by Mark Jones

In between decking the halls and planning your Christmas Eve service, this time of year brings one additional task for many ministries: Finalizing your budget. Here are a few quick tips to simplify your budgeting process—and keep you in the holiday spirit—as you crunch the numbers:

  • Get the right people involved. Planning and financial management often divide rather than unite far too many ministries. Use your budgeting process to align your ministry to what is truly mission central. Staff, leadership, and board members should participate in any phase of the budgeting process that affects the line items they are responsible for.
  • Remember you’re on the same team. Tug-of-war is all too familiar between those planning the programs and those managing the finances. Program planners and fiscal managers speak different languages, have different priorities, and may not be aware of the importance of the other’s approach to the budget process. Program staff and financial staff should work with the leadership and board to develop budgets which truly reflect organizational priorities and act as a guide for spending and decision making.
  • Draw a picture. While it may be clear to executive leaders or the finance staff, your financial structure is often mysterious to other ministry leaders and board members. Creating a visual representation of the financial structure, similar to an organizational chart, provides clarity and understanding for the entire organization. (This is especially true when there are donor-restricted funds which must be accounted for separately.) When preparing this picture, make sure you identify the individual who is responsible for each area. Then you can begin to work with those individuals on the budget for their area. Follow this link to see an example of what this might look like.
  • Avoid information overload. Once you have established your organizational financial structure and identified the responsible individuals, you can prepare a budget package for each person involved. This package should be appropriate for their role in the organization. For example, the program director responsible for your children’s program would not need budget information related to the office, at least in most cases. Don’t overload your staff, but give them access to enough information to do a thorough job working through the budget process.

Here’s to keeping your holidays—and your budgeting—happy.

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