I Love My Schools: Make it Easy for Your Community to Appreciate the State of Your DistrictPosted on Jul 12, 2017 8:14:32 AM
School spirit is a powerful force. Everyone loves to cheer for the successes of their sports teams, fine arts programs, test scores and academic rankings.
It’s time to set yourself up to get a few of those “way to goes” by helping your community understand and appreciate the financial management of their school district.
The best way to achieve this goal is to make it easy for your stakeholders to understand key financial data without a degree in accounting.
The cliché is true
“A picture is worth a thousand words” is a well-known cliché, but it’s also true because of the way the human brain is wired. An MIT study finds that people can identify images in as little as 13 milliseconds. Our minds are also better at remembering visuals than words and figures.
You can take advantage of our brains’ craving for visuals by presenting data in a way that has meaning and relevance for your team, board, teachers, support staff, taxpayers and students.
Data is everywhere
Currently, most school district financial data is housed in accounting systems or a series of spreadsheets. Administrators may not have an easy way to build narratives illustrating the effects of certain decisions or how fluctuating funding sources impacted cash reserves. A lot of time is often spent drawing correlations between line items and determining how to best communicate outcomes or provide general context for stakeholders.
With so many pieces of information housed in various systems, how do you analyze and simplify all the variables that affect how you make financial decisions and present it in a way that tells a visual story?
Determine what goes in your scorecard
First, it’s important to identify the key drivers for expenses and revenues that will affect your budget over the next few years. What do your stakeholders need to understand about those drivers? How would you like them to track your progress over time? What outside influences should they consider?
With that upfront work done, it’s easier to provide a consistent story every time that enables stakeholders to see progress and better understand and support difficult decisions.
Show the story you want them to see
Now it’s time to add visuals to how you present the financial status of your school district by adding analytic capabilities to your toolbox.
All the data from various sources you’ve identified as important, can be collected and input into an analytical software tool that enables you to generate powerful, striking charts and visuals very quickly. You can easily compare and contrast different scenarios and show why you made certain decisions.
You can create a standard set of visuals that illustrate progress in key categories as well as produce diagrams at a moment’s notice to answer questions.
Share your success
An analytics tool enables you to make connections between line items and inputs from all the data sources that impact your finances. Questions about the budget can be anticipated and you can proactively produce visuals that tell a consistent story over time.
Once your stakeholders can understand how and why your district’s finances are managed, they will be your biggest cheerleaders.
David joined Forecast5 Analytics in 2014 and is responsible for the product management, development, and outreach of Forecast5’ s quantitative analysis and financial projection engine – 5Cast. He also assists with the management of 5Cast client relationships. Prior to joining Forecast5 Analytics, he worked as a Chief Financial Officer/Treasurer for over 30 years at Township High School District 211, in Palatine, Illinois. During his extensive experience as a CFO, he successfully engaged in the development of several strategic planning projects and long-term capital improvement programs. David received his BA in Business Economics, and has a MA and certification in school business management.