9.7.10 Can You Tell a Sweet Story of Budget Cuts?

We are living in the era of budget cuts and they present a unique opportunity for the psyche of any fundraiser. The economic crisis (for lack of a better term) has impacted us in a myriad of ways – layoffs, organizational mergers, shifts in program priorities, and more.

They’re not new of course, but more extreme and frequent budget cuts seem to be an inevitable phenomenon in this current reality and they’re not disappearing any time soon. The question is how we face into them, how we frame them and how we manage it all without losing our head. In the words of Zen teacher Cheri Huber, “How we do anything is how we do everything.”

I used to dread budgets until I began to see them as stories. They really offer a compelling narrative about an organization – what we value and what we don’t. In some senses, budget cuts can provide a similar opportunity. This is an chance for storytelling on two fronts:

First, what is the story you want to tell internally about needed cuts? Do you want to do a 10% reduction across the board? Is this an opportunity to clip a wild patch that’s been needing trimming? (I live in the country – we have lots of those.)And how do you want to have these conversations internally? Think of how a sweet mother might break the news to her family that they’ll have to do with less for the next while or a positive experience of something similar you had growing up.

Second, how do you want to tell the story to your donors? They know times are tight. They’d probably rather hear a tale of thoughtfulness rather than have yet another conversation that begins with “the sky is falling!” How you communicate about your budget cuts and the process speaks volumes about where you are in your organizational leadership and life cycle.