Is Your Business Office Ready for the Next Normal?

Nettie Reynolds

March 11, 2022

    While every school CFO and tuition management leader is unique, there’s one quality that’s consistent across the board: you like certainty. And that makes perfect sense, because your job revolves around keeping everything in balance for your school. Ultimately, it’s up to you to keep your school’s financial health in balance with its growth ambitions, but with months of unrelenting uncertainty, your balancing act has become harder than ever.   

    Fundraising was a source of uncertainty, not only because in-person events were wiped off the calendar for the past two years, but because many families faced a situation where they needed to change their approach to giving. After all, they were facing uncertainty too. (For a superb resource on fundraising, see GiveSmart’s Fundraising Blueprint series.

    Along with fundraising, we know that tuition management is an ongoing concern for all schools, and it can be challenging to forecast applications and enrollment trends in such an unprecedented time.   

    Your colleagues have all been stressed, and while everyone wants to support each other’s success, as the financial leader you are the one to make tough calls about how and where to spend your school’s budget. There are also new opportunities to pursue in growing and managing new sources of revenue, beyond your school tuition in this new landscape.   

    You might feel, too, that your school has spent the past few years exploring all sorts of changes on the fly with no blueprint to follow. Social distancing for teens in high school. Masks on every middle-schooler’s face. Virtual classes for preschool and elementary-aged children. All of these concepts were entirely foreign to us all before the pandemic turned PS-12 education upside down, and you likely spent hours upon hours grappling to answer questions you never imagined being asked.   

    Now let’s imagine something different.   

    Imagine being able to eliminate data blind spots that have the potential to threaten the financial health of your school 

    An inability to access a holistic view of school data can add to the uncertainty a business office feels in private and independent schools. Plus, there is a difference between finding basic data points across your school’s departments and having the ability to access and sync data from across the school, giving you insights you can use to make sound decisions.  

    We know from experience that flexibility and nimbleness is key because we simply don’t know what the external world has in store. Imagine having the data you need at your fingertips to ensure you have the tools to decide how to best calibrate family fees or adjust fundraising goals throughout the school year.   

    Operating with confidence and certainty in the next normal will require independent schools to take a hard look at their systems and determine whether they are equipped to provide the types of school-wide insights leaders need.   

     Imagine feeling like a hero to your admission and enrollment colleagues.   

    It’s never fun to be the one to put the kibosh on someone’s creative idea or make someone feel like you’re scrutinizing their every move. And we have it on good authority that PS-12 independent school CFOs have often felt stuck between a rock and a hard place when working alongside their admission and enrollment colleagues. In a perfect world, wouldn’t it be ideal to say “yes” more and “no” less?   

    In the next normal, business office leaders can be seen as a hero and a champion for admission and enrollment, with possibility for new levels of collaboration between these functions that keep schools healthy and growing.  

    Imagine having more time to support an exceptional family experience.  

    There is so much that goes into running and growing an independent school, but at the end of the day, the families are the heartbeat of it all. Of course, the family experience doesn’t end when a student is accepted and enrolled; every touchpoint and moment, including tuition management, should be seen as an opportunity to cultivate and strengthen the family experience with your school. When parents are forced to use clunky systems or feel that their experience is not personalized, it can have a negative, potentially long-term impact on the family’s relationship with the school.   

    The need for and importance of easy-to-use platforms will continue to grow. Parents—and in many cases, students—have dealt with their own stress points over the past few years. They deserve a cohesive, engaging experience from inquiry through tuition payments and beyond, which will provide families with peace of mind and help them to fall in love with your school even more.  

    Our latest whitepaper, “Don’t Get Schooled in the Next Normal,” is full of strategies and insight to help you not only meet the next normal but thrive into every next normal that follows!  




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