It’s a truth universally acknowledged that local non-profits can find it a bit tough getting schools interested in working with them. It’s a shame because these projects are often full of imagination and young people generally like change. Take me: I still remember the first time I saw a play given by a local theatre company at my primary school. Gob-smacked. Such magic. A world from nowhere.
But don’t lose heart. There’s ways of building healthy, sustainable relationships with secondary schools. You just have to be a Ben not a Bill. They both want to “sell” an (identical) idea – a drug awareness project – to the same school. Both lead a different local charity.
Bill wasn’t at home when common-sense came calling. So he goes blundering in (in April/a bad time for schools/near exams) irritating schools by cold calling them (without knowing who he wants to talk to), e-mail and mail bombing, phoning up expecting to talk to the head or a teacher (during teaching hours) and gets all hoity-toity with the receptionist (who’d burnt her toast that morning). Outcomes: receptionist slams phone on Bill and forever associates him with burnt toast.
Bill likes putting himself in other people’s shoes. He knows that the best time to talk to schools about new projects is September (when everyone’s fresh and free of exams); and that the school receptionists are worth their weight in gold (and probably burnt their toast that morning). He has a few names up his sleeve: the PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) head, the inclusion unit manager and the SENCO (Special Education Needs Co-ordinator). He’s talked to his friends and colleagues and found out that they’re sympathetic to the idea of promoting drug awareness. He’s framed his messages carefully around their needs, how the project will benefit their students (being very careful to pitch it to a year, subject, theme) and how it’s value for money. Outcomes: Ben gets a meeting with the right person; and the receptionist forever associates Ben with the person who made her feel better post toast burn.
If you’re interested in getting better at engaging with secondary schools and connecting with young people why not take a peek at:
- How to engage well with secondary schools which draws on
- Creative Public Affairs research funded by the Big Lottery Fund.
If you’d like to share your story about what did or didn’t work for you when it came to engaging with secondary schools please do give me a shout. I’d love to hear from you and include your stories in future posts.