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Organizational Growth STIMULATING ORGANIZATIONAL SUCCESS (S.O.S.) ::
Organizational Magnetism:
Ten Strategies for Creating a Respected Organization, Part Three

What makes some organizations thrive in the public eye, popular with funders, become media darlings, and even build a reputation that brings people to them in droves? Here is part three of a three-part series highlighting ten strategies that might help.

Part One
1) Be Passionate About Your Mission
2) Let Your Imagination Run Wild
3) Build the Best Team Possible
4) Show Your Appreciation
Part Two
5) Market Smart
6) Connect with Your Community
Part Three
7) Budget with Business Savvy
8) Live Within Your Means
9) Have a Dream; Make a Plan
10) Stay Flexible

Budget with Business Savvy
Be realistic. When developing your organizational budget, follow two basic rules:

  • Build in contingencies when budgeting expenses.
  • Be conservative when budgeting for income.
A fatal flaw in developing budgets is to be too hopeful about income, and to be too cautious about anticipated expenses. To budget with savvy, do exactly the opposite.

Start by calculating what you will need to run your organization and programs for the year. When budgeting for expenses, always plan for the unexpected. That way, if the worst case scenario happens and something breaks, you need additional labor or materials, or a line item costs more than you anticipated, you'll still be within your budget. And if the best case scenario happens and everything runs smoothly, you'll end up under budget.

Step two is to figure out what you might reasonably expect in terms of earned and/or contributed income for the year. You can base your budget on actual income from previous years, but be sure to consider other pertinent factors such as the local economy, trends within your organization in terms of increased or decreased audience attendance or donations, changes in funding priorities, etc., and adjust your income projections accordingly. Do not be overly optimistic when budgeting income. We all want growth, but if you've never had more than 50 people per night attend your dance presentations, don't budget for more than what you've previously averaged. And if anything, plan for the worst case scenario. What if it snows during the run of your concert recitals? Or the local sports team does incredibly well and makes the play-offs during the run of your exhibit? Or the funder who has always funded your organization shifts priorities and your grant is denied? Unforeseen circumstances could lower your income. Plan for it by budgeting conservatively.

Step three is to make sure your projected income exceeds your anticipated expenses. If it doesn't, you will need to look for other costs to cut back on or other ways to generate additional income. This is the time to make the hard decisions. Are there less expensive ways to carry out your programs without sacrificing quality? Are there sources where you can find in-kind materials or pro bono services to help keep expenses down?

Work to create a realistic budget that your organization can live with. Use your budget as your constant guide for the year. It provides a picture of what minimum goals your company has set for income and what maximum parameters your company has set for spending. The more realistic you are when you develop your budget, the more prepared you will be for anything that happens.

Live Within Your Means
Act like the company that you aspire to be, but spend money based on what you actually have. Some companies make the mistake of spending money they don't actually have, thinking that if they spend the money on bigger sets, fancier costumes, larger venues, and glossier PR materials then the audience, donations and income will follow. But more expensive doesn't always equate with higher quality, and spending money you don't have only leads to creating greater debt. Having a limited budget can actually be a stimulating challenge to work more creatively, to come up with better ideas and ways of achieving excellence through innovation.

Some companies also tend to view their line of credit as an extra source of cash. It's not. A line of credit is a tool for managing cash flow. Only access your line of credit if you have a confirmed grant or pledged major gift or other guaranteed source of income that can pay the line of credit off when the actual source of cash comes in.

If you want to increase your budget size, you need to first develop a plan with strategies for how your organization will raise and/or earn the additional income. Don't spend first and hope the money will come in later to cover it.

Have a Dream; Make a Plan
Everything starts with a vision. What do you want to do? What are your goals? What kind of impact do you desire? It's okay to dream. Dreams are what guide us in creating organizations that make a difference and have a purpose. But in order to make the dream a reality, a strategic plan is also needed.

First, take the dream and develop a concise vision statement about what it looks like. Make it tangible. Then develop a list of strategies required to achieve that vision. How will you get there? Create a list of action steps needed to accomplish each strategy. Create a timeline for each step - how long will it take to complete each one? Specify deadlines. Then, assign who will take responsibility for each strategy or action. Finally, implement the plan of action, allowing time and resources to monitor the progress along the way.

Stay Flexible
"If it ain't working, change it." Sometimes the best-laid plans don't work. Or priorities change. Or people come and go. Successful, dynamic organizations are those that are able to adjust when needed and maintain resiliency no matter what the circumstance. Those that refuse to change or don't know how to shift gears become dinosaurs and risk becoming organizations that are out of touch with their community and patrons. An old proverb states that the reed that bends with the wind grows stronger over time. Whereas the branch that resists, gets broken in the storm. Learn from mistakes, build on successes, and continue to evolve as an organization.

TIPS FOR GREAT GRANTWRITING
YOUR ORGANIZATION AND THE IRS
GET THE WORD OUT ABOUT YOUR ARTS EVENTS
AMERICANS FOR THE ARTS BOOKSTORE
ARTISTS: EMPLOYEE OR CONTRACTOR?
MUST READS FOR ARTS MANAGERS - PART 1
MUST READS FOR ARTS MANAGERS - PART 2
ORGANIZATIONAL MAGNETISM: PART ONE
ORGANIZATIONAL MAGNETISM: PART TWO
ORGANIZATIONAL MAGNETISM: PART THREE
OVERCOMING BARRIERS TO BOARD DIVERSITY
TIPS FROM THE FIELD
MORE TIPS FROM THE FIELD
PLANNING EFFECTIVE MEETINGS
BUILDING EFFECTIVE BOARDS
THE PRESS KIT
MOTIVATING VOLUNTEERS
DELIVERING OUTSTANDING CUSTOMER SERVICE
Shown: Seattle Youth Symphony. Photo: Colleen Boyce.
Seattle Youth Symphony.
Photo: Colleen Boyce.
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