How to Boost Your Community's Morale this Holiday Season
Mia Major and Kristen Doverspike

If morale is down at your school or district, you’re not alone. Teachers, parents, students and administrators alike are burning out and are eagerly awaiting some much-deserved time off for the holidays. Thankfully, it’s almost here!

Here in the U.S., two things are certain in November: people decorating for Christmas way too early, and more importantly, people purposely focusing on gratitude. 

And with this particular November, nine months into a global pandemic, it's more important than ever before to tell a story of gratitude to your community. What are you thankful for? Who are you thankful for? Why are you thankful?

We talked about celebrating your community during the holidays in Episode 15 of the School Marketing Show — LIVE. In Episode 15 we cover:

  • How to use email during Thanksgiving;
  • What you can do on social media;
  • How to use video during this time of gratitude; and
  • What tangible pieces of content you can put together

Watch it below👇  or keep reading!

Communicating Gratitude Via Email

We have a complete blog post on Thanksgiving email messages with examples that you can read here, but here are the three most common types of emails you can send:

  1. Simple Image Messages
    This is a great option for the small shops and one-person teams who know they need to send something but may not have the time to produce a video. Whether it is an image of students holding the letters to spell out “Thank You,”, something that features student artwork, or a graphic that represents the holiday, this is an efficient way to ensure your message of gratitude reaches the community. While in previous years the simple graphic may have been enough, be sure to supplement the image with some additional written content that speaks to the trying year we all have endured.
  2. Video Messages
    Video content has never been easier to assemble, with nearly every school operating remotely or hybrid. Consider putting together a 30-second to 1-minute video that compiles students, teachers, and parents sharing what they’re thankful for this school year. The video can be recorded on a smartphone or on Zoom, and can easily be compiled using a free video editing tool like iMovie. Don’t get hung up on quality here: during this time of thanks, candid, blurry, cracked-iPhone-shot videos feel the most endearing than ever before. Of course, the video you make for email can also be shared on social media and any other platforms where you communicate. 
  3. A Letter from the Head of School or Superintendent
    Taking a formal approach to a Thanksgiving "thanks!" historically seems to be the most popular route for schools, and we don’t see that changing this year. Ask your head of school/superintendent to record a quick video of themselves thanking the community.

One final thought on emails: segment if time allows and the messaging requires it. At a time where boosting morale has never been more critical, it’s important that your messages reaches and resonates with your different audience. If you’re sending an image or text email, we’d recommend sending a different message to parents, students, teachers, and administrators. While the language may only have slight tweaks, making the content feel more personalized is important. For videos, it’s best if you can create an all-encompassing message that reaches all audiences and stakeholders.

Simply put, sending an email for Thanksgiving is a pleasant way to reconnect with your community. However, be sure that your email only includes what your school is thankful for — and doesn't ask for anything in return. We know #GivingTuesday is coming up, but more on this next!

Communicating Gratitude on Social Media

The Thanksgiving season couldn’t be a better time to ramp up your social media efforts, because showcasing your community — while asking for nothing in return — is always the perfect recipe for great engagement, so now’s the time to do it!

Plan ahead of time; Scheduling this content now will help you avoid the need to post over break. Consider the following:

  1. Repurpose the content from your Thanksgiving email
    Of course, you’ll likely have a “Happy Thanksgiving” graphic to post on the day-of, but other snippets of content from your email can be used to create multiple posts for the entire week. Consider posting a quote from your head of school or superintendent, a video message, and other photos of your school or district to celebrate before and beyond Thanksgiving day.
  2. Craft a week-long celebration of your school community
    Celebrating your community is sometimes the easiest content to put together, and this is the one time of year that it won’t feel like you’re overdoing it! The entire week leading up to Thanksgiving, consider posting a series of videos featuring students and/or faculty sharing what they're most thankful for — and be sure to express your thanks to them in your captions. You can gather this content now to have prepared for the week of Thanksgiving.
  3. Use a unique hashtag
    If you’re not up for a full week of Thanksgiving posts, try swapping out the usual #ThrowbackThursday with #ThankfulThursday in November. Each Thursday, post one piece of content that celebrates your community. It can be a video, a quote, a photo — the choice is yours!

If you’re feeling stuck in your social media planning this time of year, be sure to grab your free copy of The Complete Social Media Calendar for Schools and Districts: October-December 2020 Edition!

A note about Giving Tuesday and the use of social media:

If you are planning something for Giving Tuesday, your school’s social media presence will play a key role in encouraging your community to give back. But be sure to celebrate your community all month long so that when your ask comes on Giving Tuesday, it does not feel out-of-place.

Here at Finalsite, we recommend the 70/20/10 rule: 70% of your content should be engaging and educational, 20% of content can be shared posts from your community, and only 10% of content should be saved for promotional and self-serving posts. With that in mind, Giving Tuesday should be a small — but still important — piece of your overall social media strategy this season.

Beyond Digital: Communicating Gratitude In Other Ways

In the spring, we saw schools and districts get pretty creative with how they were celebrating their community for graduations, retirement ceremonies, and more. And now, it’s time to tap back into that creativity to find a way to connect and inspire your community beyond the digital platforms where they spend so much of their time.

Drive-Through Celebrations

For schools and districts operating completely remote, find a way to get your community together! You could host a drive-through parade or drive-through pep-rally. Encourage participants to write what they are grateful for on their cars or signage. It could be a great morale booster for the whole community! If possible, participants could get together at the end in small, socially-distanced gatherings.

Care Packages

For schools operating in a hybrid model, create care packages to send home. The care packages can be simple — a small piece of school swag and a favorite holiday recipe. For larger districts, care packages can be handled by school, by grade, or even by classroom. If you’re asking teachers to create care packages for families, don’t forget to make care packages for your teachers!

Cheers from Your Peers

We saw this example in a Facebook Group and loved it — and it clearly stems beyond the month of November! Mailing (yes, snail mail!) postcards to teachers and staff to let them know they make a difference can be a big morale booster for teachers, who may be feeling disconnected. We love that they have a personalized shout out from a member of the community, which will only emphasize that they are still making a difference (even if they may feel like they aren’t.) 

example of staff cheers from peers

These non-digital approaches to expressing gratitude can also be shared out on social media and via email communications. Encourage your community to share photos of events, care packages, or postcards on social media using a particular hashtag to drive engagement.

Gratitude Tree

We saw this idea on a mom's home renovation Instagram and loved the idea for schools! It can be done school-wide, district-wide, or in a classroom. Here's how it works: set up a tree in a central location for all to see. (Again, this can be in a classroom or main building for a school or district.) Then, give each student a set of leaves. Ask them to write what they're grateful for at school on the leaves and hang them on the tree. This is a great morale boost for teachers! And if you want to take it one step further, ask students to also fill out leaves to bring home to their own families. It will be a nice reminder to parents that all their tireless hard work pays off, too.

gratitude tree leaves

Key Takeaway

November is always a time to give thanks — but this year, it is more important than ever! Whether it’s a simple video, graphic, or postcard, be sure your whole community knows they are appreciated.


Mia Major

As Finalsite's director of demand generation, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV and news reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, eBooks, and reports, including Finalsite's Inbound Marketing Benchmark Report.

kristen doverspike headshot

In her position as Inbound Marketing Manager, Kristen provides the strategy and creation of content across email, website and social media communications at Finalsite. With over five years of experience in content strategy and digital marketing, Kristen has worked with clients around the country to develop their branding, SEM, SEO, social media, and inbound efforts. She holds and maintains a number of certifications from Google, Hubspot, and Hootsuite.

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