Afton supports Nashville’s largest charter management organization to develop financially sustainable long-term growth plans
LEAD Public Schools (“LEAD”) is the largest charter management organization in Nashville, currently serving 2,000 students in 5 schools. LEAD works in partnership with and runs schools authorized by both Metro-Nashville Public Schools (“MNPS”) and the Achievement School District (“ASD”) to serve primarily low-income students. With capacity to grow and with increasing demand for enrollment at charter schools in Nashville, LEAD engaged Afton to help develop financially sustainable long-term growth plans that would guide internal strategy and support the application process for approval to open new schools.
LEAD wanted to better understand the financial sustainability and potential philanthropic needs associated with growth plan scenarios. Afton developed a dynamic, site-level financial projection model with detail for each of the existing schools, the proposed new schools, and the network office. LEAD has used the model to drive internal strategy, to apply for grant funding, and to apply for the opening of new schools at MNPS and the ASD.
As of summer 2016, LEAD is on track to grow to serve more than 3,500 students by 2021. Check out the LEAD Public Schools 2015-2016 Annual Report to see how they are doing.
One financial planning model can and should serve multiple organizational needs. Organizations produce a variety of different financial reports, often requiring multiple different systems and applications. Once the time is put in to develop a financial model that incorporates these different reports into one place using a common data structure, the organization should be able to use one model to drive internal strategy. LEAD was able to use our model to develop board reports, understand the financial implications of different cost assumptions, apply for grant funding, and apply for the opening of new schools.
While the organization-total view is important, site-level detail adds transparency that can highlight key drivers of financial sustainability. The financial model developed featured a consolidated organization total view of Cash Flow, Balance Sheet, and Profit & Loss (“P&L”) forecasts. Site-level forecasts for each of the existing schools, the new schools, and the network office drive the organization-total view. This way each location/campus can be easily compared to understand not only site-level metrics and potential outliers but also to understand drivers of the organization’s overall financial performance. In our experience, we have seen that site-level detail can highlight intentional and known organizational decisions (ie. one campus with much higher per pupil costs due to serving a higher needs student population), but this level of detail can also highlight unintentional and unknown inefficiencies.