3.31 Solving the Problem of Budget Cuts by Raising More Money

Dear Kim:

We have lost a lot of funding in the past two years and have cut out every possible unnecessary expense.  We are now going to cut all professional development which includes conferences and workshops.  The fact is that each member of our staff either has a conference they love to attend, or would like to go to a workshop where we can get new ideas and meet other people who have our same jobs in other organizations.  The total cost of each of us of going to our favorite learning event is about $3000 including travel.  In a $750,000 budget I think that is not so much. I also think it builds morale to let people get out of their daily grind once in awhile.  My executive director, who attends meetings all over town all the time, does not agree and says this is a necessary sacrifice.  

What do you think?

~Friday Night Blues

Dear Blues:

I am with you all the way.  Mostly I think that solving all budget problems by cutting expenses is a fast road to a quick death.  You solve the problem of budget cuts by raising money, as you would know if you were allowed to come to any workshops I give. Cutting needs to be seen as the last resort, when all else has been tried.  

Also, eliminating whole line items is a lazy approach to trimming the budget. If you have tried everything to raise the money (which I doubt very much) and you come up $3000 short, then the whole staff should sit down and decide together how to save $3,000.  One organization I worked with realized they had a rider on their health insurance allowing them to see an acupuncturist, but none of them ever used that, so they got rid of it. Presto–$1,000.  Another organization investigated their insurance coverage and found a cheaper policy, and still another threatened to move their checking, saving and credit accounts to another bank unless fees were lowered.  And their bank lowered their fees.  But the important thing is that everyone pulled together and looked for real savings in a variety of line items so that no one person or department bore a disproportionate load.    
Keep in mind also that most professional associations have scholarships and small grants to help people who could not afford to come otherwise.  Many foundation program officers have small amounts of discretionary money for just this purpose.  

To end, I do some shameless advertising:  A very affordable and excellent conference will happen here in Oakland August 10-11 called “Money for our Movements: A Social Justice Fundraising Conference.”  It is sponsored by GIFT and if you register by March 31st, you will save $100 AND be invited to join me for a free conference call to get more tips for how to cover your costs: www.grassrootsfundraising.org/conference. See you there!