As Catholic Schools Week 2023 is now in the history books, the next item on the agenda is usually budget development preparation…or perhaps you’ve started on that already!

If you’ve reviewed your finances to forecast January through June expenditures, and then start to build a budget for the next school year, you may find that you have to cut costs. One of the first potential places that everyone looks to cut is the marketing budget. The problem is that marketing is education. With marketing, you’re not educating your students…you’re educating parents of your potential students. Therefore, if you cut your ability to reach potential parents that may choose your school for their children, you’re cutting off your school’s “new blood” supply.

The reason a marketing budget is targeted is that these funds probably have not been expended during the first part of the school year. In fact, I would bet that most schools target most of its marketing dollars to be expended to promote Catholic Schools Week, and then promote open houses and spring events that bring people to the school. The first part of the school year is focused on stabilizing the school so that the children (and teachers) can get back into the routine of studying and instruction. Then comes Thanksgiving…then Christmas…then the first half of the year is gone.

While it can be logistically explained, if your accounting professional sees that you have not expended any funds during the first part of the year, they may expect that the second half of the year will be much like the first…which can spell disaster for your school.

So where do you cut?

Futurist Leland Kaiser says the only difference between resource scarcity and resource abundance is creativity. How we view situations and how we consider (and are willing to consider) new and unique alternatives can mean the difference between choosing a self-destructive path (“But we’ve always done it this way”), and advancing with energy and excitement.

As some have said, if you don’t like your vision, then change your point of view. So let’s apply that to the budget.

Do you even have to cut?

Do you start from a perspective of, “This is how much we can expect to bring in, so what can we do with it?” or “This is what we want to accomplish, so what do we have to generate in order to fund this plan?”

The former speaks to a “scarcity” mindset, while the latter speaks to an “abundance” mindset.  Which camp do you fall into?

Note the second alternative requires some type of visionary planning, something that people can then get excited about. Such thinking has the potential to generate revenues from alternative sources when the plan is communicated to the school, the parish, the community and the businesses of the community. The former alternative starts off with a dollar amount, and current programs are then cut to get to “the magic figure.” That promotes the message, “Well, this is what we wanted to do, but this is all we can do with the funds that are expected to come in.” Then people get disappointed, and we all know what happens when a parent disenrolls their child or doesn’t fulfill their promise to pay tuition.  The downward spiral then becomes a raging vortex as parents talk with other parents and the rumor mill ramps up.  I’ve seen public school districts create their budgets this way, and WAY too many faith-based schools still do it.  Pardon my bluntness, but this method isn’t based in faith – it’s based solely on the bottom line.

While not every problem can be solved by shifting from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mentality, we’ve all seen the results of operating with the intent of “just getting through another year.” And that type of mentality isn’t going to spur confidence in your school’s families who want to enroll their children for long-term benefits!

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2008-2023 (Original publication date: 20080204)