The Newsletter is Dead (and what to do instead), Part 3

January 3, 2017 Jim Cianca

“I never know what’s going on around here!”  complained an exasperated parent as she made the rounds, talking to the Upper School Principal, the Director of Advancement, and everyone on a parent board she was a part of.  As campus-wide training on our newly implemented Blackbaud's education management portfolio (formerly the "ON" Products) was about to get underway, we decided to give her a peek at our new solution.  We met with her and demonstrated where she could go online to find all the information she needed, and even how to get it sent to her.  As we shared feature after feature, she sat, literally with her mouth agape, only managing to stammer short phrases of approval of all she was seeing.  She was stunned.  As one of our first trainees, she became one of the school’s biggest communication advocates – even volunteering to help lead parent training sessions. 

Once we realized that the newsletter is not an effective tool – and that it likely contributed to parent complaints like the one described above – we wondered, “What should be done instead?”  Our answer began with the practical solutions we discovered in the Blackbaud Learning Management System™ (formerly onCampus®) and Blackbaud School Website System™ (formerly onMessage®) products…like the following:  


This became our best solution to wean parents off a newsletter.  Notifications send an outbound text or email without all the baggage inherent in a newsletter.  Instead, it is a training tool that draws constituents inbound to the online content.  We signed up all our parents by default, and to great effect.  Instead of misguided attempts at delivering content, the notification draws your constituents to the content they need.

Resource Boards

Can you make the bold claim that every piece of information a student, parent, or faculty member needs is online, always accessible from anywhere?  If you use Resource Boards, you can.  Put your forms, links, FAQs, handbooks, and more on a Resource Board, and you’ll never need to use a newsletter or email with an attachment again. 

Community Pages

If you decentralize your communications efforts, every division and department on campus will be generating the information your constituents need.  What about a theater page, a faculty health & wellness page, or a parent book club page?  These and many more – including the more typical division pages, sports pages, or club pages – can be targeted to specific groups on your campus and provide precisely the information they need. 

Media Gallery

Use the photo and video capabilities, as well as the activity stream to draw your families into your website.  Media coverage of student life activities, fine arts events, academic or athletic victories, and school-wide traditions all draw your families to your website.  It’s a hook that encourages your constituents to log in, familiarizing them with the location of all the other information they need.

You can use these tools to move beyond the newsletter -- and better still, use your imagination, reaching beyond these few examples. Instead of relying on the blunt instrument known as a newsletter, which no longer effectively reaches your constituents, use the personalized power of Blackbaud's education management portfolio to speak your constituents’ language.  Today’s modern tools offer a viable alternative, enabling you to reach your constituents where they are, whenever they are ready to listen.

About the Author

Jim Cianca

Dr. Jim Cianca has been involved in high-quality private education in many roles, including as a head of school, an academic administrator, director of marketing & communications, an academic department chair, faculty member, and parent. He is currently the executive director of Alliance Academy International in Quito, Ecuador. He has been involved in educational leadership and marketing and communications efforts, both as a business leader and as an educator since 1998. To learn more visit:

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The Newsletter is Dead (and what to do instead), Part 2
The Newsletter is Dead (and what to do instead), Part 2