The Archdiocese of Seattle
As a former teacher, as a parent of three students, and now as the Director of Marketing and Enrollment for the 72 schools within the Archdiocese of Seattle, Kristin Moore has been on every side of a Catholic school desk.
And with 70+ Catholic schools, each with its own enrollment process, from Google Forms for inquiries, paper documents for applications, and Google Sheets for reporting, the diocese's approach to enrollment was a heavy mix of outdated software, poor data, and siloed systems. “We were all over the map,” Moore explained, “and we didn't have good processes in place. We were not meeting the needs of the modern family.”
As the “most unchurched state in the nation,” the Pacific Northwest represents a major evangelization opportunity for the Archdiocese of Seattle and a chance to not only deliver excellence in education but also highlight the uniqueness of its Faith.
At a Glance
The Archdiocese of Seattle serves over a million Catholics across Western Washington. It encompasses 72 schools, supports over 60 ministries, and holds more than 500 Masses each week in eight different languages. Spanning from the Canadian border to Oregon and from the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Coast, it has a broad reach within Washington State.
“As Director of Marketing and Enrollment, I am often asked how our overall enrollment is trending. What is our total number of families? What does our enrollment look like at a regional level? What impact (i.e.school inquiries) do we see from our marketing initiatives? Unless I called each of our 72 schools and designed a giant Excel spreadsheet, I could not give an accurate answer. What I needed was a dashboard of enrollment data.”
Operating within the bustling metropolitan area of Seattle, a city dominated by the fast-paced tech industry, many families come and go, causing huge ebbs and flows in population dynamics, further complicating community engagement and retention strategies.
Accurate enrollment data and reporting features were one challenge, but Moore also knew many of the schools were struggling with their marketing efforts, jeopardizing the goal of reaching their enrollment numbers year after year.
From unified enrollment software across all schools in the diocese to updating marketing and communication strategies, Moore believes that having consistent touchpoints throughout a family's enrollment journey is crucial to success.
With the increasing numbers of non-Catholics joining their schools, Moore deeply emphasized their commitment to maintaining their Catholic identity. “We see ourselves as partners with the communities we serve — Catholic or non-Catholics alike.”
"Enrollment is the beginning of a relationship,” Moore stressed. “We have to start the conversation and move to developing relationships. Our efforts in web presence and digital marketing, as well as other outreach programs, can attract families to us; however, having a system to manage the touch points is essential to best practice.”
Between her background as an educator and her expertise in marketing and enrollment over the last two decades, Moore is always looking for opportunities to optimize. "Growing enrollment requires a commitment to do some internal work in order to be ready to welcome families effectively," Moore said. "Finalsite created the infrastructure for solid enrollment practices. It aligned our enrollment practices with the expectations of the modern family."
Amidst the pandemic, Moore and her team began implementing Finalsite’s enrollment management system across its schools. As they soon discovered, some schools quickly welcomed the new software; others were less eager.
“Finalsite Enrollment is a system that will keep you on track, give you a workflow that many of our schools didn't have, and all with central reporting. I don't know of any archdiocese or diocese that has partnered with a vendor, resulting in a windfall of additional funds that would provide marketing and enrollment support directly to individual schools. This is innovation!”
DIR. OF MARKETING & ENROLLMENT
Using the flexibility of the central billing feature within Finalsite Enrollment’s Tuition and Billing module, Moore and the Archdiocese started an innovative program that incentivized each school that adopted and implemented Finalsite Enrollment at their school.
Across the 72 schools, the Archdiocese, through their partnership with Finalsite, ended the year with a collected surplus of $60K. Families' tuition collection management fees decreased by over $15 per family, and there was still a surplus. Kristin and her team quickly developed a grant framework for schools to apply for funds for the exclusive purpose of marketing and enrollment initiatives. It was a huge gift back to schools, and they loved it.
Whether through digital ads, banners, or school swag for an open house, the funds were reinvested back into the schools, helping to further the mission of the Archdiocese and schools. In essence, the Archdiocese was giving back funds to help schools help themselves.
“Finalsite Enrollment is a system that will keep you on track, give you a workflow that many of our schools didn't have, and all with central reporting. I don't know of any archdiocese or diocese that has partnered with a vendor, resulting in a windfall of additional funds that would provide marketing and enrollment support directly to individual schools. This is innovation!” Moore shared with pride.
Since the grant program launched, Moore has worked closely with St. Matthew’s in particular, focusing on a strategic enrollment plan, marketing budget planning, developing an ad campaign plan across social media, and creating their first-ever summer camp program to provide programming for current students and an opportunity to experience St. Matthew's for children outside of the school.
“Our grant program gives me another opportunity to collaborate and talk strategy with our schools,” Moore explained. “We sit down, pull up their enrollment dashboard, and look at numbers, and begin to identify trends. It gives me schools the opportunity to collaborate with someone bringing some outside perspective.”
“We found a product that was more competitive fee-wise than FACTS, and we were able to not only strengthen our admissions and enrollment processes but also develop funding sources to give back to our schools that are committed to growth.”
Finalsite Enrollment gives each school the power of information. At any moment, admins can see their school’s enrollment status and year-to-year trends.
“Just because you're full with a waiting list does not mean you stop marketing. A full school builds a new level of admissions momentum, and enrollment can take a downturn quickly,” Moore stressed. “Finalsite Enrollment gives them the power to see the trends, and they can plan to reach goals. Are they close to a goal, or are they off, what can they put in place now to be successful?”
The diocesan-level reporting also provides Moore with a bird’s-eye view of the enrollment status for the network of schools.
“It helps with conversations with higher leadership, but the magic is in the local reporting,” Moore explained. “If it’s June and we have a school that's 20 students behind…OK, let’s put a plan in place. Then they know they have to hustle over the summer.”
Moore pointed out that many schools were not adequately utilizing digital marketing, calling for more strategies and a shift from traditional methods like tri-folds to targeting families where they are most often — their phones and computers.
“Having a product that we’re all using really helped us keep the workflows consistent. We could really guide families, we could communicate, we had touch points throughout that journey, which are so important to enrolling that student in your school.”
“A website is a school's number one marketing piece — hands down,” Moore said, emphasizing the importance of modern and intuitive websites for large and small schools. “Many of our schools had websites that look like they were built in the early eighties. They don't have the modern functions that parents need, nor do they have the compelling look. Your website needs to be strong, and it needs to be intuitive for a prospective family.”
She likened it to a home’s curb appeal, with parents shopping around and encountering a school’s website being the first thing they see. "All of your marketing should point back to your website," Moore added. "We could have the best marketing campaign in the world, but if that family's experience when they walk through that door doesn’t match what the marketing campaign is saying. it's going to backfire."
Moore underscored the importance of staying available to prospective families, even during summer breaks when campus is typically quiet. It is also important to dive into your data. “If you are receiving 50 inquiries, but you have only 25 families scheduling a tour, there's a disconnect between those two steps, and you can ask yourself, ‘How are you nurturing those inquiries?’"
“Admissions directors have access to many data points, but sometimes just a quick glance at your dashboard reveals some real trends, Moore said. “Then you can develop an appropriate marketing strategy. The idea is to make deeper and more meaningful connections to a family. That is what will grow your school at the admissions level.’”
With the grant incentive each year, The Archdiocese of Seattle’s Catholic schools are growing their innovation. By leveraging data in a more meaningful way and building strategic marketing practices, the enrollment experience for families is strong.
“We have a growth mindset here in Seattle and partnered with Finalsite, we are moving our schools forward.”
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