A Four-Step Guide to Increase Investment in Strategic Enrollment Management, Part Two

In part one of “A Four-Step Guide to Increase Investment in Strategic Enrollment Management," I outlined the first two steps to build your case for investment in strategic enrollment management.

Step 1: Identify the strategic and tactical necessity

Step 2: Network to gather feedback and build support.

Part two will discuss steps three and four:

Step 3: Develop and present the proposal.

Step 4: Gain approval and move quickly to implement and display quick return on the investment

This framework has helped me gain approval for investments in strategic enrollment management, which often required additional budgetary resources. And I can attest to their efficacy. Looking back on my career, serving both in the Army and in enrollment management, this process never let me down. Consistently, I was able to secure the resources my team and I needed to meet our goals.

Building Your Case to Increase Investment in Strategic Enrollment Management

Once you have completed steps 1 and 2, you are ready to take the next steps to get your proposal approved. You need your day in court and adequate time to present your case.

Step 3: Develop and present the proposal

Ideally, there is a process at your institution where you have time to review the impact of your proposed budget for the next fiscal year (FY), and the process includes the ability to request “new money” or submit your “asks.”

If not, whether it is to carve out time during a standing meeting or push to get separate time with your decision maker(s), I recommend you make a formal presentation.

I recommend using this framework to develop and present your budget presentation and include the following information:

  • Your mission, current year goals and progress to date, and goals for the upcoming FY or FY’s as you understand them at that time.
  • The status of the current enrollment environment using the information gained in step 1
  • Who you have coordinated your proposal with? Will you get the support you need from key colleagues? This comes from step 2.
  • Your proposal:
    • Costs
      • Annual and implementation costs if applicable. Are there any opportunity costs to you or to another office?
    • Can you reallocate or do you need new money?
      • It is always best to try to cover some portion of the ask with reallocation. In other words, if the annual cost is $80,000, through reallocation, demonstrate how you can cover $35,000 (or some other amount) or that you can cover the implementation costs. It shows that you and your team believe in the proposal and have skin in the game.
    • Expected return on investment.
      • Expressed In terms of enrollment goals. I have found showing a gain in annual net tuition revenue (NTR) that exceeds the cost of the investment is the most successful tactic. However, quality, diversity, or access goals may hold great value to your institution and carry more weight in any given year than NTR. The best situation is when the investment brings probable return against NTR and other goals.
    • To achieve the ROI, when do you need a decision?
      • Present the timeline and illustrate what’s behind the date, for instance, show the likely time to complete the purchase, including contracting, and to implement.
      • Often, you may not be able to get a formal decision for weeks or months, so seek approval to continue planning. During this time, continue to strengthen your proposal and conduct as much coordination as you can prior to actual contractual or budget commitment. This allows you to move as quickly as possible from approval to return.
    • Prepare for objections - Throughout the presentation, be prepared to respond to objections. What other courses of action have you examined? Why now? What if we waited for one or more years? Who else is doing this? Etc.

Congratulations, your request is approved!

Now the hard work starts.

Step 4: Gain approval and move quickly to implement and display quick return on the investment

Nothing destroys credibility and ensures you never gain approval for another budget request than saying, “The sky is falling! I need this now – by early the next fiscal year!,” getting approval, and then taking so long to complete the purchase and implementation that you don’t derive any return that FY.

Think of this step as the iceberg that lies beneath the waterline. It can sink you!

Here are the critical steps to move from approval to return.

  • Project Management (PM)
As soon as possible, you must start the project management process, backward planning from whatever date you want to go live. Ideally, you started building the PM framework as you are developing your proposal, so when you gain approval you are ready to move.
  • Delegation and accountability

Who’s going to be your project manager? In the military, we have a saying that you can delegate responsibility, but you cannot delegate accountability. In other words, you can have a project manager, but ultimately YOU are accountable for the results.

Will you be dependent on other offices? Talk to those senior leaders and solidify their commitment? Who will be their project managers? I learned in the military, coordinate, coordinate, coordinate.

How often do you want to receive updates? If other offices’ involvement is critical, consider periodic steering committee meetings that include the appropriate senior leader of the offices involved.

  • Implement and publicize your results

It is important that you share what returns the investment has garnered with your team, your senior leaders, and your colleagues, especially those whose teams supported implementation. Point out how the investment brought the return. Don’t assume that they will know. Do not overlook this step! It will be easier to gain approval for your next proposal if you articulate the success, appreciation for the support from the decision makers, the contributions from colleagues, and the hard work of your team.

The End Result - A Well-Developed Budget Proposal

In closing, even in challenging budget times, don’t be Eeyore and say, “The sky has finally fallen. Always knew it would.”

Take control!

Your institution has set high goals for you and your team in an enrollment environment that is dynamic and volatile and getting more tumultuous. The institution depends upon you achieving these goals in this environment to in some cases simply survive, and in other cases to thrive.

You need to tell that story and the steps I have outlined will help you tell the story.

With a well-developed budget proposal that includes insights to the environment now and into the future, that has been coordinated and has support from other key leaders across the institution, and that you can implement and gain return on the timeline you have defined, you can obtain the budget resources you need to succeed.

What are your budget plans for FY22?

As I mentioned in my last post, now is the time to ask for an increased investment in enrollment management. The four steps I have outlined will help you get approval for your strategic enrollment management plans. Your plans could be the difference between meeting or missing your undergraduate enrollment goals.

My offer to help still stands—if you would like to discuss your situation and budget environment in more detail and brainstorm your approach to build a proposal and gain approval, contact me at othotteam@othot.com.