Funding is a crucial component of decision-making for schools and their stakeholders, underscoring the importance of aligning a company’s solutions with institutional budgets and purchasing cycles. With businesses increasingly focused on targeting and reaching the correct audiences at the right time, we’re exploring the crucial factors that can empower businesses to do so successfully.
Read on to learn more about the full scope and impact of school budgets and how businesses in the education space can leverage comprehensive financial insights and education data for more effective engagement with schools.
Understanding School Budgets and Purchasing Cycles
A school budget is the financial lifeblood of educational institutions, and it ultimately determines what resources are available to support the acquisition of supplemental educational solutions. Institutional funding is intricately composed of different elements, including allocations for teacher salaries, classroom materials, maintenance, administrative costs, and more.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that total expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools in the United States reached $870 billion in 2020—averaging out to $14,789 per student annually. Within this substantial financial landscape, education solution providers face the challenge of aligning their offerings with the specific budgetary demands of each institution; not to mention navigating a host of key stakeholders, like school boards, superintendents, human resources teams, and financial officers. These individuals are crucial decision-makers in the budget development process, determining how resources will be allocated and maintained.
Where Does School Funding Come From?
A public education institution’s primary source of funding is generally a blend of local, state, and federal contributions, with property taxes and government grants playing an important role. Education Data Initiative reveals the federal government provides 10.5% of funding for K-12 public schools, while the majority of funding in school districts comes from local and state support.
Nevertheless, it’s worth highlighting that the United States falls short of UNESCO’s benchmark of allocating 15% of total public expenditure to education; in fact, the U.S. directs only 12.7% of public funds to the sector. Plus, there’s a notable gap of $15.3 billion between spending and funding, per Education Data Initiative. This underscores the need for precise budgeting decisions by educational stakeholders.
What Impacts School Budgets?
School district spending—from elementary school to high school and beyond—is generally impacted by education budget constraints, not to mention external factors that force schools to pursue more creative solutions. These include the prevailing economic conditions and fluctuations, with downturns reducing the amount of funding available. Both public and private school budgets are also affected by alterations in government funding policies, demographic shifts, and unexpected events like natural disasters or public health crises—adding considerable pressure on already limited resources.
Why Does an Institution’s Purchasing Cycle Matter?
Schools operate on a purchasing cycle that’s guided by academic calendars. Important purchases for curricula, textbooks, and technology often coincide with this cycle and the start of the school year. Businesses in the education sector must understand the cyclical nature of institutional purchasing to ensure that product and service offerings are readily available when schools actively seek solutions.
The Challenges of Aligning Solutions with School Budgets and Purchasing Cycles
Given the district funding structures and limited resources of early education, middle school, and high school institutions, businesses in the education sector encounter several key challenges when trying to reach specific stakeholders effectively:
- Lengthy procurement processes: It’s common for schools to grapple with intricate and time-consuming procurement procedures when budgeting for the fiscal year. As a result, education businesses must align their offerings with these processes or they risk a slow adoption of their solutions and strained resources for institutions to access.
- Uncertain budget allocation timing: School budgeting is subject to uncertainties and changes depending on a host of external factors—despite the cyclical nature of the process. This makes it difficult for education solution providers to anticipate when schools will have funds available for investments.
- Varying priorities among schools: Every school is unique, with its own set of priorities. This makes it essential for businesses to pinpoint what an institution values and tailor its offerings to cater to these distinct demands.
- Specific departmental differences: The singular needs of educational stakeholders extend beyond just a school or school district; needs change from one department to another—from curriculum development and special education, to physical education and student services. Education solution providers must recognize and address these department-specific differences to provide relevant and effective solutions.
- Limited resources: A large majority of a school’s funding and budgeting go toward labor expenses, with the NCES revealing that salaries and benefits for staff make up approximately 80% of current institutional expenditure costs. Because budget constraints and resource scarcity are common, it’s increasingly critical for businesses in education to offer cost-effective solutions.
Strategies to Reach Institutional Stakeholders More Effectively
Because taking financial resources and purchasing cycles into account is now a strategic imperative for businesses, here are the top six strategies you can implement to reach your target audience successfully:
1. Leverage Comprehensive Education Data
Utilizing education data gives your business a better overview of a school’s specific needs and financial situations. Working with a dependable partner like Agile Education Marketing gives your team access to comprehensive data services and helps you garner valuable market insights into more than just a specific school district, but also distinct departments within it. This ensures that you can tailor your solutions and marketing efforts to not only align with the demands of educational institutions but also their budgets and purchasing cycles.
2. Conduct Timely Outreach to Schools
Timing is crucial, especially when it comes to reaching the right educational stakeholders. Recognize your audience’s budget process for the school year and reach out when the right individuals are actively planning their budgets to increase the likelihood of your solution being considered.
You can research school purchasing cycles and academic calendars for a better understanding of when to schedule your outreach efforts, but it’s best practice to create a strategic plan well in advance to coincide with potentially lengthy decision-making periods. With Agile’s extensive education data repository and easy-to-use list building tools, like Data Explorer, you can navigate these timelines with ease.
3. Offer Flexible Pricing Models
Schools are often working within constrained budgets, which means flexible pricing accommodations make your solutions more accessible and valuable. Consider developing pricing options such as tiered plans, discounts for early commitments, or subscription models to suit different school budgets.
4. Provide Tailored Product Demonstrations
Offer tailored demonstrations of your services and offerings to showcase how they directly address an educational institution’s unique challenges and requirements.
For the best results, gather as much information as possible about a school’s distinct pain points and goals before the product demo. This helps you customize your presentation to ensure you’re addressing the concerns educational stakeholders are most interested in.
5. Align Solutions With Curriculum Standards
An institution’s curriculum standards can change depending on several factors, including the school district and the type of institution (i.e., a private or public school). When speaking to interested stakeholders, clearly articulate how your solutions support local and national curriculum requirements.
6. Showcase Proven ROI and Impact
It can be challenging to sell stakeholders on your solutions when their resources are already limited. However, demonstrating the real impact of your offerings on institutional outcomes, student achievement, and cost-effectiveness helps build trust with schools. Start collecting and sharing success stories and case studies that highlight the tangible benefits schools have gained after using your solutions. Be sure to provide data and testimonials that can back up these claims when speaking to potential buyers.
Empower Your Organization With Valuable Data and Insights
Businesses operating in the education sector face both unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to aligning their offerings with school budgeting and purchasing cycles. Ultimately, staying informed about the intricacies of education funding, recognizing the diversity of institutional and departmental needs, and offering data-driven solutions are key to thriving in the ever-evolving educational landscape.
Agile Education Marketing stands as a dependable partner to help you navigate these complex environments, equipping your teams with robust education data services and market insights for more effective outreach. With a commitment to personalized solutions, collaboration, and continuous improvement, Agile’s marketing experts empower your business to optimize its decision-making and targeting strategies.
Ready to partner with Agile Education Marketing and create a strategic plan that aligns with school budgets and purchasing cycles? Reach out today to get started.