Sometimes budgets can feel like necessary evils instead of tools (how we think of them). Even scarier is creating a budget for 2021 after 2020’s dumpster fire of a year. Everything is uncertain. So, how can you plan for the future? Our CEO at Blue Fox recently spoke on this topic at Nonprofit Hub’s Cause Camp conference in October. [Video clip below]
Here are some small steps to take to create a meaningful budget.
1. Get 2020 financials up-to-date
Scrub your data in Quickbooks or in your accounting files and make sure you have accurate data on the books. Having accurate reports is the foundation for good budget planning, which leads us into step #2.
2. Do some math
Use our Magical Nonprofit Financial Ratio Matrix to assess your organization’s financial health. This tool will provide you vital information to assist in your budgeting process. Remember: information is NOT insight. Information is data that requires analysis. And, through analysis, your organization can generate insight and inform strategic budget decisions.
3. Review your budget v. actual for 2020 carefully WITH your team
Bringing your team into this step of the process is extremely valuable. A lot of times small organizations develop their budget in a vacuum. That makes no sense because your team is your single greatest asset. Your team is your mission. They have their ear to the ground and know exactly what’s happening in their respective department.
4. Determine reasonable assumptions for 2021
You have more information and insight than you probably think! Take the data that you have then make your assumptions as broad as you can.
5. Evaluate the key drives/levers of revenue and expenses
What factors ramp up or ramp down revenue? What are the expenses that are key to keeping your organization afloat or on target?
6. Think about long-term vs. short-term needs; the short-term focus is OK right now
Right now a short-term focus is OK. When you look at your budget, 12 months is plenty. you don’t have to forecast beyond that right now. For a lot of our clients this year, things have changed month-to-month, even day-to-day. Don’t worry so much to project your long-term budget just focus on the next 12 months.
Some of our clients are currently reviewing their budget every month. They are not formally changing it but having conversations with their finance committee about what’s happening day-to-day and month-to-month. That way they have a really keen understanding of levers and drivers of their financial sustainability. And, they can proactively find solutions to challenges that pop up.
7. Determine decision-making budget moments in 2021
Scenario planning is key! Decision-making moments are preset moments in times, activities, in regard to revenue or expense metrics at which you will make a certain decision.
Say you have an annual signature event but because of COVID, this annual event is now held virtually. How are you supposed to know how much money the event will raise now that it’s not in-person? You don’t! You can just hope and guess. What will you do if revenue is significantly lower? What if your expenses change?
It’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen in 2021. That’s why having preset triggers set in your budget will help your leadership team make decisions as the year unfolds.
More Budget Pro Tips:
Budgeting for a shortfall
This might sound like a radical and crazy idea coming from an accounting firm but consider budgeting for 2021 to be in the red. Say whaaaaat?
Think about it:
Everything is unknowable.
Revenue targets are going to shift.
Expenses could go up or way down.
You’re going to build a budget that’s the best idea from the information you have right now. But why build a budget that has overly rosey revenue predictions just so you can say it’s balanced? Don’t do that to your organization. Plan with the caveat that if you have cash and the financial runway to do so go ahead and plan for some shortfall. We are currently advising clients right now that no more than 15% of your budget should be in the red. Nonprofits do not need to have a balanced budget under these circumstances, assuming you have the cash to sustain your position through that shortfall for the next year.
Looking to dive deeper into planning your 2021 budget? Our friendly team at Blue Fox is here to help! Give us a call at (321) 233-3311 or email. We’ll get you sorted! Then you can focus on what really matters: your mission and serving your community.
You can also schedule a free budget consultation: https://calendly.com/chat-with-chantal
Welcome to the Blue Fox Blog! A fairly entertaining source of info and news related to our company, nonprofits, social sector trends, and, of course, accounting. Enjoy!
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