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Your institution doesn't have to choose between community engagement or budget. Follow these tips to improve community facility usage and still recover school funds.

 

You'd be hard-pressed to find a school that doesn't feel stretched thin today, or any day. It's in the nature of schools to always want to do more and provide better for those they serve. Whether your institution is large or small, well-funded or not, it seems budgets are never big enough to accommodate all the things we wish we could give to our district or campus.

So when external event requests come in, it's easy to understand why many schools are guarded or hesitant at the least. Like it or not, events held on school grounds are a burden on resources. While we want to increase community engagement and welcome citizens into our facilities, we can't ignore that community use of these facilities comes at a cost. When we host events, we're not just allowing community members to use school space. We're also saying yes to the planning and preparation required, support and custodial staff overtime, damage liability, and the usage of energy, equipment and technology.

Without a plan for cost recovery, the dent in your resources can make events feel like a big loss. But, many schools across the country are making peace with community facility use thanks to developing programs that keep everyone happy — and don't hurt the budget.

How to Recover Funds and Simplify Events

  1. Automate the process. Lack of efficiency creates headaches no matter what you're doing. Facility scheduling programs that rely on paper, spreadsheets and calendars that aren't dynamic enough to provide clear communication and scheduling make events a disorganized mess. Using a robust but easy-to-operate automated system keeps every step of the process in one organized place that can be tracked, so you're not worrying about lost invoices or scheduling overlaps.
  2. Get buy-in from leadership. It's hard to keep your policies and procedures consistent if not everyone is on board. Make sure your institution's leadership is involved and unified so your facility scheduling methods are clearly communicated throughout your district or campus.
  3. Come up with an estimate for costs. Get clear on what expenses your institution will face for items like:
    1. Administration of events (receiving requests, checking availability, checking insurance validity, acquiring approvals, arranging for services, creating invoices, collecting payments, etc.)
    2. Custodial services
    3. Utility usage
    4. Facility wear and tear
  4. Develop tiered fee structures. Schools that see success with facility scheduling often create a tiered structure depending on the type of group requesting the space. Groups are typically categorized by the degree of connection with the students or community. Consider:
    1. Category 1: School Groups (no charge)
    2. Category 2: Nonprofit Groups (cost recovery fee but no rental charge)
    3. Category 3: Community Groups (commercial rental fee, custodial fee, recovery fee)C
    4. Category 4: Commercial Groups (market rate charge)
  5. Improve invoice management. Your billing experience should be accurate and organized from start to finish. This is both for your sake and for customer experience, which influences whether that group will return. Provide a quote to set expectations, develop a contract and create an invoice that's preferably paid before the event occurs. Be diligent in collecting payments, because every dollar not paid is a dollar taken from your students.
  6. Maintain event presence. Though it's costly to have custodial and support staff at events, the investment is worth it. Having these employees on site reduces property damage and helps protect your assets.

Want to know more? Dive deeper into cost recovery and successful facility scheduling in our 5 Operational Management Trends to Know for 2018 e-book. 

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