2 min Read
May 13, 2014

Three questions to ask before you finalize that fiscal year budget

It’s May! Flowers are blooming, grass is growing, and… boards are approving budgets for organizations whose fiscal year begins July 1!  Before this magical moment slips away into the haze of summer, consider these three questions:

Have we budgeted for smaller projects that will help us move toward bigger projects?

A big project often begins by conducting research, an audit, or a feasibility study. If you anticipate launching a major capital campaign, rebranding, overhauling your website, or tackling other really big projects downstream, consider budgeting a smaller amount for Phase One this year to get the ball rolling and to offset the overall cost of your projects over time. If you’ve already begun the first part of the project, you might also find it’s easier to get approval for its second phase next fiscal year.

Have we budgeted adequately for website updates?

Best practices and technology can change fast in the online world. If it’s been a while since you’ve done so, you might want to budget for website testing, to explore how donors, clients, or other important audiences are engaging with your site. If possible, give yourself a budget to fix any problems or fill any gaps this testing uncovers.

We generally encourage nonprofits to budget for some online work every year. In years when bigger changes are needed, the dollar amount is greater. But even in years when no big changes are made, it’s useful to have a discretionary budget you can spend on testing, editing, creating campaign-specific pages or microsites, or any other ‘rainy day’ projects. 

Have we budgeted for help where we need it most?

Dan Pallotta’s 2013 TEDtalk “The way we think about charity is dead wrong” got people talking about how a Puritan cultural hangover has resulted in nonprofits underpaying or neglecting things generally associated with a professional working environment. So what’s getting in the way of you doing your best work? Is it an out-of-date content management system (CMS), your database, or a piece of software? Perhaps you need to learn about a new trend in the sector or develop your skills by attending more conferences? Maybe you could use help from a freelance writer or graphic designer to professionalize your materials? This might be the moment to budget for projects that will help you get to the next level.

There are, of course, an overwhelming number of projects worth pursuing and never enough time or money to tackle them all. But if you can focus on a few discrete projects that move things forward, you might find the long-term implications are stronger than you think