Create a Budget that Moves You Forward

Do any of these things sound familiar?

  • “Our non-profit board doesn’t like to fundraise.” 
  • “My spouse keeps pushing expenses up and doesn’t understand how tight things are.” 
  • The economy or ____ (fill in the blank) make it impossible for us to balance our budget without cutting.”
  • “We just can’t afford to do that right now!”

If so, what’s the solution?

Is it to hire a fundraising consultant to train your board members and staff? Do you need to cut back on overhead to weather a storm? Or if it’s your family, do you get them to promise to “do better” with their spending?

In some cases, any of these possible solutions may be valuable, but the truth is that they often don’t help you achieve your “goals of impact,” and can leave you feeling even more frustrated.

I am consistently struck by the lack of intention and leadership around budgets, year-to-date’s and projections.  Whether it’s for your organization, or your household, how we strategically layout a budget provides a way to tell a story of intention, values, and desired impact. YTD’s provide the momentum and “thermometers” of our collective actions towards the goals. Projections and forecasts offer opportunities to shift and adjust mindfully and intentionally together.  Why then, are budget documents often completely disconnected from daily operations and conversations at both the staff and full board level – reviewed and discussed in a compartmentalized “finances” discussion?

When I work as an interim CEO for non-profits, often we can create extraordinary momentum, confidence and major shifts in revenue-generation without changing a thing.

How are we able to do this?

We set an intention to lead our organization towards a common and clearly defined goal – of impact – by (literally) getting everyone on the same page.

There are many ways to accomplish this. When I coach interim leaders, CEOs and directors, one of the most effective tools I use is an “Activation Budget™” – a color 1 page Management Budget Tool (NOTE: this does not replace the standard financial package, nor does it necessarily need to impact GL codes).  The layout you strategically choose determines and drives the conversations and action that will occur, and thus the process itself will generate powerful questions such as:

What is the desired understanding or action I want to be taken, and by whom? Why is this important, and why now?  Where’s the gap, and the opportunity?  How can I make sure everyone knows where we “are,” so that I can then motivate them to contribute to a successful goal?  How can I best reduce inefficient “translation” time between board and staff when looking at YTD and projections?

Knowing those answers and creating intention, enables us to re-look at how to present the standard financial information in ways that move our teams toward the BEST actions that will create the most impact.  In some cases, it means re-ordering earned and contributed revenue and expense lines on the page, or choosing which sections will be collapsed vs. expanded to create focus.  In other cases it can be to add key information “below the line” that was previously only seen by Finance Committees.

Sound easy? Great! However, it has been revealing to see how often this process of getting everything on one page in a new format – and in some cases revealing for all to see the Big Challenges – can raise many questions and be a catalyst for Big Discussions! Perhaps that’s another reason I like this process so much – it provides the opportunity for an organizational shift, increased organizational confidence, re-vitalized pride in the mission, and… transformation.

The practice of setting a daily intention is a powerful tool for leaders. Bringing this intention into the budget management process creates opportunities to bring people together towards a common goal and be successful in the deepest sense of the word.

If you’d like to have a candid conversation with me about your budget management presentation process, setting your intention, or just get more clear about YOUR best next steps to getting “unstuck,” schedule your complimentary clarity call with me here. I’m excited to talk with you.

To your success,


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