I am going to offer you 7 steps to a charity budget for Leadership. We have all been there, the Finance Manager shows you some A4 sheets of figures, (they have been working on all month) and the numbers dance before your eyes and you just look at the figure in the bottom right corner. Perhaps its that trustees meeting when you can see Trustees visibly drifting off as a finance report is given, or worst of all the meeting where everyone suddenly wakes up because someone else said “deficit”, alarm bells go off and metal shutter decent, but actually no-one has any idea whats happening.
The creation of your yearly budget and business plan is is extremely important. Its not just something you do at the last moment but a good Fiannce manager should be preparing it in the previous financial year. It should go hand in hand with a business plan.
Not only is a budget a planning tool, but a managing tool as well. A rolling and flexible budget embodies objectives, and provides a means of comparing actual results against desired outcomes. For charity leaders its a simple measurement, that you can use in appraisals and supervisions for budget holders.
It is also important for ‘responsibility’ accounting. That is, responsible managers are held accountable, and should explain the variances between the budgeted figures and the actual figures.
Of course budgeting is not always a trouble-free process, the finance dept is often brilliant at the figures but we also need the financial leadership and the charity leadership to understand how to present, how to offer executive summaries and write and communicate well. In addition if budgeting is participative, participating managers may set easy-to-achieve, self-serving objectives. This allows the budget to become a motivating force, rather than a yoke. If budgeting is centralised, department heads may reject or work against the budget objectives. So when preparing a centralised budget, there could be difficulties associated with data gathering as managers disrupt the budget process.
As a charity Leader, your job is to ensure Income and expenditure either balance or you have a re-investible surplus. In many organisations, especially those involved in social care this is next to impossible, so the following are essential.
- Lead from the front. The leadership takes final responsibility for income and expenditure and any surplus or deficit, So I always like to have a strong command of every program and item contributing to income or expenses.
- Take the Opportunities. I like to confident in working with the managers of a variety of departments and teams to identify savings and opportunities. I never like to work to the ‘lets just switch off some lights’ maxim, as we must always be looking for opportunities to increase income.
- Communication is all. Both you and the finance manager should be able to communicate the actualities of Income and Expenditure and ensure every employee is invested in positively influencing the financial situation of your charity.
- Innovate. So many organisations lack imagination and innovation. I like to be innovative in seeking new ways of generating income, especially as traditional income streams are affected by economic downturns or technological advances. Even if your finances are good, innovative income streams allow you to build reserves or invest for future success.
- Be Open. I am confident in sourcing new ideas from all levels in the organization and try to be open to external advice. If every staff ember is onside, you are bound to get suggestions to help with income or savings, listen.
- Present to stimulate Trustees. Boring finance reports must be a thing of the past you must be capable of communicating budgets to Trustees, justifying expenditures and explaining profit levels. I am open to question and discussion followed by suggested next steps and potential solutions.
- Accentuate Achievements. I like to be ready to clearly communicate achievements attributing success to those in the team who have supported them.
Get in touch if you’d like us to help support your charity, CIO or no-profit