But What About General Interest Programming?

Cheryl Lovstrom, Community Learning Network

1 1 9 December 2015

With the introduction of the new CALP Guidelines and a renewed focus on Foundational Learning, Adult and Family Literacy, CALPs are creating new and innovative programs for their communities. However, some of the General Interest programs our communities have come to know us for may no longer be the right fit to fulfill the mandate of our CALP grants and funding. So how can you help when General Interest programs are in high demand? Are there other organizations that are better positioned to offer this kind of programming? Are there potential partnership opportunities you could explore with others?

To answer these questions, let’s look at the bigger picture.

Keep in mind that the CALP grant your organization receives is specifically to support literacy and foundational learning in your community, and can also be used for programming in other areas such as Numeracy, Essential Skills and Community Capacity Building.

This doesn’t mean that your CALP can’t offer other programs, however you must be mindful that these programs must pay for themselves. You may find that offering General Interest programs is beneficial to your CALP, as a way to attract new learners and, in fact, may generate funds that can be used by your organization for any project it deems important (even if it’s funding more General Interest courses). Generating a profit is the end goal for General Interest programs.

Before you decide if delivering General Interest programming is right for your CALP, consider these questions:

  • How will you pay for the initial cost of the program without using any CALP dollars?
    Consider things like staff time, materials, and promotion costs. Remember you’ll also have to think about the hidden costs of things like office rent while staff is taking calls, making posters, etc. to be sure you know the “real” price of the program before you offer it.

  • Can you partner to cover these initial costs?
    Is there another organization that can set things up and you run it?

  • Does your organization generate enough General Interest revenue to consider hiring a staff person outside of the CALP to run this as its own program?
    If you have a program or two that generates enough income, consider hiring a staff member to take on the task of planning and organizing these programs. This takes the task away from CALP-paid staff and simplifies the reporting process.

  • Do you receive funds from another organization or grant that may cover the cost of starting up a General Interest program?
    You may even find a local business willing to sponsor a program if it will promote them. And, as a sponsor, they receive great bang for their buck in the form of exposure in the community; at what is typically a much lower price than the cost of advertising.

  • Is this course something your local CCI or another organization can offer within their mandate?
    Remember, the CALP goal is to serve learners and you may have to consider handing off this programming in order to do that well. As a CALP, your focus is on Foundational Learning, Adult and Family Literacy, and that’s where you will best support your community.

Once you have considered your options and have determined you are ready to price out some General Interest programs, you'll need to calculate the right tuition fee to cover all your costs. Tuition is calculated by dividing your total program costs by your set minimum number of learner registrations to break even (this is any number set by the CALP, but keep in mind higher numbers mean lower tuition fees, and minimums that are too high may result in cancelling a course due to lack of registrations). CLICK HERE to download a spreadsheet you can use to calculate what the registration fees should be to make sure you cover all the costs of running a General Interest program.

Resource: General Interest Program Cost Calculator

General Interest programs can be fun and informative, and a great way to connect with your community, but they are not the focus of the CALP grant. So, before you begin, be sure you know just how your organization will manage all of the costs of running a course, and how you will cover those costs - especially to get a course up and running.

When in doubt, focus on your strengths and remember that the most important job you do is where every CALP shines brightest: supporting learners, creating strong partnerships and building vibrant learning communities.

Cheryl Hollidge
Regional Support Staff
Central Alberta


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