Bulldog Families: Why Communicating with Parents is Different

by Sara Cook

What makes parents different?

  1. Current and vested interest in UGA
  2. Their student’s experience is what informs and creates their experience
  3. Often know more about what’s happening on campus than we do – that’s fine!
  4. Parents are usually interested in what their students are interested in
  5. They are currently paying significant funds for out of state or in-state tuition
  6. Could be tied to existing pledges at private school
  7. Like to talk about their kids more than themselves
  8. Usually no past memories/nostalgia for UGA unless alumni parent
  9. Connection to UGA is emotional but also transactional

Roadmap for connecting with UGA Parents

Reaching out to new Freshman Parents

  • Always address both parents unless it is clear that they are separated/divorced/widowed
  • Always acknowledge student right away
  • Time is of the essence – narrow window of opportunity BUT need to be sensitive
  • Learn about their family’s UGA experience
  • Connect them with a community to become more involved…Parents Leadership Council

Suggested Annual Touchpoints

  1. September/October — Welcome back to campus (non-first year families) and Parents Leadership Council Weekend/Greek Parent Weekends
  2. November — Happy Thanksgiving/first visit home for freshmen
  3. December — Happy Holidays/hope finals are going well
  4. January — Return to campus, hope winter break was fun
  5. March — Spring break/midterms
  6. May — Finals, end of school year, summer plans and Mother’s Day
  7. June — End of fiscal year and Father’s Day

Meeting Scheduled: Now What?

  • Be aware of any high profile topics on campus
    • Be familiar with student news outlets, social media campaigns
    • Ask about suggested responses from Communications
    • Do not raise the issue unless parents raise it first
  • Assess potential for Parents Leadership Council membership
  • Be aware of the academic year
  • Move-in, midterms, finals, holiday breaks, housing deadlines, tuition, etc.
  • Check the online academic calendar
  • Ask about the student’s experience—this should be one of the very first questions
  • Listen more than talk
  • Generally aren’t interested in the campaign, long-term planning, etc., in the first meeting
  • They just want to talk more about their student.
  • Follow up builds trust and credibility with parents

Family at Fall PLC Weekend 2018

Points to keep in mind!

  • Ask about the student’s decision to apply and attend; their “journey to UGA”
  • Ask about major even if you already know
  • Don’t assume student shares much
  • Parents Leadership Council is a great way to build inclination and structured engagement
  • Avoid the “Update from Campus” approach
    • But be prepared to talk about current events on campus if asked (UGA Points of Pride are good to mention)
  • “I’ll get back to you on that”
    • They don’t expect you to know everything. Really.

And Don’t forget…

  • Parents are less inclined to meet when their student is home
  • Don’t overpromise
  • Capacity/high rating doesn’t always = inclination
  • Be up front: fundraiser, not an ambassador
  • Expect more disqualification than solicitation