No matter the funding source for your afterschool program, you must make the best use of every dollar. Those depending on subsidies and grants have a particular challenge with funding allocation, and scarce funding reduces your ability to offer specialized learning opportunities and experiences.
Afterschool programs have wide-ranging needs, but there is no one-size-fits-all budget plan. Each program has to provide for the needs of their communities.
However, there are some general rules and tips about how to allocate funds for your afterschool program.
The first thing to factor into your budget is state regulations. States regulate most childcare situations, including afterschool programming. Check the minimum licensing requirements as those will inform your budget and allocation. Requirements vary depending on the type of provider, and an afterschool program differs from a daycare or preschool.
The regulations often include separate requirements for school-age care settings, so you should contact the state licensing agency to determine yours. Private and public funding resources may also have differing requirements.
A realistic budget can help you figure out what areas need funding and attention. Start early with financial planning and budgeting. Create a budget spreadsheet with three columns, one each for the previous year’s budget, the current year-to-date expenses in actual numbers, and a blank column for next year’s budget.
Ask for input from administrators and staff and consider any programming changes that affect your financial picture. Has the facility rent changed from the previous year? Are you offering different activities next year that have extra staffing or material requirements? Create columns for each essential expense category. Space and utilities include rent, maintenance, and repair. As required by state and federal labor laws, staff salaries and benefits include health insurance, paid leave, and paid vacation. You should indicate a budget item for accounting, supplies, and marketing.
Other budget items requiring allocation include snacks, materials, equipment, and staff training.
Get into the details. For example, what is included in the utilities? What specific supplies does your program require for each activity? Is there any way to share supplies across multiple activities and acquire them with a bulk discount?
Organize your income and expenses into line items using historical and current data. Consider items available for reuse and be as detailed as possible. If dramatic increases or decreases in specific costs occur, include an explanatory note for that category.
Once you add all the numbers, take a step back. How does everything fit into the big picture of your afterschool program? Did you have money left in the budget after last year ended? Are you running short in essential categories like rent or salaries?
The goal is budgeting for a surplus, so you have some wiggle room in case of emergencies and unexpected expenses.
Share the Budget
Everyone on your team needs to understand the budget. All financial stakeholders need to know how you have used your funds and your plans for next year and onward.
Be transparent with other stakeholders as well. Parents and staff should understand the reasons behind the budgeting process and how you determine where to allocate funds. You don’t need to share your detailed budget with everyone, but you want to be honest about changes or budget restrictions. Be prepared to answer questions and invite other ideas to consider for the future.
Monitor Your Budget
Once you have a detailed budget, don’t leave it in a drawer until next year. Check the numbers monthly or quarterly to ensure your spending is on track and determine whether you need to make adjustments. Continue to look to the end of the year - are you on track to reach your end-of-year goal?
Funding allocation changes annually as prices, wages, and benefits rise and funding resources react to current economic trends. Look ahead as much as possible, monitoring trends and establishing baselines for various budget line items.
Progress and spending reports can be essential to identifying trends. Afterschool management software provides quick and easy access to reports generated using your program’s data. You can pull reports on expenses for the previous year, quarter, or month to evaluate how your budget performs against expectations.
Access enrollment records to determine patterns in student attendance. You can use that information to allocate resources - more staff and resources during high times, and less during slow times.
A budget is a work in progress, and it's never static. Matching allocation to current and future needs can feel like juggling, but if you use the appropriate tools and keep stakeholders at hand to help, you can make sure you are using all resources effectively.