To counter or at least mitigate attacks and criticism, we need trusted leaders in districts to step in and offer insight and perspectives that deepen the understanding (and impact) of what is happening in our schools every day. Tension can increase even more when talking about budget and finance issues. It is essential for district and school leaders to be effective communicators in order to balance any criticism.
Use the following prompts to reframe the way you communicate financial needs and realities to colleagues and the surrounding community:
1. Bring context to your content.
When communicating about budget and finance, numbers can quickly end listening. The “sticker shock” of big numbers can be mitigated with additional descriptions or context to explain what is behind the numbers. The context you share increases the likelihood of your audience sticking with you longer to learn more.
2. Redefine "cost," "value," and "impact."
Describe amounts of money as "cost" — cost is one dimensional and only shares one part of a much larger picture. “Value” describes the worth of the cost and “ impact” is how we talk about the results gained from the cost. Sharing the value and impact of finance-related issues will bring deeper meaning and understanding for your audience
3. Use more meaningful words.
Shifting how you communicate about budget and finance will require key vocabulary changes that will help to emphasize value and impact. “Invest” rather than “spend” implies more of a return on the dollars being used and gives more of a future-focused perspective to your budget and finance context. And “resources” rather than “revenue” broadens the context and “managing resources” provides a more fiscally responsible perspective and better describes what you actually do.
4. Shift away from using “inside” words for “outside” audiences.
School finance is filled with jargon and technical terms that make it more challenging for most stakeholders to understand what you are trying to communicate. The use of different words is needed to reduce confusion and increase understanding.