Budget Changes? Keep Calm and Carry On with These Tips!

If 2020 taught us anything, it was how to face adversity head-on and power through. But going forward, many of us now need to address…budget changes.

When it comes to those budget changes, how often is your budget spot-on in every aspect? And most importantly, how do you communicate budget changes to your staff, volunteers, and stakeholders?

Start by asking yourself how you and your organization reacted to change last year, and how those reactions can be different in the future. Then, follow these tips to get your change management creative juices flowing!

  1. Create a list of the different changes you’ve had to make to your budget, and be prepared to share this information with your supporters

For each change listed, add a sentence or two to support your reasoning for the change. Content you generate may also be seen by a non-financial audience, so do your best to avoid finance jargon:

    • “Jargony” statement: Due to Winter Storm Uri, our utilities expenses have dramatically increased causing us to need to adjust our utility budgeted amounts for this month. We will evaluate our income to expense line items to identify deficiencies.
    • Less “jargony” statement: Due to Winter Storm Uri, our utilities cost will be significantly higher this month. We may need to revisit our plans for spending and fundraising needs.
  1. Poll your staff and volunteers to see how they feel when they’re confronted with changes that need to be explained (or defended) to the public

Volunteer and staff insights may fuel ideas for how to better prepare in the future. Here are some questions you might consider asking them:

    • “Have you ever been asked why we spent more on one project or less on another?”
    • “How comfortable are you with answering budget questions? How can we clarify the reasoning for changes to better prepare you in the future?”
  1. Document any reactions you received from supporters regarding budget changes

You may want to address supporter reactions (positive and negative). Consider a personal phone call or an online meeting with supporters who have concerns.

Supporter reactions can also be included in your future communications. However, when directly quoting a supporter, ensure you have received permission.

Remember: Staff members are supporters too, so consider having an internal Q&A session for staff to prepare them to answer questions posed by external supporters.

  1. Communication during challenging times can make or break your supporters’ attitudes toward your organization

Make sure you have a plan to get out in front of the public “chatter. Consider specific steps you will take for specific channels, such as print media, social media, and traditional media.

In your approach, be proactive instead of reactive. Appearing to be reactive could give the impression you’ve got something to hide.

If you don’t have a plan in place or you just need to fine-tune your plan, join Melissa Rancour and me on March 24, for a free webinar: Keep Calm & Carry On: Handling Unplanned Budget Changes. This webinar is designed to help you handle budget shifts with planning and poise so your staff and supporters will increase trust during change, and you’ll have an opportunity to ask us your burning questions as well!