I spent many happy years where you sit now, running direct response fundraising programs for nonprofits I believed in. The experience helped me appreciate the organizational issues and challenges all fundraisers face.
One of them is budgeting. A process that is as much about relationships as it is about numbers. As the July 1st deadline approaches, here are a couple of principles that worked well for me that I hope will work for you too.
Speak finance – Familiarize yourself the language your financial team uses and what they mean. When you talk in terms of net revenue, return on investment and quarterly projections and truly understand them and how the performance of your program impacts the organization, you become an integral part of the process and everyone’s on the same page. Also, understand the metrics your finance director is using to measure success.
Be responsive – Your budget is only one of many that your finance department is responsible for. Realize where you fit in, and when you’re asked for information, be ready to provide it. If you are helpful to your finance team, they will help you when you need it. They can make you look good, or they can make your life really hard.
Show your hand – Can financial people ever truly understand what fundraisers are trying to do? Sure they can. But only if you take the time to help them see things from your point of view. Our realm of direct response is easy for finance teams to grasp with its concrete campaign plans, projectable revenue and predictable expenses.
No surprises – Nothing troubles a finance director more than the unexpected. Cultivate a year-round relationship with your colleagues in finance, keep them in the picture and let them know as soon as something unanticipated happens.
As everyone knows, budgeting is a bargaining process. Finding the sweet spot between all the money that’s needed and what you can realistically raise is something you can’t do alone. For the coming financial year, make it a team effort.