Do you feel that everything is budgets, debt crisis, debt ceilings, and bailouts lately? Every time I get in my car I am flooded by discussions on how the economy is weak, the governor is cutting funding, and we have to do more with less. It has been years that we, as agents of higher education in the state of NJ, have been doing more with less. We all feel the strains of the economy on our jobs. Below are 3 tips on working on a shoestring budget for any student affairs practitioner.
1. Budget Supplies
Whenever I work with a student group, a planning committee, or a group that is organizing an event I look at the necessities of the event. When organizing I make a list of needed items, items that make the event easier to run but no necessary, and a wish list. This provides me a clear understanding of where my budget must be put first, second, and where any overflow (I laugh the thought of having any, but dream with me) funds will go. I also focus on where I will get these items. I might really want Party City banquet decorations, but I may need to settle for hand-made or cheaper dollar store decorations. Similarly, other items may be purchased in bulk. Someone has to have a BJ’s or Costco card in your department. Find them and get items there to save money. At the end of the day, you might need to settle for just the essential items.
2. Be Proper Stewards of the Money
Where is the money coming from for your event? If it is student money, it needs to go back to directly benefit students. Make sure you are spending money on what the students want. So often we have awesome ideas that are awesome to us. our students think our awesome idea is lame, cheesy, or lackluster. Take a pulse on what our students want and make sure the money they provide our offices in fees is directly spent on their desires. When we work on doing what they want our money is well spent. It will also help us argue the need for more money when budget crafting is happening. The more successful an event, the easier it is to ask for funds to make it an annual event.
3. Grants are our Friend!
I am not an expert in this topic, but I know that a lot initiatives we want to accomplish could qualify for some form of a grant. Applying can be time consuming and requires a large amount of pre-planning but it can pay off in the end. For one-time events or special series, grants can be a great way to offset or cover the funding necessary. I googled “how to grant writing” and found a plethora of websites designed to help craft proposals. Also, ask around your divisions. I am sure someone in your division has written a grant. We all work at Universities where people write grants all the time. Fid someone who can help explain the process.
As we prepare for the upcoming semester, we at TJA wish you the best. Have a good end to your summer. Find time to relax and refresh. Also, find time to reflect on how to do more with less. Best of luck in the new year.
-Michael J. Miragliotta