The past year has been a lesson in adapting, communicating, revising, and re-communicating for all school offices – including the business office. Successful business offices embraced the lessons, and whatever may have been lost in professionalism was gained in authenticity and transparency. As families struggled with financial pressures, it became evident that communication is still key – even when answers are fluctuating.
Here are some of the most important takeaways for schools to help families stay financially aware.
The tips below apply to all school offices – not just the business office – and they’re non-negotiable when it comes to family communication.
- Have a centralized hub for all current family communication. We preach this often. It requires collaborating with all school offices so communications are housed in one area for families to access. It doesn’t mean you can’t use multiple channels to disseminate a message. Text, email, phone calls are all vital. It just means you save the messages in one portal so parents can refer back to them when they forget a due date or important piece of information.
- Broadcast your messages through multiple channels. Families have different communication channel preferences. Mom may check email early and often, Dad might only pay attention to texts. And voice calls – though they’ve been added to the list of things millennials have killed – are useful when there’s a high-importance message to share (think past-due balances or low lunch money alerts).
- Ask for parent feedback regularly. Survey them to better understand their communication preferences, like the best channel to reach them, the time of day they’re most likely to read messages, and how often they want to hear from you.
Take Financial Communication to the Next Level
If you’re already rolling with the basic tips above, here are the things your office should focus on next.
- Let your tuition management provider do the work of sending automated communications with payment due dates, invoices, and delinquency follow-ups. That way, you can focus on the important things like strategic planning and coming up with creative solutions for families who are experiencing hardships.
- Reconsider the language you use. Remind families what they’re paying for and be considerate of financial stressors. Money is an emotional subject for many people. And what families spend their money on is a direct reflection of their household values. Gently remind families that their payments are going towards what they value – preparing their children for college and beyond (or even just feeding them).
- Inform families about the payment security measures your school is taking. Though most families are used to making payments online by now, sometimes parents wonder how schools are protecting their personal and financial data. Let them know how your tuition and billing solution is following security and compliance requirements like remaining PCI compliant and taking steps to avoid breaches.
Establish a Culture of Financial Literacy
A sometimes overlooked mission of the business office in private schools is teaching financial literacy. Though most schools now try to include financial literacy in their curriculum, it’s not enough to prepare students for managing their personal finances and affording college. Many say that it starts at home, but parents don’t always know how to teach their children about budgeting, investing, or saving. Cue the finance experts in business office. You can establish a culture of financial literacy at your school by sharing tips with families on how to involve their children in financial planning. Host a lunch and learn for parents, share a podcast, or link to financial literacy resources on your school’s social media and business office webpage. Part of your school’s promise to families is that you’ll prepare their children for a successful future. That includes financial success.