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Tip of the Week: Implementing the NABITA Standards for BITs (Part IX)

NABITA membership has more than doubled over the last year. To help new members implement the NABITA Standards for Behavioral Intervention Teams (BITs), and to provide continuing members with a refresher, NABITA is launching a Tip of the Week series specifically focused on the BIT Standards. Twenty standards, twenty Tips of the Week (maybe more) aimed specifically at the practical application of the BIT Standards (Note: the twenty Tips may not be published consecutively so that NABITA can bring you timely updates regarding other topics).

Standard 10. Team Budget: Teams have an established budget in order to meet the ongoing needs of the team and the community it serves.

Consistent with most institutional initiatives or offices, BITs have baseline operating expenses for items such as database management and technology (e.g., on-call phone). BITs also benefit from additional flexibility in funding that can be used for mandatory assessment fees, training, marketing and advertising, promotional items, retreats, professional development/memberships for BIT members, and/or outside consultations and reviews. When a BIT does not have a dedicated budget, BITs are likely to forego best practices with respect to engaging in educational and outreach efforts and making necessary referrals to external resources. Additionally, BIT members who operate a budget for their own functional area are often placed in a position of having to make decisions between necessary BIT training and needs specific to their own department.

Because BITs are comprised of professionals from various departments and offices, it is common (though not recommended) for a BIT to not have a dedicated budget to support its work. Often, the office/department from which the BIT chair comes, such as the Dean of Students or Principal’s Office, is tasked with attempting to fulfill budgetary needs. Though not sustainable long-term, senior-level administrators may also be aware of and/or have access to one-time funding through a special allocations process focused on a related initiative, such as retention, that could support the BIT. If the institution has a case management office, the BIT may receive a regular budget allocation through that department. Regardless of the funding source, teams must ensure they have a dedicated budget to guarantee they can meet their financial obligations.

Alternatively, smaller amounts of money from the offices that support or serve as members on the BIT (e.g., Housing and Residence Life, Police/Public Safety, Student Conduct, Counseling Services) can be combined to generate a budget. Schools have routinely struggled to find dedicated funding for training and resources.

Practical Tip – To establish a case for a recurring BIT budget, the BIT must both specify its budget needs and demonstrate the impact of its services. Depending upon the institutional culture, one of the following approaches may be more compelling to decision-makers than the other: (1) demonstrating how limited funding is negatively impacting the team, those it serves, and increasing exposure to risk; or (2) explaining how additional funding would help the team meet strategic goals, aid in retention efforts, etc. To do this, BITs should create a list of needs, identify gaps in services, and/or conduct an evaluation/audit of the team’s operations in light of effective and recommended practices. Teams should also understand the internal and external factors influencing the institutional budget (e.g., enrollment, state allocations, strategic plans). By gathering this historical data and understanding the driving factors for funding, the BIT can develop a list of realistic “must-haves” (e.g., marketing and advertising, training, NABITA membership) and “nice to haves” (e.g., mandatory assessment fees, promotional items, retreats, outside consultations) to determine a baseline of estimated expenses. Once an estimated budget amount is identified, the BIT should analyze and disseminate statistical and assessment information that demonstrates the impact of the BIT (e.g., presentations and trainings facilitated, students/employees/etc. served, retention stats for students assisted by the BIT, satisfaction survey results, etc.) on the institutional community. Because an institution’s strategic plan is the clearest, shared vision, the BIT should utilize the assessment data and information collected to articulate how the BIT supports and advances the institutional strategic plan. This information can be utilized to advocate for an allocation of student fees, apply for local/state/federal grants, conduct fundraising through a foundation or institutional advancement, or participate in the institutional budgetary request process.

Tim Cason, M.Ed.

Consultant, TNG