Non-Profit Budgeting: Is Your Money Meeting Your Mission?


Perhaps the most important role of a board member is to make sure your money meets your mission.

The mission, or core purpose, of your organization should power its strategic plan. While this sounds simple in theory, the realities are much more complex. The tricky part – the part many boards struggle with – is ensuring the priorities of the strategic plan are reflected in the budget.

Your decisions and actions should leave the non-profit in a better place than when you found it. The most effective boards establish a process to vet organizational priorities versus resources and consistently utilize this process.

By asking the questions below, you can determine which programs, products and services are truly meeting the mission of your organization:

Question 1: How does this program/product/service meet our mission?

Question 2: How does this program/product/service align with the strategic plan?

Question 3: How much of a priority is this program/ product/service within the strategic plan?

Question 4: Do we have available resources to support this program?

Question 5: How does this add value to our members/ donors/key constituents?

Question 6: Can we/should we reallocate resources to increase/decrease funding for this program/product/ service?

These questions should lead you to one of the following decisions:

Move ahead: This program/product/service meets our mission, is a strategic priority, and we are able to fund it at the appropriate level.

Table it for later: While the program/product/service has merit, it is not currently a strategic priority for our organization but should be revisited if/when there is a change in those priorities.

Just say no: The program/product/service does not fall in line with the mission or strategic priorities, and the organization will not allocate resources to it.

The key in this process is twofold. First, the board must make sure that this is consistently applied when vetting programs, products and services. Secondarily, you must ensure that everyone on the board is committed to hold each other accountable for the process. This can be difficult, especially when there are enthusiastic champions for new ideas around the board table.

This process is not designed to stifle participation, discourage creative ideas nor extend the time line for making decisions. Instead, you will know exactly what information is needed up front, and ideas can be vetted quickly and efficiently, allowing for the best ideas to rise to the top while minimizing potential distractions.