Having a high-quality education system is vital for the success of a nation, but in a tough economy, it can be difficult for even schools to get needed resources. According to a November 2011 report from the United States Department of Education, more than 40 percent of public schools serving low-income students are underfunded. In the absence of adequate funding, involving key stakeholders in public school improvement is vital. These stakeholders can directly raise funds or provide alternative means of assistance and contacts.

Identify Key Stakeholders

Before you can reach out to stakeholders, you must identify them. By targeting your stakeholders prior to soliciting involvement, you can prevent wasted resources. Put simply, a stakeholder is someone with a vested interest in the public school system or who is affected by its performance. Key stakeholders include students, teachers, administrative staff, parents and alumnus. Additionally, local businesses, local government officials, and health and social service providers are also affected by the quality of education in a community. Because public schools help shape not just the intelligence and problem-solving abilities of students but the values as well, a broad range of community members have a stake in educating future generations.

Personalize the Message

Targeting and specificity are essential for persuading stakeholders to help you make public school improvements. Because the school is public and has many potential stakeholders and funding resources, some stakeholders may feel as though they don't need to contribute. Sending a vague, general message can reinforce this belief, so a personalized message is best. Research the organizations you plan to contact so that you can sound informed and sincere. A more personal request will assure recipients that you are genuinely interested in their success.

Incentivize Involvement

Another crucial factor for securing involvement is providing incentives for stakeholders to help. While many stakeholders may be generous enough to volunteer funds, resources or time without expecting anything in return, tight budgets may make some organizations and individuals hesitate. According to a report from Columbia University, the public benefits of a high school graduate equate to 2.5 times the required investment in her education. Better public schools and facilities can produce smarter students, reduce dropout rates and control crime; create a sense of pride and gratitude toward the community, and promote higher earnings and thus more tax revenues. Additionally, robust extracurricular activity facilities can foster creativity and an interest in health and fitness, possibly resulting in reduced public health-care costs. Be sure to share specific benefits with specific stakeholders and note that mentioning outstanding contributors in school mailings, naming facilities after donors, and sending notes or small gifts of gratitude can go a long way.

Follow Up and Report Back

Creating a feedback loop can help promote sustainability in your outreach efforts. Reporting on progress and thanking stakeholders can make them feel more involved in the process and help demonstrate the value of their contributions. Be sure to take feedback from stakeholders as well as providing it; a stakeholder's input can help you design more-effective outreach programs in the future. Consider publishing a stakeholder newsletter or Web page.

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