While facilities leaders grasp the scope and scale of their campuses’ deferred maintenance (DM) backlog, other senior leaders and stakeholders may not recognize the signs of neglect that are often hidden underground or behind walls. This misunderstanding means limited institutional resources go to priorities other than maintenance.
To help senior leaders better understand the urgency of addressing DM, facilities leaders at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) deployed a multi-pronged communication strategy.
Make the problem tangible with visual aids
First, UMD made DM tangible and accessible to senior leaders through the use of visual aids. Their facilities department developed two reports to showcase the university’s deferred maintenance backlog. The first publication, Invisible Crisis, focused on issues behind walls and below ground invisible to the naked eye. The second publication, Restore the Core, emphasized the need for maintenance work around the historic heart of campus. These text-light reports illustrated the problem by focusing on photos and graphics that truly illustrate capital renewal needs. UMD’s executive director credited these reports for starting broader renewal conversations on campus.
Targeted campus tours
Next, UMD built on the interest from these reports with maintenance-focused campus tours. UMD targeted key stakeholders—board members, legislators, and donors—to give them a first-hand look at the campus’s capital renewal needs. The tour begins with physical objects, offering solid evidence of aging infrastructure and outdated equipment. Then, the tour showcases recent accomplishments such as a new high-efficiency HVAC unit to demonstrate the positive impact of investing in physical assets.
EAB’s research team on tour at UMD.
After establishing these tours, UMD pushed to incorporate them into the formal onboarding process for board members and legislators, ensuring that all new senior stakeholders understood the urgency of addressing DM.
Big results from UMD’s communication investment
Impressively, UMD was able to secure $10 million in annual deferred maintenance funding for 12 years and an additional $100 million to replace an old science building. While the reports and campus tours were part of a broader deferred maintenance strategy, UMD’s facilities leaders point to these communication efforts as critical to their success. In fact, one leader described the reports and tours as “game changers,” without which their capital renewal efforts would never have begun.
Jumpstart 2018 with a new communication strategy
For more information on how to communicate capital renewal in compelling ways to institutional stakeholders, explore our best practice research study, Addressing Increasingly Complex Deferred Maintenance Decisions. Download the study.
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Addressing Increasingly Complex Deferred Maintenance Decisions