Planning Your Budget for the Year

Planning Your Budget for the Year

As a music director, one of the toughest jobs you’ll face is preparing the annual budget for your music department. Even the most experienced directors have difficulty anticipating both the short-term growth and long-term needs of their program, and many less experienced directors have no idea where to start.

When referring to budgets, there are so many different variables to keep in mind. Generally, each school receives a set amount of funds from the state or federal government, and every state, school district, university, or granting organization has a set of rules in place that govern how these funds are distributed and spent. If you’re new to managing the your department’s budget, you’ll need to know which funds can be spent on your program and which can’t be touched.

Income vs. Expenses

In its simplest form, building a budget isn’t difficult. The first step is estimating the total amount of funds, or income, for your department. Income includes any funds you receive directly from the school budget, and can include funds from support groups, admission fees to events, and student fees. Ultimately, anything that adds to your bottom line can be considered income.

Next, create a list of expenses. Expenses should not include salaries or benefits, and typically include instrument repair and maintenance, instrument and uniform purchases, travel, music library, technology, and professional development. If possible, add up income and expenses for the past few years, and keep these numbers handy--you’ll need to reference them later on in the process.

Budgeting Steps

Budgeting Steps

Many music teachers start the budgeting process by taking inventory of their instruments, uniforms, and music. If instruments or uniforms need to be replaced, take this into consideration. Next, compare your supply to what you expect next year’s enrollment to be. Referencing past enrollment numbers should give you an idea of what the future holds. If you’re new, your school’s guidance office should be able to provide you with some general enrollment numbers.

Next, develop your wish list. Just be sure to keep this separate from the above inventory, as your wish list isn’t essential to keeping the music program afloat and you may need to defend your decision later.

Finally, compile a 3-5 year budget plan with everything broken down into categories. Your categories may vary depending on the size and breadth of your music program, but typical

Categories are as follows:

  • Music/textbooks
  • Technology
  • Instruments
  • Repairs
  • Travel
  • Uniforms
  • Professional Development (if your school supports this)

Be sure to differentiate between your needs and wants, and be prepared to defend every line item on your budget. In a day and age where budget cuts are commonplace, administrators are trying to cut back wherever they can. For this reason, it’s important for you to know exactly how much your department deserves and why.

Presenting Your Budget

Presenting Your Budget

The final step of the budgeting process is the presenting your budget to those who control the finances. Whether you’re presenting it to an administrator or someone else in your organization, this is typically accomplished in two parts. First, present the previous year’s budget summary, and organize the proposal in three columns--past, present, and future. This is one of the best ways to present a budget because it shows how your budget worked the past year, how you handled it in the current year, and what your expected needs are next year. If you’ve stayed on budget the past two years, getting the budget you need for next year shouldn’t be an issue.

Next, present a written proposal of your needs for next year. This proposal should include a cover letter, and income and expenses in broad categories. The people you’re presenting the budget to don’t need to know that it costs $800 to repair the saxophones and $200 to repair the flutes; rather, state the total sum you’ll need for instrument repairs across the board.

Once you’ve presented your budget, you can expect questions from those making the final decision. Be prepared and able to defend each of the items listed within. If you’re part of a music director’s group or have friends who have gone through this process before, ask them if they’d be open to looking over your budget and providing feedback--especially if this is your first time preparing a budget.

Budgeting Tips

Budgeting Tips

Here are some tips to keep in mind when working with your music department budget and purchases:

  • Take advantage of your Music & Arts Educational Representative--they’ll partner with you to recommend products and promotions that can meet any school budget; some can even help you create your wish list and budget.
  • Check with administration to see if transportation and festival fees are covered by general funds. If they aren’t, you’ll need to include these expenses in your budget.
  • Ideally, your budget should cover most of your expenses. Don’t make plans to rely heavily on fundraising funds throughout the year, especially if this is your first time running the department. Fundraising is never a sure thing, and it’s difficult to predict its success.
  • Ask for a blanket purchase order amount to Music & Arts. This way, you can purchase music, instruments, and accessories at various intervals throughout the year, saving you the time and hassle of having to create a separate PO for each order.
  • Before submitting your budget, show your administration your long-term plans and goals. This will assist in supporting both your short-term and long-term needs and plans.
  • When purchasing uniforms, try to have the school pay the full amount. This may be a point of negotiation, but start the conversation by asking if the sports teams need to pay for their own uniforms. In most cases, the answer is “no” and this admission can help you support your case.
  • Check with your preferred vendors about leasing programs--sometimes, these are cheaper than outright purchasing the items.

Fundraising Options

Fundraising Options

Because of budget cuts, fundraising has become critical to a music department’s success. Even if it’s not something you’re personally interested in, fundraising is essential. Whether you fundraise by selling magazines and calendars or organize silent auctions or casino nights, fundraisers can significantly help your budget. If at all possible, make the fundraisers somehow related to music. Here’s some ideas:

  • Live Performances - One music-related way to raise money is by creating performance opportunities for your band or ensemble. After all, if you’re going to ask people for money, they may want to see where it’s going. If you put on a live performance you can make money from entry fees, concessions, and ad sales. Plus, these performances give your ensemble a chance to practice their repertoire while also raising money.
  • Event Based Fundraisers – Host a 5K or walk-a-thon to raise funds, or why not try a Play-a-thon. Students gain pledges based on how long they practice and offer a free performance at the end of the event to share with the community the progress and where the funds are going. It is a win-win, you earn much needed funding and your ensemble will benefit from more practice! In addition, Music & Arts Educational Representatives and lesson instructors from The Lesson Studio at Music & Arts would be great clinicians to assist with an event like this.
  • Silent Auctions - Silent auctions are one of the most powerful and cost-effective ways to raise money, and the auction can even run at the same time as a live performance. One or two organizers can seek out auction items, or you can request that booster club members each donate an item or two. Bidding occurs during the event, and your program walks away with quite a bit of money to add to the budget.
  • Sales - When it comes to fundraising, you can’t go wrong with the tried and true. Sales should be voluntary, and they work best when they coincide with a holiday or event (i.e., wrapping paper before Christmas, pumpkins before Halloween, flowers before Mother’s Day, etc.) Planning a sale on this scale is tough work, so it’s best for directors to have parental help with this if possible. Alternately, you can ask parents to donate items and hold a massive yard sale once a year.
  • Services – Car wash, holiday gift wrapping, yard work services are all typical fundraisers for school organizations. Keeping things music related and have older students offer tutoring/private lessons to younger students to raise funds.
  • Restaurant or Retail Fundraising - There are many websites and restaurants that are open to working with organizations for fundraising ventures. In most cases, companies donate a percentage of the proceeds that occur within a specific timeframe to your department. If the restaurant or store is okay with it, you could even set up in the parking lot and put on an impromptu performance.
  • Music & Arts - Your Music & Arts Educational Representative can also help with fundraising ideas and tips. Contact your rep today for details!

Fundraising Tips

Once you decide on an avenue for fundraising, your goal should be to make it as successful as possible. Whether in the form of Christmas tree sales, car washes, or any of the items listed above, here are a few tips for a successful band fundraiser:

  • Make sure everyone is educated - When it comes to running a music program, there are a lot of expenses the booster club and parent volunteers may know nothing about. For this reason, it’s important to sit down with them to determine a) how much money is needed, and b) how it’ll be spent. If these items are clearly outlined, parents and volunteers will be more focused and motivated to raise funds.
  • Decide who to partner with - Partnering with the right companies is another important aspect of fundraising. For every company that makes a promise and doesn’t deliver there are five more that will be willing to work with you and tailor fundraisers to your needs. Before partnering with a company, find out how long the company has been in the product fundraising business, how they’ll tailor its program to the needs of your program, and whether or not they offer value-added services.
  • Choose the right program - It’s unfair to ask your students’ family and friends to contribute hundreds of dollars to fundraisers they’re not interested in. Before you decide on a fundraising option, sit down with parents and booster club members to find a fundraising solution that’ll cater to a variety of needs.
  • Promote the fundraiser - Without promotion, something terrible happens: nothing! Once your fundraising program launches, never miss an opportunity to promote it. After all, parents who have an understanding of the fundraiser’s goal are more likely to purchase more products. In the weeks leading up to the fundraiser, place posters around the school and send children home with newsletters. Put together an email list and keep everyone up-to-date.
  • Don’t forget to say “thank you” - When it comes to fundraising, saying “thank you” can go a long way. Not only does it make contributors feel appreciated, but it can inspire them to donate in the future. The same goes for volunteers and parents who go above and beyond the call of duty. One course of action could be to send thank you gifts based on the amount donated: emails for base-level donors, gift baskets for premium donors, and something in the middle for everyone else. Whatever you do, keep your donors happy--you’ll eventually be asking for more donations!

Stretching Your Dollars

Stretching Your Dollars

Need one of your instruments fixed? Do you want to start incorporating new technology into your rehearsals? Do you want to replace your old and tattered sheet music but forgot to include it in the budget? These are just a couple challenges music directors face each and every day. If money wasn’t an object, most of these issues would quickly, but many music educators work with limited budgets. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help extend your budget throughout the year:

Stretch Your Budget with the Right Brands

There are a lot of music instrument and accessory manufacturers to choose from, but not all can give you the quality your school ensemble needs at the cost you need to stretch your budget even further. Below you’ll find a sample of some of great brands whose price-to-performance ratio makes them outstanding choices for virtually any program.

  • Get Creative - Many band room items can be created using inexpensive items from sporting goods and hardware stores. With a little creativity and online research, hockey pucks can be turned into gong mallets and pieces of steel can be transformed into triangle beaters. Again, some of your music educator friends may be able to provide some advice on how they’ve turned ordinary things into items for their own classrooms
  • Be Resourceful - By this we mean take advantage of your resources. Whether you rely on parents, booster club members, other teachers, or your own students, tap into third-party resources whenever possible.
  • Repair Services through Music & Arts - Some of our Educational Representatives can do minimal on-site repairs, meaning in some cases you won’t even need to leave your classroom to get the repairs you need completed. We offer the nation’s largest repair network, and can create a repair program that’s catered to your budget. Music & Arts also offers The Director’s Fix kit; a deluxe brass and woodwind repair kit with the school music director in mind. Visit for more details.
  • Find Free Technology - With the right technology, you can make your music programs more efficient and accessible. Some software is free, and those that aren’t are typically inexpensive. Here’s a few suggestions: Dropbox, Remind, and Yamaha Chord Tracker.

giardinelli logo

Each Giardinelli product is designed and developed in partnership with some of the world’s finest instrument makers. We are honored to work with the highest caliber brands and are very proud of the instruments that have been born from these collaborations. We have devoted ourselves to producing beautiful, high-quality instruments that are accessible to both professionals and those who are just starting out. We also offer a full complement of wind and brass accessories. From cleaning mitts to Lyres and everything in between. So take the stage with a Giardinelli flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet or trombone for a breakthrough performance.

Strobel logo

Celebrated for rich clarity and projection, each Strobel string instrument is expertly crafted from the finest tonewoods and hand-strung with high-quality strings picked to deliver a beautiful, warm tone across all registers. They’re finished with rich ebony fingerboards and fittings and given a final inspection to ensure exceptional quality from our hands to yours.

But not only are Strobel instruments expertly crafted, they deliver this impeccable quality at one of the best values in the industry. An instrument is an investment and you want to know you’re getting your money’s worth. We don’t cut corners. We don’t take liberties. We employ years of knowledge with smart design and a tireless commitment to all our customers.

So whether you’re a quick learner or like to take things studied and slow, our pieces are built to maintain top tier sound until you’re ready to trade up to the next level. That’s how we’ve become a trusted favorite of both teachers and students alike. Dedication. Quality. Value. Strobel.

ed reps standing together

How Music & Arts Can Help

As the nation’s largest lesson provider, we know that great teachers inspire learning. That’s why we’re dedicated to helping music educators across the country. Here’s a few ways Music & Arts can help you become the best teacher you can possibly be:

  • Educational Representatives - Our Educational Representatives work closely with you to handle instrument rentals, classroom repairs, and recruitment. Many representatives are musicians or educators themselves, and can provide you with everything from a single reed to a classroom full of low brass. With a unique commitment to supporting music education, your Music & Arts Educational Representative will work with you to make your job easier.
  • Repair Services - By partnering with Music & Arts, you’ll have access to the largest repair network in the country. At The Repair Shop, repairs are performed by leading professional technicians in the industry and all work is backed by the Music & Arts brand. Plus, our service is timely, affordable, and unconditionally guaranteed.
  • Free Clinics and Events - Throughout the year, Music & Arts hosts free clinics and special events at many of their locations. Once you become a Registered Educator, you’ll be notified about events near you. Mention tradeshows and free repair clinics here?
  • Educator Website Pricing - Once you become a Registered Educator, you’ll have access to special discounts, convenient payment options, over 50,000 products online, and your orders can even be shipped directly to your school. Complete your free application today!

Contact your Educational Representative today for additional recommendations on budget stretchers.