How Your Nonprofit Can Break Bad Budget Habits

October 25, 2022 HoganTaylor

nonprofit budgeting

Autumn is here and many nonprofits are starting to think about their 2023 budgets. If your budget process is on autopilot, you might want to pause and think about changing things up this year — particularly if you’ve experienced recent shortfalls or found your budget to be less resilient than is ideal. Here’s how to rethink budgeting.

A holistic approach

Your nonprofit may not always approach its budget efficiently and productively. For example, budgeting may be done in silos, with little or no consultation among departments. Goals are set by executives, individual departments come up with their own budgets, and accounting or finance is charged with crunching the numbers.

You’d be better off approaching the process holistically. This requires collaboration and communication. Rather than forecasting on their own, accounting and finance should gather information from all departments.

Underbudgeting tendencies

Another habit to break? Underbudgeting. You can improve accuracy with techniques such as forecasting. This process projects financial performance based on:

  • Historical data (giving patterns)
  • Economic & other trends
  • Assumptions about circumstances expected to affect you during the budget period (for example, a major capital campaign)

Forecasting generally takes a longer-term view than budgeting — say, five years versus the typical one-year budget. It also provides valuable information to guide budget allocations and strategic planning.

You also might want to do some budget modeling where you game out different scenarios. Consider your options if, for example, you lost a major grant or were (again) unable to hold big, in-person fundraising events.

If the COVID-19 pandemic has proven anything for nonprofits, it’s the necessity of rainy-day funds. If you don’t already have a reserve fund, establish one. If you do have a reserve fund, avoid the temptation to skip a budget period or two of funding for it.

More ideas

Another idea is to switch from your annual budget to a more flexible rolling budget. You would still budget for four quarters but set certain intervals during which you’d adjust the numbers as circumstances dictate. Typically favored by organizations that experience volatile financial and service environments, rolling budgets can empower nonprofits to respond better to both crises and opportunities in a timely manner. For more ideas on crafting an accurate and effective budget, contact us.

How HoganTaylor Can Help

The HoganTaylor Nonprofit team of business advisors and CPAs is comprised of former CFOs, controllers, and industry experts with extensive experience providing the guidance organizations need to lean forward again in their leadership. If you have any questions about this content, or if you would like more information about HoganTaylor’s Nonprofit practice, please contact Jack Murray, CPA, Nonprofit Practice Lead.

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INFORMATIONAL PURPOSE ONLY. This content is for informational purposes only. This content does not constitute professional advice and should not be relied upon by you or any third party, including to operate or promote your business, secure financing or capital in any form, obtain any regulatory or governmental approvals, or otherwise be used in connection with procuring services or other benefits from any entity. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult with professional advisors.

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