It’s crazy: One of the top and most important positions in any school system is that of the treasurer/CFO, yet this person is typically the most unseen and perhaps, even, underappreciated. In reading the tea leaves for 2022, the role is only gaining in importance and is increasingly on the radar with the public — and not always in ways that are helpful to showcasing what you do.
Treasurers/CFOs need to be seen, lauded and appreciated. This starts by making sure your work is showcased in all the right ways. Why? Because your work is important and it is critical to a school system’s overall success and public credibility.
So, do you feel seen yet? You should. Let’s start with a look at what’s ahead for 2022 because you will see that it’s time to put your communication into high gear.
Public entities, including schools, are facing a public credibility crisis. This year, schools will remain in the forefront of political and social conversations. More than ever, school treasurers need to do more than just provide excellent forecasts. They need to establish their own credibility through communicating their financial story to the public.
Sound a bit scary? It’s not.
You are already doing the work. Now you just have to make your public more aware and in a relatable way. And, just like financial forecasting, there is an entire science behind how to communicate well.
I recently got into the nuts and bolts of this science at the OASBO conference. If you were unable to attend, here’s what you missed:
- Know your audience, know where they “live.”
Staff and residents are your key audiences. You should have regular updates – written in layperson’s language – on how the finances are being managed and about any high level points for which they need to be aware.
On what communication channels do your key audiences live? Experience and data show that when it comes to communicating financial information that newspapers and district newsletters are the places to be (note that I did not mention social media here). Meet your audiences where they are and where they “live” for news and information.
- How do you say it and what do you tell them?
Speak to the facts and eliminate educational jargon. Your work is driven by a natural school financial calendar and should serve as the basis for determining what gets communicated, how and where. As an example, the mid-year point is typically a good time to note that as the school year ends your district is on target within the budget and spending limits established by the board. Note that in your next newsletter and/or as a guest editorial in your newspaper.
- Tell your story and keep saying it.
Every district has a story and it must be communicated with the public. Finances are key and should nearly always be front and center of that story. This is where relationships – like that with your superintendent – really matter. Make sure you are on the same page in communicating the financial story to the public.
Your work as CFO is critical to school district success and it deserves more of a center stage. How you accomplish that, however, rests on the communication science of it all. You are the expert in finance; we’re the experts in financial communication.
If you’re looking for additional pointers, give us a shout by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.