alumnus' graduation or the supporter's involvement, the better the opportunity they offer in helping market your school. Put these people on the top of your list.

In your list, determine if you have any distinguished or outstanding alumni or supporters. Well-known, successful alumni should be the best choice for testifying for your Christian school. Highly known supporters can also draw more attention in your direction. Practice caution when determining which alumni would be the best spokespeople for your school. Be sure the personalities of alumni or supporters and their career pursuits are in alignment with the image your school wants to portray.

2.  Decide What Info to Use and What Activities to Do

You've gathered names and contact information and determined which alumni or supporters are most likely to help. Now it's time to decide how to utilize this information for your school's benefit. For example, you could decide to ask all alumni to participate in a volunteer or fundraising event, or choose a few. You could use the list to send out an alumni newsletter and ask for donations, or you could only select the alumni who have graduated in the past five years to see if they would be willing to speak or hold a workshop at your school or other public area. Alumni could even visit local churches and give presentations for your Christian school.

But don't limit yourself. Ask all alumni to give you written testimonials; then post them on your website and printed materials. See if they'd be willing to post video testimonials and share their favorite memories on your website or on a video sharing website like YouTube. Incorporate any social media your school to improve connections and maintain relationships. Have an Alumni Day and an open house at the same time, and have panels where interested families can ask questions. See if alumni might be willing to give tours of your school too. Be creative in your ideas!

3.  Make a Schedule and Implement Ideas

After you've decided what activities to do, it's time to integrate alumni and supporter marketing into your school's overall marketing campaign and yearly schedule. Both during the school year and during the summer, your school can offer alumni opportunities to spread the word about your school. The school year is more practical for on-campus activities, but other ideas like newsletters, volunteering, and fundraisers can happen at any time of the year.

Interested families often consider switching schools in the spring or summer, so also consider this when involving alumni. Many alumni may also be attending college or have jobs already, so summer activities during vacation time are easier for them to schedule if they want to give back to your Christian school. Make a calendar of your alumni events, and for the matter, all marketing events. This will help you schedule and plan all your ideas ahead of time.

Planning is often the easy part. Implementing ideas is another matter. Gather support for reaching out to alumni. Include key decision makers, staff, students, parent volunteers, local church congregations to help if necessary. Assign duties and responsibilities and a committee to ensure details are accomplished for involving alumni. Alumni themselves might also be able to volunteer time for planning and implementing marketing ideas.

4. Offer Something in Return

Alumni and supporters have lives, too. In fact, their lives are probably just as busy as yours. If volunteers are willing to give up their time, money, or talents to help their alma mater, your Christian school should try to offer them something in return. Be inventive in offerings; it doesn't necessarily have to be money. Perhaps incentives can be as simple as a discount on tuition for a family member, a free school-related clothing item, or tickets to attend schooling events.

You can also honor alumni by starting a plaque or wall of names within your school and listing the names of those who have helped further the mission of your Christian school. Offer them use of facilities or even start a scholarship in the alumnus' name. There are many ways to pay back generous supporters of your school without delving into your budget. Remember simple thank you cards and recognition at school events can speak volumes to those alumni who help out. In the end, alumni are likely be helping your school out of a sense of pride and belonging. Appealing to this powerful emotion provides the catalyst for graduates and supporters to give back to the Christian school who helped them succeed.

5.  Evaluate Help Given

Determining if alumni support is effective for marketing your Christian school might not be a simple equation of more help equals more enrollments. Ideally, this is the goal that your school wants to achieve. It is difficult to evaluate in numbers if others' spreading word out about you is dramatically impacting your school's success. Quantity and quality of volunteer support by alumni should be examined, however, and best judgment used when determining if alumni have made your school progress.

In fact, if alumni support is generally positive, it can do nothing but help communicate the benefits of your school. Therefore, it is important to utilize alumni who have had a positive experience at your school. Portraying the effectiveness of your school through a former student is a powerful tool, so don't underestimate its value. If most alumni you've appealed to are non-participatory, then consider focusing on other avenues of marketing. Invest on what offers your Christian school the best marketing options.

 Final Thoughts

Ask God what opportunities alumni and school supporters offer your school. Often alumni may already be supporting you with positive word of mouth, and you might not know about it. Asking them to formalize their support is an easy step to take to market yourself without having to break your budget. Consider the time investment to organize alumni and supporter help and estimate the goals you want to achieve with your enrollment strategy as you make decisions. Prayerfully decide how to use others' experiences and opinions to further your mission of reaching children for Christ!

Do you use alumni or parents to help market your Christian school? Why or why not?