July 2009
Financial Planning

L.E.A.D.E.R. — The Mission-Driven Budget

It’s no secret. Parish budgets usually aren’t dynamic or compelling. They’re a series of numbers trapped in straight lines. Context is everything. In the right context, those numbers are the legend to a map: Where did we come from? Where are we going? How far have we come?

What follows are insights into the “narrative budget,” growing in popularity because of its ability to draw members of the congregation into the budget process...and keep them there.

L - List your ministries Appoint a team to create an overview, with as much detail as possible, of the ways your different ministries serve both your congregation and community. List where you came from (longtime and continuing ministries), where you are (What happened last year and this year? What’s new?) and where you are going (your “wish list”).

E - Elaborate on these ministries Write a short (50-75 words) paragraph describing each ministry on your list. Make sure these paragraphs include people, dates and specifics.

A - Arrange your ministries into a narrative This is the heart of the process. Determine which of the listed ministries should be included in the Mission-Driven Budget; which coincide most closely with your mission as a parish. Then, take the chosen ministries and arrange them to tell a story: where we were, where we are, where we are going. Include a compelling message, a sense of movement, people in the parish, and describe a happy outcome. Include that which is pressing, immediate and necessary.

D - Distribute and communicate these ministries Publish your document, with images and numbers in support, and get the message out to your congregation. Make sure the information is distributed by hand, by mail, in meetings, via e-mail and available on the church website.

E - Engage with the congregation Once the budget is in people’s hands, be sure to speak with members of the congregation, get feedback, make note of comments, and see if the budget is effective. This will take the budget “off the page” and help people think of it as a living, breathing expression of the organization. It will also help to inspire new thoughts for next year’s budget.

R - Remind the congregation of the continuing ministries Keep the discussion and updates coming. Use it for reference when discussing the progress of supporting specific ministries; have it mentioned during the announcements. Don’t allow it to be a once-read document. Use it as a guide to your year.

Matthew Freeman is the assistant program director for planned giving with the Episcopal Church Foundation.
This article is part of the July 2009 Vestry Papers issue on Financial Planning