How to Effectively Manage Grants and Finances at Independent Schools

Independent-Schools.jpgBalancing an independent school’s budget can be challenging. According to Peter Calfee, President of Calfee Financial, financial issues can surface when you:

  • Compromise your school’s compensation philosophy and structure by hiring outside the pay grid for experience and education.
  • Face unexpected capital and maintenance issues not budgeted.
  • Confront legal/personnel issues not anticipated, yet expensive to mitigate.
  • Experience economic volatility that reverses tuition growth with enrollment decline.

The question then becomes, “Are these short-term issues easily solved, or do we need to seek alternative sources of income for expense increases and/or revenue declines?” One way is to examine the potential of regional, state and national grants from government, foundations or private corporations to supplement required tuition levels, annual giving, and endowment growth and income.

Find Grants that Match Your Mission

As you begin your search for grants, let existing needs dictate those that are a fit. As Calfee states, “You're not trying to create a need for a grant when you got by without one; you're trying to respond to your ongoing mission. Look down your needs list, not your wants, to seek out those grants that could alleviate an existing budget concern."

Also, search for funding that aligns with your organization’s mission and goals. For example, some government grants require that your institution adhere to testing or curriculum requirements. If your school subscribes to defined education tenants within your legacy vision and mission, then selection of grantmaking institutions shouldn’t run counter to that vision and mission.

Think beyond government money too. The above is also true of nonprofit and non-governmental grant making institutions. The heritage of America includes thousands of private and public foundations with specific purposes and goals. Schools, teachers, curricula and technology can all be valid recipients.

Establish Checks and Balances

Much of the responsibility and effort to obtain adequate and necessary financial gifts, grants and awards rests with the business office. Successful schools are the result of a close working relationship between the head of school and the business manager. In fact, grant applications often require sound administration and governance, which relies upon such a strong working relationship. 

It also shows the importance of proper, timely, informative reporting after the grant is awarded, to ensure proper compliance with grant rules and requirements. 

Assign a Technology Lead

Develop a subset that is responsible for researching and implementing technology to improve organizational operations and help the school better meet its mission.

Specific to financial management, one solution worth considering is grant management software, which lets you manage the entire grant process from research and submission to post-award reporting.

Grant management software can help your independent school streamline existing processes, providing enhanced visibility into how funds are spent. Benefits include:

  • Automated reporting and data collection.
  • Easy integration with current financial systems.
  • Improved tracking of grant financial and performance activity.
  • Centralized grant information in a single location.
  • Compliance with reporting requirements and award terms.

Learn more about improving your school’s grant management by downloading our ebook, “Grant Seeking and Grant Management in Education.”

    Download Ebook

How does your independent school manage grants and finances? Share in the comments below.

Image Source: Pictures of Money