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Investing in the Landscape...


Joseph Fearn

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Our grounds management efforts, no matter the purpose or location, require funding to carry out the goals we are expected to perform. Some fortunate grounds managers amongst us may have ample budgets that readily support these expectations. My personal experience, and that of many peers I have heard from, reflects a different financial reality. Usually, we are expected to make dollars stretch, or simply forgo some of the grounds improvements we propose. Here at the University of Kansas, I am, for the time being, being resourced as fully as possible. But I still regularly face situations where additional funding could make the difference in accomplishing an important task. To partially rectify this concern, we have created an unrestricted fund that will give me the additional funding I seek.

Funding and Autonomy
A common issue facing Grounds Managers is autonomy. We are not on our own while making grounds decisions and expending our budgets is one area where we likely have decreased autonomy. Most times, cooperative decision regarding landscape financial priorities makes sense to us, but not always. My focus on autonomy in this writing regards when available money cannot go far enough. Our work prioritization is based on scarcity of resources, time, staff, equipment, etc. and of course money. Consider the following scenarios. My administration and I agree on an effort but there is insufficient funding to accomplish it.  Or, my administration and I agree on an effort but because of scarcity it is not funded. These are similar situations but not the same. In both cases, a beneficial opportunity is not accomplished because of funding and autonomy. My creating a supplemental fund, predominantly under my authority, gives me the autonomy to perform additional organizationally sanctioned work.

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With adequate funding and autonomy on behalf of the Grounds Crew, organizationally beneficial progress is more quickly achieved.

Expand the Brand
Creating an additional fund is not only about obtaining more money. It is much larger than that. Obtaining additional funding is about improving the brand and increasing awareness of it. Additional funding can provide opportunities to showcase results above and beyond normal expectations. But visible results are not our only branding. Our professional and organizational capabilities are our brand also. Creating an unrestricted fund demonstrates a commitment to the future, teamwork, and overall strategic thinking. These all demonstrate to our more traditional funding caretakers that we are worthy of further investment. Having additional money, especially when we have more autonomy over it, can allow us to perform work that is innovative and unexpected. These factors also improve our brand. Furthermore, demonstrating our ability to work across departments to create and build the fund enhances our reputation as a partner. 

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Building your brand and community promotes widespread support and organizational advocacy.

Grow Our Community
Building a landscaping fund isn’t only about specific jobs that are completed in the field. It has larger implications. Creating, maintaining and utilizing a grounds fund grows the landscape community from the just the Grounds Crew to the entire organization. When a donor invests it creates skin in the game. They have a role. Successes are no longer external and viewed form outside the Grounds crew. Donors are now part of the team and can take a participatory role in team successes. Creation of a fund provides an opportunity for the Grounds crew to recognize our supporters in tangible ways. Of course, our fund is intentional to directly recognizing/rewarding our Grounds Crew staff, but we also wish to acknowledge the many others in our organization that support us and make our success achievable. Lastly a fund helps us demonstrate that our support is broad and deep, not just form treehuggers and environmentally slanted people. Donations will come from our entire organization reflecting the universal support for a success Grounds team. 

Putting It Together
This approach to expanding access may to funding is likely not for everyone. I am fortunate that her at University of Kansas we have a robust fundraising arm with professional capabilities. I was also fortunate to find an ally in KU Endowment that understood and supported our team (thanks Monte). Every place I’ve worked had opportunities for obtaining donations from people that supported our work. Work your contacts and find a way. No matter your situation, Grounds Mangers are a resourceful and dogged bunch adept at overcoming obstacles in pursuit of a worthwhile goal. Creating a long term, well financed funding source, crafted to meet your needs will go a long way to helping you succeed in accomplishing the dreams you have for your operation. 

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Dramatic results and widespread success are a result of auxiliary funding.

The KU Landscape Manager Fund Objective 
The KU Landscape Manager Fund is a unrestricted fund designated to support the University of Kansas and the KU Lawrence Campus via the KU Grounds Crew. The primary goals are expanding the KU Grounds brand through KU Grounds managed landscape projects, professional development and appreciation efforts focused on KU Grounds Crew Staff, and ongoing support for KU students, staff & community education through project cooperation and green industry training.

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KU Endowment has made our establishing our unrestricted fund easy. How will you start yours?
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