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Musings of an Emergency Manager: Think Outside the Wallet

April 12, 2021

Musings of an Emergency Manager:

Think Outside the Wallet

As the fiscal year is coming to a close all our minds turn to how we’ll fund the future. Before the pandemic, budgets were already tightly watched at institutions as higher ed struggled to maintain and improve enrollment numbers. During the pandemic, dramatic cuts and shifts in funding (one EM had to give back their $200 office supply money) occurred at all universities and colleges as priorities and revenue streams were realigned to cope with a new reality. It’s anyone’s guess how long (or if) budgets will ever make it back to pre-pandemic levels. Here’s a couple of ideas of how you might be able to (legally) supplement your budget.

I am willing to bet an internal organ that every college or university has a fundraising machine. Depending on the focus of this machinery you might be able to leverage this machine to fund projects not covered by your budget.

At one university where I worked, the fundraising folks were oriented toward large projects. You know getting donations for new or remodeled buildings to slap someone’s name on for a huge sum of money. So when I called seeking assistance to solicit alumni donations to buy bleeding control kits to co-locate with AEDs… well let’s just say they weren’t enthusiastic. But with a little persistence and luck, I found the right person. While they didn’t do small gifts, the young lady did know of an alumnus medical doctor who had expressed interest in supporting more practical small scale projects. Thanks to this lucky connection the doctor donated $500 to buy bleeding control kits, which inspired my boss and the president’s office to kick in an additional $500 each. So we got all the bleeding control kits we needed, plus two mass casualty bags for large events.

If your institution’s donation machine won’t spin its gears for you consider approaching the larger schools. Many of them have their own fundraising efforts in place to solicit donations. If you have a project that benefits you both, they might be willing to work their list on your behalf, or at least let you work it. You never know until you ask.

I’ve also heard rumors that some institutions have established crowdfunding sites for various projects. Donors can jump on the university crowdfunding site and pick the projects they want to fund. If you’re fortunate enough to work at one of these institutions I wouldn’t hesitate to put this unique opportunity to work for you.

Another option I explored was private sector donations. (Some of these organizations call them grants, but don’t worry they don’t have the amount of paperwork usually associated with that word.) It turns out there are some businesses that will make donations to local emergency responders to help them offset costs of equipment and other projects. During my research, I ran across opportunities sponsored by FireHouse Subs, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and I’m sure others that have slipped my mind. Some were in the form of monetary donations while others were gift cards, but either would have been useful. Unfortunately, the marketing and legal folks both killed this idea for me due to concerns over use of the University name and logo. But maybe your organization is less uptight than mine was.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to take advantage of these ideas, or they’ll inspire other outside the wallet options for you. Except a bake sale. In this era of concern over nut allergies and gluten intolerance, I think bake sales are fraught with peril. 

Please share examples of how you’ve addressed funding challenges or suggestions for topics by sending an email.

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