If you're a Life Enrichment Director (LED), you know the struggle. More than likely, you have a big job that comes with a tiny budget.
Even with a deep-pocketed department, planning meaningful activities for residents is a serious challenge. But it’s much, much harder operating with the average activity allocation in a senior living community — about $10 per resident, per month.
You already know you have to think deeply about every dollar you spend. But you may not have heard of these four tactics that can help keep your department humming.
1) Don’t Spin Your Wheels
First things first: good budgeting is all about efficiency.
Your department’s probably pressed for both time and money. This means you have to think carefully about the ROI on both. You simply can’t afford to squander your departmental budget, or your staff’s precious working hours, on activities that don’t engage your residents.
Just like an investor will carefully track the performance of their portfolio, it’s well worth an LED’s time to track the performance of their activities. This starts with measuring how residents react to what you plan. Logging resident attendance and keeping tabs on their preferences will give LEDs a trove of data to work with.
Two ways this helps your budget:
- You see what doesn’t work, so you no longer waste time and energy producing it;
- You can mine the information to come up with new activity ideas.
This streamlined planning is the first step to a leaner, more effective life enrichment department.
2) Digitize, Digitize, Digitize
Next on the docket is cutting unnecessary expenses.
In many communities, calendars and newsletters are glaring culprits for budgetary waste. While they’re life-enrichment mainstays, both calendars and newsletters can be a surprising drain on departmental resources.
First, consider the labor involved. Either you or your assistants (if you’re lucky enough to have any!) have to plan what will feature in your community’s calendars and newsletters. It can take hours to fit in all the details your residents like. They’ll appreciate it. But is that really the best possible use of your team’s time?
And that’s not even considering the supplies. These paper products are large, recurring craft projects. That means that they’re also large, recurring expenses. Whether or not these costs come out of your department budget, your administrator might not be too happy about them.
The solution is to digitize. A modern resident engagement platform can put out better newsletters and calendars, at a fraction of the cost.
LifeLoop, for example, can generate personalized updates for residents and family members; and with a single large screen in your community’s hallway, it can generate a live digital calendar that you can update continuously, and effortlessly.
Your staff will appreciate the extra time, and your administrator will congratulate you on the money you’ve saved.
3) Be Your Own Best Advocate
The last two ideas help save money. Sometimes, however, belt-tightening isn’t enough. LEDs need to find ways to expand their budget. It’s time to talk about how life-enrichment can get a bigger slice of the pie.
In any organization, making a case for more money takes a careful balance of politics and salesmanship. It will be easier to make your case if you have hard numbers to back you up.
This is the underrated benefit of documentation. While anyone can see the value of life-enrichment in general, the benefits will be much more clear to your administrator if you can demonstrate specifics.
For instance, how many residents participated in the activities you planned last year? How many hours of socialization did your residents share with one another, as a result of your work?
Showing these figures to your administrator will show them how much value your department brings to the community. She (or he) will remember that when organization leaders gather to talk about funding.
(And if all that documentation sounds intimidating — LifeLoop can make it a lot easier.)
4) Look for Allies in Your Organization
One last budget-expanding tip: finding creative partnerships with colleagues.
Now, as an LED, you’re likely very familiar with fundraising. That can be a wonderfully effective way to raise revenue for a special event and connect with the outside community.
But don’t ignore the community inside your organization. The fact is, every staff member in a senior living community has a stake in life-enrichment’s success.
Sales and marketing need life-enrichment because a vibrant community is much more attractive to potential residents.
But even more important are life-enrichment’s health benefits. It’s undeniable that active residents are healthier. Seniors with fuller schedules feel happier and more socially connected, which is essential to their wellbeing.
So, when LED’s feel pressed by budgetary constraints, they can approach their colleagues with ideas for mutually beneficial crossover.
Maybe marketing could help fund a well-publicized outing, or a high-profile guest entertainer. Or, maybe the nursing staff could spare a volunteer or two to help run a wellness workshop.
Ideas like this can stitch an entire senior-living community together. That’s great for staff, for residents — and for life-enrichment budgets.