Eight Concepts to Assist Funds Energy Your Priorities – American Alliance of Museums


A mechanic inspecting under the hood of a car

If a strategic plan is a sports activities automotive, a price range is the engine powering it, says a museum COO.

Each greenback that enters your museum has the ability to advance your mission. It may possibly fund your highest priorities, create goodwill along with your neighborhood, and interact your workers. Why, then, is a single greenback ever wasted or diverted?

One purpose is that the price range course of in lots of establishments doesn’t adequately assist and mirror the strategic planning course of. A strategic plan represents what a museum says it should do. It’s shiny and bold. It’s a sports activities automotive. However a price range reveals what’s really beneath the hood. It’s the engine. And what good is a sports activities automotive if the engine can’t energy it?

Given this actuality, you’d suppose the museum discipline would make investments appreciable time and vitality into useful resource administration. However can we? Think about for a second how a lot time your workers invests in planning exhibitions, public applications, and outreach. Dozens of hours. Tons of of hours. Hundreds of hours. That is solely proper—these are mission-specific actions; they ought to be our focus. However how a lot time does your workers or board spend money on planning and sustaining the price range that helps these actions? A handful of hours maybe—a minimum of for many who aren’t in a monetary place.

Now take a look at a current workers assembly agenda on your museum. It would embrace discussions of upcoming exhibitions or new academic initiatives. Nevertheless it most likely doesn’t embrace a single matter associated to budgets or monetary points. The museum discipline is obsessive about technique, however we don’t discuss budgets fairly often.

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How can we modify this? Listed below are just a few methods you may higher join your price range to your technique:

1. Cease main with numbers.

In case your price range discussions are solely about numbers, you’re lacking a chance. Floor price range discussions in priorities and technique as a substitute. Enable workers and board members the respiration room to actually discuss what the approaching 12 months holds and what they hope to perform in it. What are they involved about; the place do they want extra assist? Let the numbers comply with their solutions.

We’ve been placing this into apply on the Chazen Museum of Artwork. As an illustration, we not too long ago began a price range planning session by itemizing off every division’s high three priorities for the 12 months. In that first dialogue, we barely talked about any of the greenback quantities concerned in attaining these priorities. These will come later.

2. Perceive what a price range reveals.

If you happen to take a look at your price range, you must see your strategic plan gazing again at you. An outsider ought to have the ability to take a look at it and perceive the strategic route of the museum.

For instance, like many museums, the Chazen has dedicated to range, fairness, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI). DEAI initiatives are a part of each single workers member’s efficiency plan, so they’re now clear on our price range. We’ve even began to mark these objects so that they’re simply recognizable, which creates larger accountability and momentum. Whereas all of us hope DEAI will simply naturally pervade every part we do, in actuality a brand new route wants dedication, which suggests cash. If it’s not in your price range, then it means it’s probably not a precedence. Put your cash the place your mouth is and use your funding to energy your highest priorities.

3. Comply with the cadence.

Strategic planning normally begins with quite a lot of vitality. Everybody’s excited and there are common check-ins and updates. Then the fatigue units in and the progress stories begin to fall off. Fairly quickly, nobody remembers what’s even on the plan.

Budgeting, however, has built-in intervals—fiscal 12 months planning, quarterly or month-to-month opinions, and so forth. Its nature is cyclical and iterative. Use these touchpoints to test in in your strategic planning as effectively. Budgeting can assist strategic planning, which regularly suffers from a scarcity of a consistency, with its construction and momentum.

4. Zero it out.

As an alternative of rubber-stamping your price range from 12 months to 12 months, strive practising zero-based budgeting, which begins from the bottom up. This fashion, workers and board members should reexamine and justify each merchandise earlier than it’s added to the price range. This may be an efficient means of shaking out the cobwebs and reviewing the place every greenback goes.

You most likely gained’t need to use this methodology yearly, however it may be a useful strategy to reset. For instance, after the pandemic, we selected to return to a spherical of zero-based budgeting to reexamine our priorities. The method may also make clear which of your museum’s bills are discretionary. The hire may not be discretionary, for example, however persevering with to make use of {dollars} for that drained public program is really a selection.

5. Take a fowl’s-eye view.

It’s essential to ask senior workers members into the planning course of to share their very own targets and initiatives, which might construct consensus and funding. Nevertheless it’s much more essential for somebody to take a fowl’s-eye view and produce all of those targets collectively.

For instance, the training division might need an formidable plan to introduce a brand new public program, revamp the docent program, and associate with one other group on a brand new initiative. Whereas all of this stuff relate to the museum’s mission, they should be balanced with the curatorial division’s have to extensively doc and {photograph} a big paintings donation. The price range ought to serve the establishment’s highest priorities, which can require changes and redistribution throughout departments.

6. Lead along with your targets.

Typically we’re led far and wide by beneficiant donors or granting organizations, and this isn’t all the time an excellent factor. Sure, we ought to be agile and open to new alternatives, but it surely’s straightforward to be distracted by shiny issues and lose sight of our personal long-term priorities. If you happen to’re reviewing a grant alternative to find out what exercise you possibly can create to land the funding, you’ve misplaced your focus. If you happen to’re accepting funding for one thing that isn’t clearly aligned along with your strategic plan, then you must rethink. Establish your priorities first, keep laser-focused on them, after which discover methods to fund them.

For instance, the Chazen Museum not too long ago partnered with MASK Consortium and artist Sanford Biggers to launch a collaborative venture known as re:mancipation. Practically all the museum’s funding requests since have been centered on this precedence. This additionally required forgoing grant proposals that had been for much less essential tasks.

7. Make exhausting decisions.

Your price range is finite. Your strategic plan must be finite as effectively. Have you ever ever gotten to the top of a strategic planning course of and shortly scribbled one thing temporary within the assets part? “Oh, perhaps an current workers member can simply coordinate this along with all the different issues they’re doing.”

By the top of planning, we’re so invested in our (too quite a few) targets to confess that we don’t have the assets to realize them. If a brand new initiative is essential, then you’ve got two decisions: take one thing else off the plate, or improve capability to assist it. If you happen to don’t do one among these two issues, one thing shall be uncared for; it could be your highest-priority initiative, the morale and vitality of your workers, or your monetary sustainability. It’s higher to take one thing off the plate voluntarily earlier than you lose one thing extra priceless.

Failing to again initiatives with actual capability is a surefire strategy to fail. Cull, cull, and cull once more. Now you’re left with the belongings you refuse to surrender. These are the issues that deserve your restricted funding and workers time.

8. Invert your strategic plan.

As an alternative of increasingly, see if you are able to do much less and fewer. Strip away the previous initiatives, or those that don’t make sufficient of an impression. Refuse to proceed initiatives that take appreciable workers assets and time however don’t considerably advance your mission. Dedicate a planning session to establish what you’ll now not do. Or higher but, give attention to the way you’ll deliver in additional assets, workers, and funding to assist what your establishment already does effectively. Develop your capability, not your initiatives.

For instance, the Chazen Museum made the choice to cut back the variety of non permanent exhibitions it phases, in acknowledgement that they’re very time-consuming and resource-intensive. The exhibitions that it does select to host or create are chosen rigorously for his or her impression and alignment with technique.


Your price range is a strong driver for advancing your institutional mission and imaginative and prescient. By staying centered in your highest priorities, doing much less, and rising capability as a substitute of initiatives, you may leverage the price range course of to assist your strategic route. Strategic planning gives an essential street map for the way forward for your establishment, however don’t overlook to test beneath the hood to make certain your price range can energy your journey.



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