Budget shortfall means creative funding alternatives for quality icon
President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2011, which begins in October, includes funds to keep the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program (BPEP) ticking over, after a fashion, for another year. The $7.7 million currently on the table is less than the $9.9 million he requested and $1.9 million less than last year’s appropriations. This leaves the BPEP in the increasingly prevalent quandary of taking care of business with a tightened belt.
In part the decreased funding signals the administration’s goal of weaning the program from federal funding altogether. Funding has supported Baldrige criteria development, publication of best practices, and the annual awards process. As the BPEP itself acknowledges, figuring out “alternative sources of funding” and “alternative cost models” are now high on its to-do list.
We asked Michael Newman, senior communications officer at the Baldrige’s mother ship, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), about its BPEP strategies going forward. According to Newman and others at NIST close to the Baldrige program, NIST saw the writing on the wall a while back and had already been gearing up for possible budgetary issues.
Quality Digest: Were you anticipating this, and formulating contingencies?
NIST: Continuing to provide everything that the Baldrige program delivers, but exploring the possibility of transitioning out of federal funding, is something we have been planning for. The Baldrige Foundation was briefed two months ago on this concept, and we are working closely with the foundation as we explore options. We’re not thinking in terms of contingencies, as that would suggest a reduction of services, but rather exploring how to do what we have always done under a model that does not require federal funds.
QD: What alternative methods for making up the difference does the award program have?
NIST: The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program receives income from specific revenue sources, primarily fees assessed during the Baldrige Award application and site-visit processes, and conference fees. The program also receives support from the private-sector Baldrige Foundation. The president’s 2012 budget proposal calls for us to explore these and alternative sources of support for the program and to consider ways to charge additional fees for the services we provide. We are exploring options closely with the Baldrige Foundation.
QD: If the budget shortfall can't be matched in other ways, what kinds of changes should we expect to see in the Baldrige program?
NIST: The administration strongly supports the Baldrige program and wants it to continue to thrive. The aim is not to change what the Baldrige Program delivers, but rather to explore ways to maintain and grow the program’s reach, high level of service, and value with little or no dependence on federal funding. Note that the 2012 budget request does provide federal funding for the continued development of the Baldrige Program Criteria, dissemination of best practices, and the annual awards process while we explore ways to transition the program out of federal funding.
The 2011 budget, with the BPEP’s fate in tow, must still run the congressional gauntlet before it is passed into law. However the budget is finally distributed, along with many worthwhile recipients of federal funds, the BPEP will be learning to make do with less. This year in particular, as moral and economic imperatives collide, the Baldrige must set the standard for making quality lemonade from fiscal lemons.