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3 Ways to Nail Your Program’s Annual Budget Pitch

Rick Ghinelli ·

Competition for program funding within school districts is increasing. You may find yourself facing a tough challenge where you need to request a sizable amount of money to purchase critical capital expense items such as new instruments, software, and equipment. So how do you convince your fine arts administrator and other superiors that your program is worthy of the additional financial investment, especially when budgets are already super tight?

1. Know Your Audience

Start with some strategic sleuthing. Who are the people you have to convince about investing more funds in your program? Do you have a single decision maker or multiple stakeholders? Make a list of the folks who are involved in the budget process and find out what they care about most when it comes to allocating funds. If you have a single Fine Arts Administrator responsible for allocating the budget, ask them what factors go into their specific decision-making process. If you’re a first-year teacher, inquire about the previous budget request history to help you understand funding patterns and better gauge your request. If you have a Booster Club Board involved, meet with a few key members to assess their financial appetite and desires for growth of your program. If the budgeting requires multiple approval layers, such as a school board, investigate what drives their decision-making as well. Test scores? Attendance rates? Discipline trends? Community prestige? The better you understand what matters to your ‘investment committee’, the easier it will be for you to frame your budget pitch to land strong.

2. Know Your Data Inside and Out

Next, gather the facts about your program. Don’t assume your audience knows all they need to know about what you offer, who is involved, what it takes to run it, and the positive impact it has on students, parents and guardians, the school, and community-at-large. Bring your program to life with key statistics such as:

  • Who: total # of students, # of guardians, # of ensembles, # of volunteers involved
  • How: total # of events (rehearsals/drills, performances, competitions), announcements sent, average # hours students spend per week engaged with your program
  • What: total # of instruments, breakdown by type and percentages of your instruments in excellent, good, poor, and unrepairable condition and average age; include spend on repairs and depreciation values; do the same with your attire/uniform and equipment inventory and include relevant figures for your music library as well

Just like other capital outlay items, musical instruments and equipment will depreciate over time and don’t have an infinite life expectancy. It is critical that directors have a means to keep accurate data on these items, particularly in these three areas: condition, age, and current value. When making budget requests, use the data to illustrate the “why” behind your request. For example, stating that your program needs a new sousaphone because “it is 15 years old, in poor condition, and you have spent more money on repairs than it is currently worth” is a much more compelling case than just saying, “we need a new sousaphone.” With a system like CutTime, assembling your key program data is now a much easier task thanks to the musical instrument export feature which gives you over a dozen data filters including instrument type, condition, age, current value, and repair spend.

3. Know Your Bottom-Line Value

Be realistic. Your budget request should prioritize items that are essential to continue running your program. That said, be unapologetic about advocating for your students to have what they need to keep growing as artists. Band and orchestra directors have almost done too good of a job keeping instruments in the hands of students using duct tape and rubber bands! Continued use of worn out assets will inhibit their learning, performance, and motivation to shine.

Advocacy is a word that we hear quite a bit these days, but what does it mean in practice? Advocacy involves teaching someone something they are not aware of or have little understanding about and showing why it is important, so advocacy and education go hand in hand. One crucial thing about advocacy is that it should be on-going and not just a one-time event. In order for your administrators to understand what you do and why your subject is important, you need to constantly inform them about the workings of your fine arts program throughout the year, not just during the annual budget request period. You are your program’s best ambassador and advocate! The more they know your bottom line value to the school system and community, the more likely they are to respond favorably to your financial investment requests.

Want to Know Your Instrument Numbers Better?

Getting your arms around your instrument data can be a real beast. CutTime shows you the current value of each instrument based on industry depreciation values, plus you can easily capture the amount you’ve spent on repairs over the lifetime of the asset.

Use our export feature to extract Purchase Price, Current Price, and Repair Total Values into a CSV or MS Excel file for easier number crunching!