The New Year is less than a month away and you are just getting started with your budgeting process and business plan. Don't panic and don't worry, but heavens please, don't delay any further. If it brings you any comfort, you are far from alone. I know, it doesn't give you much reassurance as you work diligently now to get it all done before the New Year. The first bit of advice I offer is to mark your calendar for mid next year to begin the process for the following year. Some basic steps that you should take to get started, then (and this applies to now, as well), is to compare the actual results of your organization's performance year-to-date, against the goals, objectives and financial pro forma that you or (preferably, your board) set for this year. Did you meet your financial goals?, Exceed them?, Missed your target and by how much? As for your strategic goals, did you accomplish them?, All of them or just a few? In my view, these are the most important steps you can take in preparing for the next fiscal year. It's also very important to approach this process with an open mind, being honest with yourself and assessing what you or your team believes to be the reasons why you were or were not successful. Note: I mention your team. Who is on your team? It should NOT be a large group to be flexible and effective. Here are a few suggestions: Include your top volunteer leadership for the coming year to include the incoming chair person, your chair of finance, a few other top leaders who will be heading up your most strategically important initiatives, and most importantly, include key members of your staff. After all, they, along with you, will be the people held responsible for a successful execution of the plan and adherence to the budget.
As you review your current year to date performance and begin to project next year's goals, BE REALISTIC! Too often, organizations have a tendency to project similar growth for the coming year if it was especially successful or worse, if the current year was flat or reflects a decrease, try to make it all up in the coming year. If it was a good year, ask yourself why it was. What economic or political events may have contributed to the growth? If it was a less than stellar year, consider similar circumstances that may have contributed. Now, pull out your crystal ball and with a heavy dose of realism, discuss with your team, what you honestly believe will be happening in your community in the coming year and how those events may impact your organization. While this is a little bit of guess work, it is also tempered with your knowledge and expertise of your community based on historical experiences and what you anticipate will be happening in the coming year. Now, temper your projections with a little dose of humility and reality. It is always better to exceed your projections that to fall short. Lastly, enjoy the process and remember that you don't actually have a crystal ball.