How to communicate fee increases with parents
With the current economic climate hitting schools hard this year, many are having to raise their fees more than they normally would.
Parents, who have not been immune to financial pressure themselves, are expecting school fees to increase at a much lower rate than what schools are planning.
For this reason, it is important for schools to explain to parents in a timely manner that they are raising their fees, and why. This helps create trust and understanding within the school community, and at the same time remove surprise and ease financial stress by helping parents understand the reasons behind the decision.
We’ve put together a best practice guide on how to communicate fee increases with parents based on what we’ve seen schools do well. The guide outlines some tips and techniques to help communicate fee increases with parents.
As with any successful change, the fundamental rules of communication apply. Be prepared, define the long-term goals, listen to and understand your parents, and create opportunities for dialogue.
1. Be timelySchools should communicate fee increases with parents as early as possible - well before the first invoices are sent out. Give parents as much time as you can to come to terms with the increase. Deliver communications directly to families and across your relevant channels.
If any changes or updates occur, keep parents updated in as timely a manner as possible. Providing updates or check ins after communicating the changes demonstrates the commitment to your parents.
2. Communicate clearly, simply and frequentlyKeep messages simple, to the point and make it clear when action is required from parents.
Framing information in a positive way will help to build trust. Focus on the benefits - like best practices as opposed to negatives such as what people shouldn’t do. Still acknowledge the situation, but always align it to how it forms part of the bigger positive picture.
Repetition is a useful tool - sometimes you have to tell people a number of times for the message to sink in.
3. Be transparent to build trustBe honest and clear about the reasoning behind your decisions. Maintaining trust with parents ensures that you keep their confidence.
Further to this, families often don’t have insight into the economic pressures schools are under. It’s important to break down the costs that drive the necessary increase. Align the fee increases to your school values. An example of this could be the importance of teachers and how this directly impacts the student experience including education and wellbeing.
4. Listen to what families have to sayAfter you have communicated fee increases with your families, the work doesn’t stop there. Alongside justifying fee increases, it goes without saying that it’s important to acknowledge current pressures on families.
Explore ways to make communication a two way street - make it easy for parents to express their views, or ask any questions they have. Think of it as another way to help them make sense of what has happened.
When parents ask questions, reply promptly and answer their questions as openly as you can. While it’s important to shape the communication aligned to the decision the school has had to make, it’s equally important to create a space for your parents to contribute to that.
5. Provide tools to adapt - payment flexibility helps parents adjustProviding as much school fee payment flexibility as possible will help ease the financial burden passed onto parents. Flexible payment options that enable them to align fees with their budget constraints is ideal.
Make it clear what payment options you have available. Include it on any outgoing communications, and make it easy to find on your website. Being aware and considerate of family circumstances, and having clear and open communication will help navigate the situation.