Improving money conversations with parents
Conversations about money can get awkward fast. It’s long been a taboo topic of conversation, to the extent that people often prefer to avoid speaking about it even with close friends and family. Almost half of Australians are keen to avoid the topic of money altogether - with at times controversial topics such as religion and politics preferred talking points.
For school finance teams, money conversations with families are part of their job. Adjustments to payment schedules and following up missed payments fall under their remit, but this doesn’t mean it’s always their favourite task.
More than just a tricky conversation, money conversations can affect personal and professional relationships, and hinder team culture and productivity. It can also be a negative experience for parents, who would prefer their conversations with schools to be focused on their children’s education.
Challenges for schoolsThrough school administration and activities, community events or just by chance, school staff and families often get to know each other. Staff interact with parents at school events and at regional schools, it's not uncommon for them to bump into each other around town. If these interactions take place after serious finance conversations it can be an awkward experience for both parties.
Some school staff have gone as far as saying that it is not uncommon for certain parents to avoid them at school functions or even pretend to be on phone calls when passing them inside the school halls. Sometimes the only communication school staff have with families is centred around money and following up on payments. These conversations can at times become negative, and become a distraction from talking about more important issues like education and student wellbeing.
Challenges for parentsFamily finances can be a sensitive issue, and are often not something that parents want to talk about with anyone outside of their family, schools included. Parents prefer to keep their conversations with schools focused on their children’s education and will sometimes go to great lengths to avoid talking about money.
Such is the extent that families will avoid these conversations, we have seen in some of our partner schools that around half of parents considering withdrawing their enrolments due to financial pressures hadn’t previously told their school. In other words, for every family that is making their struggles known, there is another that will hide their financial hardship due to a number of societal pressures.
While many families may prefer to stay private about these matters, it’s important for schools to encourage open two-way communication around money to help strengthen trust with parents. Encouraging parents to communicate their ability to pay their school fees with the school, and to let you know if they need any further assistance can help.
Keeping money conversations at arm's lengthOne way that schools can help to solve these issues for both parents and schools is to put some distance between themselves and their money conversations. By keeping money conversations at a distance, families tend to be more open about their finances when they know their children's education and enrolment won't be impacted. It also means that the conversations schools have with their families can be focused on providing the best possible education and care for their students.
How Edstart Plus has helped our partner schools with money conversationsParents can be hesitant to talk to schools about their financial situation. We have noticed that schools that use Edstart Plus, our fee management service specifically designed for schools, have experienced a more open dialogue on the subject.
At The McDonald College in Sydney, members of the finance team said before they were using Edstart Plus to manage their fees it was not uncommon for some parents to avoid them at school functions. Since using Edstart Plus, with our Customer Success team now taking care of their money conversations, the school has found these relationships have become much more positive. Neil Davis, Business Manager at The McDonald College says he feels the team’s work life has become more enjoyable and that they no longer sweat over talking with particular families.
The finance team at Wild Cherry Steiner School in Victoria found that they were spending large amounts of their time having difficult money conversations with parents. These conversations could become negative, and they realised it wasn’t the type of relationship they wanted to build with their families.
According to the school’s Business Leader, since they started using Edstart Plus to handle their fee management, relationships with their families have improved and they have been able to further establish trust and connections. By removing a stressful task, the team’s mental health and productivity have been boosted. The team is now more upbeat, proactive, and able to complete tasks in a more timely manner, giving them time to focus on other value add initiatives.