It’s that time of the year again: Time for the dreaded budgeting exercise for non-profit organizations. The mismatch between wishes and what is realistically feasible. The ambitious plans and how to pay for them.
Does this all sound overwhelming? You are not alone. More than 85% of executives (corporate and non-profits alike) view the annual budgeting exercise with trepidation. Governments are no different.
In the specific case of non-profits, the difficulty lies in having to project revenue streams that often seem so elusive. Revenues are, for the most part, derived from memberships, if applicable, donations and fundraisers—none of which can be taken for granted. In the process, non-profits are confronted with so many unknowns: Will all our membership renew? How can we do a better job in our outreach programs? What kind of fundraiser can we plan for to guarantee success?
Small to medium size non-profits lack in required financial means to fund a full slate of professional staff to help them out with the needed tasks that can guarantee success. Lack of resources often leads to curtailed efforts; which, in turn, results in less-than-satisfactory performance when it comes to raising needed funds.
This is where the expertise of a professional planning firm comes into play. The organization can be overwhelmed by the day-to-day tasks to be able to plan for the future in an objective and proactive manner as in the proverbial “too close to the trees to see the forest.” A professional planning agency can weed out the superfluous steps and guide the organization with a focus in the direction that is guaranteed to bear fruit.
A professional planning firm can remove emotions out of the budgeting process and guide the organization in a direction that is both realistic and feasible. Relying on internal staff alone may at times pose a conflict if the organization may be facing a staff reduction and/or fine-tuning of tasks to achieve its desired goals. The management can spare itself the agony of dealing with otherwise unpleasant tasks that at times is required in the process.
The budgeting exercise is not only about matching expenses with realistic revenue streams, it is also a unique opportunity to step back and look at the organization’s existing mission, stakeholders, modus operandi, and outreach efforts. One of the most common sources of securing a portion (or all of) needed funds is a fundraising gala function possibly coupled with an auction of sort. Some non-profits opt to plan and hold such events entirely with internal staff—which often times has to juggle many functions within the organization. This is where the proverbial “penny wise and pound foolish” expression holds true. An event planning company with expertise in fundraising events can not only reduce—or entirely remove—the burden of organizing such a make-or-break event, it can practically guarantee financial success—not to mention an opportunity for positive exposure in traditional and social media.
To start with, a professional planning firm can shed better light on the importance of fundraising events and how best to organize a successful one. Non-profits too often view fundraising only as a means to making money to accomplish their agendas and pay their staff, so much so that they neglect to integrate fundraising into their long-term planning process. Non-profits that do incorporate fundraising and development into their organizational strategy are the ones that guarantee their long-term survival and longevity. Here are a few important reasons to view fundraising with a broader perspective:
1. Fundraising forces non-profits to plan
Sadly, many small and midsize non-profits rarely start the year with planning, which often leads to chaotic work plans and disjointed focus. Planning for fundraisers should help non-profits to take a step back and think about how they are going to accomplish their mission with what resources, and in what time frames.
2. Fundraising allows non-profits to see where they are vulnerable
In the process of planning and asking the question of how they are going to accomplish their mission (or a project) a planning firm can help a non-profit to realize that they may have gaps in their internal resourcesto meet their goals. Identifying weaknesses and vulnerabilities in organizational structure is a critical step in strengthening non-profit organizations.
3. Fundraising makes non-profits work as teams and align goals
Often, non-profit staff and volunteers are disjointed by project areas. Fundraising acts as a glue for different project areas, unifying the team and its different project goals into one holistic mission. A non-profit will be stronger if its different components are brought together under a solid mission base.
4. Fundraising makes non-profits sustainable
The most important contribution the planning process can make to a non-profit organization is ensuring its sustainability. Without a sizable injection of funds, most non-profits remain vulnerable to economic fluctuations, how their mandate is viewed by their stakeholders, and general increases in operating expenses. The reality is that nothing is permanent in the non-profit world and the sources of funds can disappear very quickly. A proper mix of revenue sources, such as donations, grants, gifts, and sponsorships is the best way to ensure sustainability of the organization’s cause.
Fundraising is so much more than raising funds. If done right, fundraising can help a non-profit develop and evolve into a high functioning, networked, sustainable, impactful force for community good.
In closing, don’t let the budgeting and planning process paralyze you. Brace it as a unique opportunity to evergreen your mandate; and view it as a means (even if forced) to strengthen your organization’s foundation and modus operandi. Invite a professional planning company to review your strategies, and operations with a critical view and help you separate wheat from chaff to ensure a sustainable mission.
Let professionals at Your Great Event lend you a hand in evaluation your strategies, finetuning your budgeting exercise and offer constructive suggestion in planning successful fundraisers.