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Many churches are faced with budget restrictions -- but that's not the only reason proposals can get rejected (or cut back). Here are four common reasons facility managers don't get budget approval.

Budgeting is like a business negotiation. After weeks of intense number-crunching and nail-biting, you submit your budget…and it gets sent back to you with some red ink. So you compromise a bit and try to justify the rest with limited leverage, and if you’re lucky, you get 80-90 percent of your proposed amount. This is a situation that we’ve all experienced, but could there be more to it?

In addition to the fact that a church almost always has limited funds that multiple departments are competing for, there are four more reasons facilities face an up-hill battle in getting the necessary budget:

1. Long-Term Vision

It’s difficult to understand the long-term consequences of deferred maintenance, putting a Band-Aid on the issue, or simply letting your high-ticket items run to failure. After all, why should we invest $40,000 on a chiller if it’s still kicking? If it’s a matter of getting a reserve fund established, tying a life expectancy to your high-ticket items (I recommend doing this for anything over $1,500 in value) can make a big difference.

However, you might find a different number that works. For example: Track the maintenance you’re doing on that asset, how much of it is preventive versus reactive, and re-evaluate the life expectancy of that asset every year to see if it still makes sense based on the amount of reactive work it requires.

If your find yourself spending the majority of your time putting out fires, it’s especially important to document your reactive vs proactive work, then utilize data from the many studies out there that illustrate the value of PM (preventive maintenance) to calculate the 10, 15 or 20-year savings if you had the resources to become more proactive. Then, share this information with your leadership team.

This leads us to our next reason…

2. Lack of Understanding

Put yourself in the leadership team’s shoes. When you’re wearing a lot of hats, you don’t necessarily have time to take a deep-dive into every moving piece of your organization, and why would you? If budgets are tight, and it is “seemingly” working, why change anything? Again, this is why it is important to track and present the information in a concise, easy-to-understand report that illustrates long-term consequences of not making a change.

3. Other Projects Taking Precedence

There are always new projects taking place that will always demand time and money. The important thing is to understand from a long-term financial standpoint what is truly the most urgent. If we don’t have resources to do the scheduled preventive maintenance to maintain our $40,000, $60,000 and even $200,000 assets, shouldn’t this be a top priority?

4. Giving is Down

I really didn’t want to include this one on the list, but it wouldn’t be fair not to, because it is one of the factors that play into this. This has to be the toughest one, because it’s so often out of our control. It can be frustrating, worrisome and discouraging to think about. It has to be the one thing that as a church leader requires the most faith.

This is sometimes a seasonal issue, and unfortunately sometimes a consistent issue, when membership is stagnant or declining.  I’m not sure there is a good solution to this one, other than (again) properly communicating the “WHY” behind the need for funds, so that facilities will take precedence of the available funds.

Planning Ahead – Successfully

At the end of the day, we can’t expect our leadership teams to understand the need if we’re not presenting them with impactful information about “WHY” allocating more resources to facilities now is going to benefit the church long-term.

As stewards of these God-given gifts, it is important that we are able to put the mission of the church first. The church is more than a building to gather on Sundays to worship; it is the body of believers that have been commissioned to spread the gospel. If we don’t take care of one of our most expensive assets, it can impede our ability to send people out and do the things that the church has been sent to do down the road.

Understanding how much is enough – but not too much – to set aside for facilities is a diligent task that should be driven on data, not an “educated” guess. In many instances it comes down to facility managers not having the data to effectively tell their story.

To learn more about how to use data in your budgeting, check out our webinar, “Turning Data into a Story”!

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