Programming, marketing and facility management are all critical components of campus recreation, but it costs money to execute most anything.
“Budget planning is a balance to make data-driven decisions to meet the needs of the institution and plan for the future,” said John MacDonald, the director of recreation at the University of Akron.
In fact, there are several elements of your budget to take into account. “With your department’s values as a baseline, the budget should focus on four separate considerations: wages and personnel, supply and services, capital initiatives, and revenue generation,” said Jeff Konya, the athletic director at Northeastern University.
With that in mind, here are 12 tips to build a comprehensive budget for your rec center:
Konya: “A successful budget manager must be both organized and analytical in assessing the needs and current realities within the organization. In effect, there needs to be a factual baseline of known and shared information like participation usage, new trends in technology, popularity of equipment and programming, etc.”
MacDonald: “Keep a running list of the following: new programs – including staffing, equipment needs and potential student engagement impact — capital projects, revenue opportunities, professional development — student and professional staff — and equipment and maintenance needs. Without these running lists, when the budget time comes around, there might be items that are missed because they were not captured when someone came up with them.”
Konya: “As an overarching philosophy, we try to implement strategies centered around a student-led facility which impacts decisions on staffing and programming. In our student-led model, utilizing programs such as federal work study could help re-allocate resources.”
MacDonald: “We have amazing and talented teams, so we utilize them. They will be on the front lines and can provide details that could otherwise be missed. Have all areas submit budgets, and support them in accountability and budget planning.”
Konya: “I use the ‘break any silo’ mentality. It is not campus recreation versus everyone. In fact, the campus has formal and informal solutions that can have the effect of expanding the reach and impact of each dollar. Formally, an effective budget manager should utilize the procurement office to ensure best possible processes for goods and services. Along these lines, the campus may have effective educational programs on important topics relating to finances and the budget. Also, a campus may have a surplus division that can provide certain items to the organization at significant discounts. Informally, there are many strategies to share costs and create win-win scenarios across campus. Is there an opportunity to partner with other departments to buy in bulk, bring in speakers for professional development or to purchase common software?”
Konya: “The equipment and programming needs must match the user demands of the facility. It is critical the organization uses a replacement schedule for its equipment, has a robust accounting system of its inventory and has a good sense of growing trends in the industry for rapid implementation.”
MacDonald: “Plan for what you want, not what you don’t want. It’s easy to play the ‘what if’ game so far that the original intent and design of a program or space will change in such a way it loses its intended purpose.”
MacDonald: “Utilize forecasted and historic data. Technology is great to view multiple perspectives and evaluate a budget request compared to actuals and previous data.”
Konya: “At Northeastern, we try to be very detailed with purchasing and reconciliations, including very comprehensive monthly reports.”
MacDonald: “Consistently revisit your budget and review monthly and quarterly statements and track actuals. This will help you better control financial decisions and know where you’re heading for the year.”
Konya: “Most people, when they hear the word ‘budget,’ equate it to cost containment. But I would advise not to forget about the other side of the coin, namely revenue generation. Be entrepreneurial when appropriate, especially in possible revenue generation situations. Selling community memberships or renting out facility space is not a unique concept. It is one that could be considered along with a whole host of other ventures like retail, food service, community programming and summer camps, to name a few. The win-win solution is to find a revenue generating solution that can actually enhance the overall experience.”
MacDonald: “When summarizing your budget, prepare information in the context that if someone reading it has no idea about recreation, your summary gives them the information they need.”
MacDonald: “Preventative maintenance can lead to huge savings. If we don’t routinely maintain our facilities and equipment, we could have large expenses that could have been addressed with routine and consistent preventative maintenance.”
Konya: “I like to advocate a thought process in the organization of, ‘Is this how you would make this financial decision from a personal standpoint?’ For example, if you are doing work travel, are you purchasing airfare and hotels in advance for cheaper costs or waiting until the last minute? Hopefully, being a good steward of the resources given can be incorporated into a healthy culture expectation.”
MacDonald: “Do your homework when purchasing. When putting something out to bid, make sure it has the exact specifications you want — this will help narrow the results you receive. Research products and pricing, and don’t be afraid to ask for a better deal or leverage your buying power with larger purchases.”
MacDonald: “Whenever possible, maintain development opportunities for student and professional staff. Certifications, workshops and conference presentations all create opportunities for growth and development that have lasting effects for both the individual and department.”
Konya: “One could make a case that any of the four budget ‘buckets’ — wages and personnel, supply and services, capital improvements, or revenue generation — should be prioritized based on the unique and timely needs of the organization.”
MacDonald: “Use of the department mission and vision should help guide this. Who do you serve, and in your budget decisions, are you serving them?”