Managing Tight Budgets

  • If department resources are used to support a student organization, consider what percentage of the majors participate and whether the organization’s activities benefit individual students and the department’s efforts to increase retention. Similarly, the department should ask whether the money spent on student workers provides optimal benefit to the department. In sum, assess whether the benefits received warrant the faculty time and department funds spent on the activity. Knowing the return on the investment of time and budget can be useful in deciding which tasks might be eliminated.
  • Advances in technology make it possible to provide interactive experiences for students and faculty with professionals at other locations without leaving campus. Technology can also permit departments to teach more students in a single class section while providing differentiated instruction. Many departments have successfully incorporated smart classrooms as a way of delivering classroom instruction to a greater number of students. These technologically enhanced classrooms permit the integration of PowerPoint presentations, video and DVD feeds, document cameras, direct connection to Internet sites, and other such instructional tools.
  • Tracking course attrition can yield significant savings for the department. In particular, it is helpful to track the typical first-week drop rate for each course section and use this information to reduce the number of empty seats in each class. No matter the cap on a course, empty seats represent wasted resources. If the chair knows how many students typically drop a class during the first week, it becomes possible to prevent any loss by adding that number of students above the cap. No extra work for faculty, the wait list ensures students are told day one that a class is available. 

Tips for Managing the Department Budget

  • Look for ways to save money by linking requests. I have found that equipment goals and needs among faculty are quite often similar, so we can purchase multitasking equipment that serves a variety of needs for more than one faculty member.
  • Avoid ad hoc responses to budget needs. Think about the whole year. I recommend a semi-conservative attitude: Hold back a significant portion of the money budgeted for equipment until near the end of the current budget year. This allows for: 1) Emergencies, such as vital equipment failure and immediate replacement; 2) Very extensive planning with the most widespread input; 3) Trade-offs between faculty regarding equipment requests.
  • Run a transparent budget. Faculty are very apprehensive about raises for the coming year and in the future. The best policy is complete openness and continuous updates about the budget and salaries. Keeping everyone informed about budget developments helps minimize undue concerns and negative attitudes.

Emerging Role of the Chair in Fund-Raising

  • Get help from the experts. Work with others in your university, particularly members of the University's advancement and development team. Also, contact other departments or units on campus who have achieved some success in development and apply what worked for them.
  • Remember that everything you do now lays a foundation for a gift in the future. The more time and energy you invest now, the more likely your plan will be a success.
  • There are always donors out there, including one or two big donors. The challenge is find them and help them understand why they should contribute to your department.