In 2017, when I first wrote Creatively Preparing the Music Department Budget, I never thought about preparing a follow-up to answer the issues at hand we are facing as music educators. We are facing challenges that caught us off guard not realizing the possible long term effects on students and programs. Remote learning, creativity, no large ensemble meetings/rehearsals, no concerts, the possibility of no marching season, financial cutbacks, reduction of staff—all presenting a new meaning to monitor and adjust. Whether these are temporary or long term, we need to prepare for the new norm upon return.
It’s pretty certain we are going to see cutbacks in local school budgets. To continue the quality programs many are accustomed to, you may need to find ways to supplement rather than being dependent on school budgets. The methods in my previous article can be applied to today’s conditions with modifications. We all will face some type of reductions in our budgets.
Modifications may mean finding additional funding for the extra needs we have acquired through fundraising and booster organizations. We may be forced to start looking at corporate sponsorships through advertising or local recognition in our programs. We may have to offer needed products or services rather than hosting traditional fundraisers—for example, rather than selling cards and wrapping paper, sell toilet tissue or light bulbs. Some programs have been doing this for years. Instead of selling chocolates, maybe sell prepared meals. At any rate, look for something that is consumer friendly, needed, and profitable, returning nothing less than 40% profit!
Another way of creating income is providing services through the performing ensemble for donations, such as mowing grass, shoveling snow, painting, cleaning, etc. Car washes and bake sales have been around a long time but have never brought in the amounts to be profitable. Some music programs have been able to sponsor trivia nights, bingos, dances using the jazz band, and even mattress sales for income! Being creative is going to be a norm in fundraising, find something no one else is doing. Your students and booster clubs can brainstorm ideas that would fit your community and clientele.
Most programs will need to be more frugal in spending. If and when we return to normal we are going to need to make changes. Consider going to three competitions instead of five. Instead of purchasing ten new selections for concert season cut back to five or six and revisit the library or borrow music from other schools. Limit purchases to “needs” rather than “wants.” Be practical in your selections. You may have to put older instruments in playing condition rather than replace them, at least for a couple years. Consider the refurbish/refinish approach. If capable, do your own summer maintenance/repairs/cleaning.
If you are in need of new instruments or large ticket items this may be the time you visit with administration and local music dealers to consider a lease/purchase program. If you consider this, you need to create at least a three year budget asking for a set amount for the next three to five years and again, adjust your needs in order of importance.
These are considerations for the future when we return to a normal school year. Your immediate needs may be to develop online programs, needing new software, computers, Chromebooks, or iPads. These items may have implications on your present and future budgets. If so, try to reestablish your most recent budget format as soon as possible.
In today’s “new norm”, we are all going to need to change. Be patient and understanding. The return or near return to the past will take time. By monitoring and adjusting you can slowly return to the budgets and programs you are accustomed to.