Numbers and Mission

on in Fundraising

Board focus on strategic priorities.

It’s a cousin to the forest and the trees. And it doesn’t happen accidentally.

I was reminded of this last week as I was helping a board through understanding the organization’s annual budget. (It’s that time of year for many of us.)

Lots and lots of details, but what do they add up to?

What are the institution’s priorities and how are those reflected in the proportional allocation of its resources?

What does the organization care most about – and how is that expressed in its numbers?

And how can we help the board to use this values-based lens as the basis for its fiduciary oversight function, instead of mining the data for random isolated details?

Numbers are exact. They’re details. And they often lead people to focus on minute particulars.

Yet numbers can also speak about the big picture, when examiners take a step back and look at the patterns.

b2ap3_thumbnail_numbers2.jpgThat’s why it’s so helpful to look back a few years when looking at a proposed annual budget; it’s one thing to poke at whether this year’s budget will actually balance, but another level entirely to look at annual assumptions and execution over time.

Both efforts are necessary. But it’s all too easy to fall into the nit-picky, why-are-we-spending-$5,000-more-on-travel-vouchers considerations – it’s the obvious question to ask.

And it’s not unimportant to pose that type of query – that’s what review-and-approve is all about.

But it’s also about the core of an institution.

Are we doing with our resources what we intend?

What we’re here for?

Our mission?

Last modified on