We’re at the half-year review mark of the budget lifecycle – what do you believe you’ve observed over the last six months that should be automated? Do you believe best practices are being incorporated, or have you identified ways to improve the budget process at the six-month checkup point?
Let’s Start with Real-Time Access and Automated Activities
When using or deploying budgeting software, look for setup wizards, alerts, and other automated processes that will eliminate errors and save your staff time and effort. Even with the best intentions, our manual routines are subject to human errors and can ripple into our monthly and/or quarterly budget reports. To prevent those potential mistakes, check to see if your and your team’s repeatable tasks are automated to ensure consistency and accuracy.
Efficiently Monitor Your Budget and Team Roles
Whether it’s a new building you’re forecasting into next year’s budget or an unexpected crisis for which you haven’t budgeted, good stewardship of an organization’s funds requires close cooperation among the budget stakeholders. Clear ownership and good communication between team members are key to monitoring the budget during the year. As a checkup point, does your accounting software enable you and your team to set roles related to current, past, or future budgets and forecasting? Ideally, the answer is yes, you and your team can easily see assigned tasks and last updates, based on individual role and/or name.
Preserve Budget Integrity During Staff Transitions
We’re all too familiar with the turnover rates in the nonprofit space. And, as sad as it is to lose a team member, the reality is … it’s inevitable. The good news, though, we usually get a new player to join the team. If this is the case, and you’ve been taking advantage of automating the finance team’s work, then the organization can stay confident the budget knowledge is secure and accessible anytime. And, this eliminates the need to worry that a person may have left the organization with some of your spreadsheets. Instead, your new team member can hop into the budget tasks and ramp up efficiently.
Complete Tasks, Optimize, and Refer to Archives as Needed
How many times have you had a list of tasks with priorities, which you can’t ever seem to complete? The benefit of having an accounting solution with scheduled and automated tasks functionality is that it will do some of the work for you, giving you time back to work on other priorities. Make sure your tool features enable you to delegate tasks to others, set notifications and/or alerts if budgets are changed by co-workers, and has trigger capabilities that automatically complete tasks you’ve already approved. Lastly, as another checkup point, your software should allow you to seamlessly compare budgets from previous months, quarters, and even years. No longer should you need to go through spreadsheet file after spreadsheet file to compare.
The National Council of Nonprofits puts it simply: “Budgets should not be ‘written in stone’ because the financial position of the nonprofit may change during the year.” Continuously monitoring your budget and comparing it to actual results is a vital practice for strong, responsible management of your nonprofit; that process works best when it’s tied to regular reviews and reports for executive leadership, board members, and key staff.
There are many professional development channels to help you and your team improve your budget process throughout the calendar year. One is reading industry trends and practices, and/or joining experts with tips on budget management. Join us for our upcoming June live customer webinar about “Budget Checkups and Lifecycle Management” on Wednesday, June 26 from noon to 1 p.m. CT, for solutions to help you improve budgeting and enable you to get back to focusing on your cause.