by Jac La Tour

Tuesday I blogged Vonna Laue’s responses to three budget-related questions to give you a preview of the expertise that resides on the panel for the upcoming budgeting workshop ECCU is presenting at the Christian Leadership Alliance (CLA) National Conference. (How to Build a Better Budget).

Next up is Hugh Burns, vice president of operations for the Denver Rescue Mission.

Jac:     What top three priorities should guide the budgeting process?

Hugh:      First, make sure your budget is relevant to your organization. For the Denver Rescue Mission, this involves having a process that holds department heads accountable to their budgets month-by-month throughout the year. We require department heads to provide commentary on budget-to-actual variances over 10 percent every month. We have found that this makes the budget process truly a part of our organizational culture.

Second, make sure the budget has been filtered through a process of review and discussion. Each of our department heads goes through a process whereby they propose a budget and then attend a meeting with the controller and the vice president in charge of their area. The department heads’ budgets are projected on a screen. We go through them line by line and challenge them to justify the dollars they propose to raise and/or spend during the coming fiscal year. Adjustments and revisions are made on the spot.

Finally, make sure the budget balances on a consolidated level after all department budgets are rolled up. We make sure we our budget balances, including planned capital expenditures and with a 3 percent contingency fund. We believe that this is fundamental for us to have a sustainable business model.

Jac:     What are two or three major changes you’ve made to your budgeting process and what was the result?

Hugh:      We have utilized some helpful technology in our budget process. The most significant of these is SharePoint, which allows us to create an Intranet where budget templates can be saved and accessed. This assures that there is only one version of the truth at any point in time. We can also link all the spreadsheets together and consolidate them into a top-level budget with very little effort. As we make changes to department budgets, the consolidated budget is automatically adjusted.

Jac:     How can an attendee prepare to gain the most value from this workshop?

Hugh:      Come prepared to throw out the challenges and problem areas in your budget process during the Q&A time. Someone in the room is likely to have dealt with those issues before and will be able to offer a useful solution.                                                                                

Again, this budgeting workshop will be on Thursday, April 11, from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m.

To register for the CLA conference, visit

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