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Budget Management for Non-Profit Admins

January 23, 2023

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An administrative assistant sits at their desk, working over a budget for their non-profit.
Budget management is crucial for planning and carrying out business operations.

For administrative professionals, many of the skills needed for the job translate seamlessly to non-profit companies. Organization, communication, and technical competence are all traits that every administrative assistant should have, regardless of where they work. 

But, for non-profit workers, some of the specifics of day-to-day concerns will vary compared to for-profit companies. One area where this is particularly noteworthy is budgeting. 

A non-profit organization’s budget will almost always look quite different from that of a traditional business. Different sources of revenue and different organizational goals set non-profit budgets apart from the rest. So, what should non-profit administrative assistants know about budget management? Here are a few helpful tips.

Non-Profit Budget Calculator

Whether you’re new to non-profit budgeting, or are just looking to make life easier, a budget calculator can be invaluable. Consider using any of these free non-profit budget templates from Smartsheet. A non-profit budget planner like this can save you tons of time. It will automatically compile all the factors you need to consider for your budget. As the budget calculator yourself, all you need to do is input your non-profit’s financial data into the corresponding columns.

Other popular financial software like QuickBooks or Expensify can also be useful when calculating expenses and income. However, the advantage of a non-profit budget template is that it’s automatically structured for the unique considerations of a non-profit budget.

Tips for a Non-Profit Budget Planner

As for making budgeting decisions for a non-profit, this also presents some unique challenges. Many non-profit budget planners might struggle by underestimating or under-reporting expenses. This could lead to a series of compounding problems which can eventually result in chronic budgeting problems and organizational destabilization. But this can be prevented by understanding what is required for a non-profit budget.

Transparency and Understanding True Costs

Perhaps the most common mistake in non-profit budgets is a failure to understand the true cost of operations. Many non-profits run programs to support their cause or community. This is in addition to normal overhead expenses, employee salaries, and promotional spending. Many non-profit operators might not factor in all of the expenses required to do all of these things. There might be more involved in running a community project than the operators or board members realize, for instance. This can lead to insufficient funding through grant applications, donations, and fundraising.

As a budget planner, the best way to combat this budgeting misstep is to carefully research the full and exact cost of all operations. Not only this, but you should also practice transparency about those costs. 

Under-reporting expenses can lead to operations directors believing that their non-profit is operating efficiently, even when it is not. This can lead to a cycle of poor funding and mismanagement. This is all due to a budget that is trying to plug holes in order to break even.

Judging A Surplus or Deficit

Speaking of breaking even, many non-profit budget managers believe they need to break even each year. But this is not always realistic, and can become a budgeting obstacle. 

Even for a non-profit, it is okay to have a surplus of revenue in your budget sometimes. This allows you to expand your outreach and your offerings, or better supply certain areas of the organization. Likewise, a strategic deficit today could lead to advancements and expansion in the future. The myth that non-profits should always break even can actually hold a company back.

Finding Creative Ways to Save

Last, a non-profit budget manager should always be on the lookout for creative ways to save. For instance, the "Buy One, Give One" business model has become popular and successful for many non-profits in recent years. Or, you might consider community partnerships with other organizations that have similar goals to your own.

Budgeting Tips for All Administrative Professionals

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