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Open Houses: Three Opportunities for Business Officers

By Jeffrey Shields posted 29 days ago

  

CEO Notebook |

Connecting with prospective families can shed light on your school’s budget while helping families feel confident about their investment in independent education.

Jeff Shields
Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE
NBOA President and CEO

If I asked an experienced business officer with a successful career in independent schools, “What are some of the keys to successful leadership?,” I would bet good money that part of the answer would be, “Get out of the business office, learn about your school and be an active part of the community.” And I wholeheartedly would agree. This could mean teaching, coaching, advising a club or simply eating lunch in the cafeteria with students and teachers. These opportunities provide visibility for you in your unique role in the business office, and your participation demonstrates active interest in your school’s most important stakeholders: students and faculty. It’s highly likely that you’ll learn something of value and add value to your role.

One such opportunity is likely taking place right now: the fall open house to encourage prospective students and families to apply and enroll in your school. Other than the fact that tuition revenue likely accounts for roughly 70% of your school’s budget, why should business officers and business operations staff add open houses to their already-full calendars?

The annual budget is a direct reflection of a school’s priorities, and open houses can help you better understand what is important and how you are deploying financial resources to back it up — or how you might do that better.

First, as a school leader, your presence and attention demonstrate that you understand the tremendous amount of time and energy this activity requires from many of your colleagues, including your head of school, admissions professionals, other administrative team members and faculty.

Second, open houses provide an ideal opportunity for you to gain a clearer understanding of how your school is communicating its value. The annual budget is a direct reflection of a school’s priorities, and open houses can help you better understand what is important and how you are deploying financial resources to back it up — or how you might do that better. Perhaps the most critical perspective to gain is that of prospective families: What do they see as important, and where do their interests lie? Is it a safe learning community? Or does a specific program seem to spark great interest? No matter the questions, you will learn a great deal and better understand how the school can respond to these expressed needs within your school’s marketplace. This in turn makes you a strong ally to your colleagues and an even more effective advocate with the board when resources are allocated to the areas that are most important to your student and family community.

Third, and perhaps the most often overlooked, is that you represent fiscal responsibility, integrity and efficiency at the school. The more visibility you have, the more prospective families can see that your school is not only in the business of offering a world-class education, but running a world-class business operation that will steward their financial commitment to your school prudently.

Take this opportunity to lead, learn and be seen. I hope all NBOA member schools have open houses with active participation and high energy that will help yield the results your school seeks for FY21. 

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Follow NBOA President and CEO Jeff Shields @shieldsNBOA.
From Net Assets NOW, October 22, 2019. Read past issues of CEO Notebook.

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