With August already behind us, many of you know the 2019 budget season is already upon us. Managers have already begun to pull various financial reports in order to start compiling their budgets to present to their Boards of Directors. As anyone in the industry will tell you, the budget process is a straightforward one, but it can be one of the most time-consuming projects of the year. As industry professionals, our boards rely on our expertise and experience to make sense of several pages of financial data. Being the perfectionists that we all are, we strive to compose our budgets with precise accuracy and go the extra mile to try to predict the unforeseen variables that come up every year. Oh and did I mention, this is all being done while still managing the day-to-day tasks and projects in our communities?
The most important thing to remember about budgets is that you do not have to do it alone! In all of our communities, talented professionals are waiting to offer their assistance. If you do not have one already, I strongly suggest you establish a Budget Committee. Send out a simple email blast, asking for volunteers to submit their qualifications to be on such a committee. You will be surprised by the number of responses you get. If there is one thing that motivates people to get involved, it is money. In this case, it is the allocation of association funds. When sending out your Budget Committee solicitation email, remember… CLICHÉ IS OKAY! Use phrases like, “Are you looking to make a difference?” or “Are you ready to be the change that you want to see?’ I could go on and on but I am pretty sure that you get the point. Remember, you need to inspire members to join your committee, so keep it light and positive. Avoid going into too much detail, which might scare them off.
Some of you may have boards that only want the budget process to involve them and them alone. That is okay. The whole point is to utilize the years of collective experience and knowledge that surround you. The truth is, not all boards want to be involved in the details of the budget. They want to see the end product and decide whether or not they feel it is adequate. If that is the case, pitch the idea of creating a committee to assist with the review and compilation process. If your board is wary about letting a committee be directly involved in this process, draft up a committee charter and present it to them. Charters are great tools because they detail the purpose, responsibilities, and structure of the committee. They also help the committee understand what their exact role is and will stop anyone from overstepping their boundaries.
So, you formed your committee. What next? Right out of the gate, you need to start with clear, concise, and efficient communication. Remember back in school when you had to do group projects? You either had a group that worked unbelievably well together, or you had the kind of group project experience that gives you nightmares to this day. There is only one difference between a group that succeeds and one that crashes and burns. Communication! Right after the committee is assembled, draft an introductory email to your committee members. In this email, you should reiterate the purpose of the committee, establish procedures for clear communication, and include a schedule for ALL future meetings. If you wait until each meeting to plan the next, you are going to create more work than necessary. Give your committee the ability to plan their attendance in advance.
As far as communication, it is critical to establish a communication procedure for the committee to follow. Assign one person, most commonly the committee chair, to be tasked with receiving emails from the other members and then passing along the messages to you, the manager. If you do not do this, you will regret it when you receive ten emails a day from each of the committee members and it is likely that you will overlook something.
Now that your committee is set up and structured for success, you are ready to get started. If the committee starts to exceed their boundaries, don’t be afraid to pull out that committee charter and remind them what their roles and responsibilities are. As long as you lay down a strong foundation for your committee, you will find it to be a huge benefit to you and your community. After having an established Budget Committee for a couple of years, it will start to run like a well-oiled machine. Remember, there are always volunteers out there that are waiting to help. As long as they are equipped with the right tools and a strong committee structure, they will turn out to be one of your greatest assets.
Bret Barnes, CMCA
Arizona Community Management Services, LLC