Leading to Results: Unconventional Ways to Bolster Your Budget | Jim Wickenden | 8 Min Read

There are three recommendations I’ll make with respect to what independent schools might do to control costs:

  1. Follow the advice of legendary management consultant Peter Drucker, whose admonition was: ‘Nonprofits should engage in price-based costing, not cost-based pricing.” 
  2. Consider adopting the Mind the Gap model developed by Richard Soghoian, the former Head of School of Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School in New York City. 
  3. Make cost control an important governance function of the Board. 


To explain what Drucker meant, let’s examine how most independent schools build their budgets. 

Usually, the budgeting process begins with the CFO asking the administrators responsible for managing a budget to indicate what their needs are for the next academic year. For the most part, this results in budget managers requesting more money for their respective programs. Those reviewing these requests — namely the CFO, Head of School, and Finance Committee of the Board — may make cuts here and there, but generally, each budget manager receives an increase. Implicit in such a process is that the operating budget increases each year, and with it comes an annual increase in tuition. In Drucker-speak, those responsible for building the…

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Jim Wickenden

Jim is a Principal at DRG and Founder of Wickenden Associates, an affiliate of DRG. Having been the CEO of one of the premier education executive search firms in the United States, Jim brings unparalleled experience and networks to best serve clients. With over 30 years of experience identifying and guiding Heads of Schools and other senior administrators of schools across the country, Jim approaches each search with flexibility and openness that responds to the individual needs and concerns of schools and their leaders. Before founding Wickenden Associates, Jim served as the Dean of Admissions at Princeton University and Director of Student and Alumni Affairs at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. A graduate of Tabor Academy and Princeton University, Jim holds a master’s degree in Counselor Education from Rutgers University, a master’s degree in the General Purposes of Education from Harvard University, and a doctorate in Counseling Psychology from Boston University. As a former member of eight boards of independent schools with a wide range of missions and resource levels, Jim also knows firsthand the responsibilities shouldered by today’s trustees; and knows how to guide boards through tough transition processes and on good governance practices. Jim lives in Princeton, NJ, and when he is not at the office he enjoys reading enlightening books.