No Budget People Allowed?

Social Justic QuiltI’m taking a Nonprofit Strategic Leadership class this week, and one of the Big Take Aways from yesterday’s teaching:  Don’t Invite the Budget People to Strategic Planning Meetings.

Some of my best friends are budget people, but I get this.

Think of all the congregational committee meetings you’ve attended during which this conversation has happened:

Church Leader #1:  If we don’t make our nursery safe and clean, young families will not want to leave their children there during worship.

Church Leader #2:  We can’t afford to replace the carpet and paint in there.

Church Leader #3:  We need to reach out to the immigrants who’ve just moved into the neighborhood.

Church Leader #4:  We don’t have the money to support any new programs.

In the words of Professor Rich Honack:  Strategy says “Do it or die.”  Budget says, “We can’t do that.”

Honack suggests that – when a nonprofit organization is engaged in strategic planning – we should leave the budget people outside.  It’s not that we don’t want to be fiscally responsible.  It’s just that funding our ministry is not where we start.  We cast a vision first and then we figure out how to pay for it.

All you pastors in the throes of Stewardship Season: what do you think about this?

Image from an art project by a group of Presbyterians interested in social justice.

9 responses to “No Budget People Allowed?

  1. Martha Shrout Brown



  2. Absolutely!


  3. Sorry, I have to speak up about this one. As a “budget person” it is not always a negative response. I make a rule of never saying “no” at first, I make sure to take the time, look at available resources, come up with solutions and bring those back to the table. While not inviting a budget person to a strategy meeting might seem like a good idea, I think this is a faulty business approach. At some point money will be involved to turn those plans into reality, it would be best to have buy-in from the beginning rather than build an entire strategy, get excited, and then learn that there would be no way to do it without bankrupting the organization. It might surprise people to know that most financial people would much rather say yes to everything and move things forward, but unfortunately the realities and responsibilities of our position don’t always allow that. I spoke last Sunday in church that I don’t believe stewardship should be focused on money, rather on involvement and creating a dynamic community. Money should come last. So try not to paint all “budget people” with the same brush. Some of us are dreamers too.


  4. Have to agree with Patrick on this, which is probably not a surprise. I see my role as a budget person as finding ways to make things happen rather than simply saying we can’t afford it. Strategy, like money, is all about making choices – this and not that or, sometimes, this and that. Dreaming dreams without considering funding opportunities can kill dreams, cause frustration, and dampen the spirit to dream again. The key in white board strategy discussions is getting everyone to start with why do we want to do this and how can we do this. Your post implies strategy people live in a world of abundance and opportunity and budget people live in a world of scarcity and negativity. That is not always the case.


    • Eric – this is why you are an awesome neighbor. Ongoing conversation about this idea of leaving the budget people outside strategic planning meetingshas ensued in my class this morning. (I’m now writing during a break) and the professor insists on his original comment – although this is why we call universities ivory towers


  5. Patrick: Richard Honack says “Dreamers of every kind are welcomed, but they can’t ‘wake up’ until the strategy planning ends.”


    • Thanks Eric! In response to Dr. Honack: Strategy planning not based on reality is not strategic in any way. Maybe changing his terminology would be better. Brainstorming?

      Ah the Ivory Tower…I work in one, a blessing and a curse (the curses usually have tenure!). 🙂


  6. Pingback: Wednesday Festival: Provocative Questions | RevGalBlogPals

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.