Let’s see a show of hands…

How many of you have started working on your school’s budget for the 2021-2022 school year?  (What?  Is he kidding?  It’s October, and this year, the first quarter isn’t even over yet!)

Just so you know, I give up mind reading as something I work at, but can still do it.

When I worked for a Diocese, we used to meet with “the schools” to begin the budget process right after the “official” October 1st enrollment numbers were submitted to the state, but “the school” was not just represented by the principal or administrator.  “The school” was represented by a team consisting of the principal or administrator, the pastor or members of the board of pastors, the business manager, and sometimes, the development director (if the school had one).  It was through this format that information could be communicated and discussed, rather than having one person at the meeting who then brought it back to the parish or school, and then got passed around like the proverbial football.  This could result in ideas and procedures receiving embellishment or omitting a key component or deadline, especially when we were discussing budgets.

Please note that the operative word in that first sentence is “started.”  There was no way we were going to have a budget completed by Thanksgiving.  Rather, this was the time we began to share concerns about enrollment for the coming year, discover if there were rumblings regarding an increase in the cost of health care benefits, and become aware of what new governmental procedures were going to be put into place for the new school year.  It was good preparation, especially when Principals, business managers and pastors met with Diocesan and Office for Catholic Schools’ staff.  It was also a way to make our internal relationships stronger, involving everyone in the discussions about finances and financial aid.

So what does this have to do about marketing?  Remember that marketing is not about getting new students to enroll in your school.  That’s enrollment.  Marketing is everything that’s done to begin a change in mindset and take the first step toward the next part of the process.  That means there are different types of Marketing – that which brings new students to the school; that which keeps students in the school; that which shares good news with constituents so they’ll be moved to support the school; and that which paves the way for effective Asset Management – being good stewards of the funds entrusted to the school when it comes to providing financial aid, but also fostering reciprocity regarding the responsibility of capturing tuition.

Since more and more schools are moving toward tuition providing significantly more than 50% of their operating budget, you should report back to your parents what their dollars are funding…and don’t be embarrassed about the fact that most of it goes for salaries and benefits of your teachers.  If you have confidence in your school’s teachers and you’re proud of the work they do, they should be paid a just wage.  Truthfully, your staff is extremely important today.  That’s one of the inferences that’s created a new section on this site called The STAFF System.

Along with the budget, plan on sending home an envelope with students – so that parents who can do so can consider making an end of year contribution to your school.  Point out “Development” in your school’s budget revenue line, and show that’s where the dollars or checks they put in the envelope go.  If you’re not conducting an annual appeal yet, consider this to be your first step – which is at the heart of every development effort.  While you may have an annual appeal in place, including a financial statement that’s easily understandable may make someone realize that there is still a need in the school…even with all the effort that was put into the financial aid process.

Here’s where color printing helps a lot.  Rather than just showing a financial report in black and white, displaying a document where everything balances, show in red where your need is.

For instance, perhaps you have a budget line for “unpaid tuition.”  In a typical financial report, it could be shown on the expense side, since it represents an absence of revenue in order to have revenues-expenses equal zero to show a “balanced budget.”  Even though these numbers are expenses, they could be shown on the report as “positive” numbers, rather than negative numbers or numbers in parentheses.  Unfortunately, if most people see a financial report that balances, it will most probably confirm their confidence that all is well with the world…when, in reality, the complete opposite may be true!   Right about now would be a good time to do it, since shopping for the holiday season is just around the corner.  Don’t wait too long, or holiday excuses, along with the fear that the impending election is generating could have a profound effect on dissuading potential contributors.

 © Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2010-2020 (Original Publication Date: 20051017)