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Get Ready to Report: Telling the Story of Your Numbers

Carol Dougherty


on September 30, 2015

Get Ready to Report: Telling the Story of Your Numbers

Stop - take a minute. What is the “job” of the board of trustees? Understanding the role of the board will make your reporting stronger and more directed towards what they need to hear to be great trustees. If you know what is expected of a trustee, you can provide information that will support them in their roles. NAIS’s Principles of Good Practice for Independent School Trustees is a good starting point.

As a director of admission, you drive the revenue, you drive who is on campus, and in turn you drive the character and feel of your campus. Reporting to the board of trustees can be a moment of celebration or a moment filled with anxiety. On the whole, board members do not come from the education world. And, independent schools are a blend of education and business. You become the bridge from business to academics.

Whether you report in person or in writing, make sure to "put your best foot forward." Humans judge people and reports in just a few seconds. Written reports need to start with a bang and grab the trustees' attention, so that they actually read all the details. They are busy folks - make them want to read your report. The same is true of meeting day. You need to wow them from the handshake, to the PowerPoint, the facts, and the stories.

The numbers...you just have to know them cold. It is key to be able to recite enrollment numbers, the funnel numbers that are important to your school, the yield ratios, revenue, and financial aid. It is a great deal of information to have on the tip of your tongue, but the ability to quickly respond with the numeric facts will boost the board's confidence in you. Check all of your numbers and date benchmarks with the business manager. The two of you need to speak and report in perfect synch. Set a date to compare your data. Finally, use your strengths to your advantage: identify the strong and weak points. Explain the soft numbers and brag without hesitation on the strong achievements. As our students would say, "report like a boss."

Tell the story...but it has to be more than just the numbers. If your report is not more than the numbers, you are selling widgets made in the Econ 101 factory. You need to tell the broad and detailed view of who you enrolled and why these kids will live the mission of your school. Connect the broad demographics to the mission of your institution. Be able to articulate why and how these students are an integral addition to "who you are." Then, drive deep. Prepare three great stories about individual students. You might only use one. But, the authenticity of a real child brings meaning and purpose to the total revenue.

It's not fiction...validate what you report. Use the professional resources provided by SSATB and NAIS to support your work. Know the trends that affected your current enrollment. Be ready to discuss factors that will impact your next recruiting season. Within your setting, quantify the unknown impact of trends. How do you track since 2008 with regard to demand, yield, and net tuition revenue? Before the board meeting, engage with the head of school; what are your institutional tolerances for the upcoming enrollment challenges?

When it is all over...reflect and seek feedback. Immediately after the meeting, jot down the questions board members asked you, both the easy and hard ones. This will help you identify trends in what your board wants to know and what you should pre-load in your reporting. Seek feedback from your fellow administrators. They will probably say "ah, you were great." You will need to ask detailed questions to get detailed feedback: How was the data presentation? Was that story about the ninth grader helpful? Preparation, time, and experience are the elements of rockstar board interaction. There are no shortcuts.

So, as you pull your board reports together, take a minute and post a hint or a story that will make all of us "report like a boss."

Resources

Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins: How to Use Your Own Stories to Communicate with Power and Impact by Annette Simmons (Author)

Infographics: The Power of Visual Storytelling – September 4, 2012 by Jason Lankow & Josh Ritchie

• NAIS’ Principles of Good Practice for Independent School Trustees

• NAIS' Trendbook

Trusteeship Magazine (online), Association of Governing Boards, agb.org

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