Marketing to millennials: Tips for any homeschool group
by Shanxi Omoniyi, Online Content Director, Midwest Parent Educators • July 24, 2020
Had I come to the wrong place?
I rubbed my eyes and stared again. Before entering, I had expected a grandiose office filled with personnel and machines . . . like my dad’s IT workplace.
But all I saw, as a then-16-year-old homeschooled student, was a tiny room in a church basement, filled with dusty books and audiotapes labeled with phrases like 1990 Homeschool Conference.
I had always assumed Midwest Parent Educators (MPE) was a huge organization. As a starry-eyed debate student, I had attended MPE’s annual conferences, where thousands of homeschoolers would flock to a huge church in the Kansas City area.
Somehow this tiny office was my mom’s new workplace as she took on the role of MPE’s part-time office manager.
Fast-forward more than 15 years. I graduated from high school as a homeschooler, then attended a public university, then entered the workforce full-time. In 2013, my husband and I decided it was time for me to leave the workforce (although I like to say that my real work had only just begun!) so I could stay home with our children, start a part-time business, and homeschool.
Throughout my homeschooling journey—first as a student and now as a mom—I’ve had MPE to help me as one of my primary resources. That’s why I love serving on MPE’s staff. As online content director, I reach out to different generations of homeschooling parents and help them see how MPE and other state homeschool organizations can support them.
Since my initial shock at seeing the MPE office in 2002, many changes have rocked the homeschool world. A big one is that homeschool organizations are no longer seen as vital resources for homeschooling families—especially among my generation. Many millennials don’t see the point of supporting their local or state homeschool organization—if such organizations even exist in their area. To them, MPE and other groups seem outdated at best, obsolete at worst.
What does that mean for homeschool leaders? It means we have a perfect opportunity to adjust our mindsets to communicate with younger parents and connect them with the homeschool resources they need.
How to stand out in an intergenerational world
At MPE, we’ve found these rules of thumb to be helpful in reaching out to a millennial audience:
Invest in social media. It’s not enough to simply have a website and some social media accounts. Learn how millennials use social media, and then use it the way they do! In the next installment of this series, I’ll share some tips and resources based on my own experience as an online content director and, well, being a millennial.
Invest in email marketing. While email isn’t as glamorous as social media, it’s still one of the most effective forms of marketing. If you compare how many people open and read your emails to how many view your best social media post, the numbers won’t even be close. (This doesn’t mean social media isn’t important—the two forms of marketing complement each other.) We’ll delve deeper into email marketing in this article.
Cultivate (and capitalize on) your volunteers. Millennials believe in the power of volunteering, so don’t hesitate to ask them to step up. Think outside the box—board members and organizational administrators don’t have to be your only volunteers. At MPE, we even created the position of social media volunteer to get help with sharing our posts. Yes, some volunteers will drop out quickly, but a dedicated few will stick with your organization for years (and sometimes their children take their places after they retire!).
Use internships strategically. MPE created a social media intern position that is specifically filled by homeschooled high schoolers. Young people in positions like this can help your organization connect with youth volunteers, next-generation homeschoolers, and others!
Appreciate your volunteers! Each year on the Friday night of our annual conference, we host a banquet for our conference volunteers and speakers, where our staff has a beautiful tradition of publicly thanking each member of the conference committee. Volunteers on the conference committee also receive handwritten notes of thanks from MPE leadership, and in the past they’ve received gift vouchers to shop at the conference.
Other ways we appreciate our volunteers include giving gift cards and complimentary MPE memberships to those who organize our used-curriculum sales, help at our Women’s Encouragement Day events, and speak at our how-to-homeschool workshops. The gifts don’t have to be expensive, but these tokens of appreciation go a long way toward recognizing our volunteers’ priceless contributions to our community!
Recognize the gifts of each generation. Proverbs 20:29 says that the glory of young people is their strength, while older generations can display their gray hairs of experience! It can be scary and messy to pass on the baton of leadership to the younger generation, especially because we’re not always perfect (and yes, we often mess up!). However, we younger folks need wisdom, grace, and support from those of you who have gone before us. At a recent MPE committee meeting, one of the longest-serving members publicly thanked us younger volunteers for our contributions to the meetings and our thoughts on specific challenges. It brought tears to my eyes to be so appreciated, especially by someone with such a legacy of faithfulness to homeschooling.
Invite them in
If I had to sum up connecting with millennials into one piece of advice, it would be to give them the same experience I had inside that tiny office. My mom invited me in because she knew me and was sharing her job and life with me—but she had no idea what she was starting. Yes, it shocked me that MPE really operated on that small a scale. But it also inspired me to start thinking about what I could do to help, because I had already seen the massive results MPE could achieve.
While it can feel scary to open up your organization to youngsters (literally!), they are crucial to leading it to the next level—no matter what “office” you use in this rapidly changing world!
Shanxi Omoniyi is the online content director for Midwest Parent Educators (MPE), a homeschool support organization in Kansas City. A homeschool graduate, Shanxi earned degrees in journalism and English from the University of Kansas. She is excited (and humbled!) to continue homeschooling with her own children. Her company, Wordspire Media, helps businesses and organizations share their stories through content marketing, social media management, and email marketing.