Strategic Budgeting Ensures Success of Community Support Programs
Wood’s Homes is a multi-service, non-profit children’s mental health center based in Calgary. With over 450 staff and 100 volunteers, Wood’s Homes provide 35 programs and services for 20,000 children and their families each year in Calgary, Lethbridge, Canmore, Strathmore, Fort McMurray and Fort Smith, N.W.T. Founded as an orphanage in 1914 by Reverend George Wood, Wood’s Homes is today recognized across Canada for its innovative services, some of which were the first in Canada, and is widely recognized as a knowledge and training center in the field of children’s mental health.
“When you are responsible for ensuring the financial foundation is set for the success of critical mental health programs for more than 20,000 children, Excel is not the tool to rely on. With a high margin for error, it would be irresponsible not to improve the financial process through advanced automation tools, designed to support strategic budgeting and forecasting. Budget Maestro has proven to be a valuable resource in the long term financial health of our growing organization.”
As Finance Manager at one of Canada’s largest and most well-known non-profit organizations, Pat Keppler had her work cut out for her. Responsible for more than 122 financial statements, across 35 programs, many backed by 5-6 different funders, Pat and her leadership team knew that a traditional spreadsheet based approach to budgeting and forecasting lacked the breadth and depth of capabilities necessary to effectively manage the velocity and volume of data. With over 7,000 account codes and associated individual budgets, the organization knew that in order to manage effective growth and continue to support the needs of its community, they needed a more strategic financial tool. With deep expertise serving the non-profit community, Pat and her team turned to Budget Maestro from Centage to better manage the budgeting & forecasting process, and lay the foundation for long term success.
After just four days of in-person training, Pat had a working budget model and was up to speed and confident in Budget Maestro and her ability to leverage the technology to simplify and streamline daily responsibilities. For the non-profit industry, the ability to budget, per program, is of critical importance. Each program, vastly different than the next, is uniquely designed to meet certain objectives and to appease the requests of key funders. As a result, Pat is required to manage various budgets based on a number of parameters – % of manager time/salary, number of staff, amount of funding allocations of support costs to all departments, etc. To report on the accuracy of these parameters within each budget is extremely difficult in Excel. By automating the budget process, Pat can easily report on the funders requirements and, with the click of a button, prove the program budget is being allocated appropriately and/or if there is a discrepancy or change needed, Pat can easily make that change which will cascade down and be reflected throughout the budget.
By better managing balance sheets and cash flow fluctuations, something not possible with excel, Pat is empowered to easily create valid projections of funds, grants, and charitable contributions, and regulate seasonality and unknowns through continuous forecasting. Budget Maestro also enables Pat to develop accurate income forecasts – related to program services, contributions, gifts and grants – and take advantage of “what-if” scenarios to account for auctions, walks or runs, galas, etc. These “what if” scenario capabilities are of key interest, helping Pat to change assumptions and see the immediate impact on revenue, expenses and cash flow. With 35 programs in place and growing, this functionality puts Pat in a more strategic role, helping to educate her leadership team and guide their decision making as new programs were evaluated.
According to Pat, “Managing the budget in excel was nerve-wracking and time consuming. I was always concerned about the integrity of the data and my time was spent down in the weeds of data entry. By automating this process, I can spend more time working side by side with the staff to strategically evaluate budgets and identify opportunities for improvement across our programs.”
Across the board, Pat has realized significant time savings, in particular based on Budget Maestro’s tight integration with both the personnel system and the organization’s accounting system. For example, previously, Pat would spend up to 3 days inputting personnel data into the excel document to allocate appropriate personnel to assigned programs. Each time she made a change, the risk of error was high so she would rebalance each program to ensure its accuracy. Now, personnel information is transferred seamlessly into Budget Maestro in less than one hour. Additional changes are easily executed with a simple click of a button, ensuring confidence in the accuracy of the numbers.
In addition, the seamless ability to set up a new program is also of great value. Based on a tight integration with the accounting system, Budget Maestro easily populates a new budget for a new program which previously took a week to develop by inputting the data by hand. The same holds true for re-budgeting. Each time a program needed to be re-budgeted, Pat had to re-budget the entire agency – all 35 programs – which lead to significant errors and consumed days of her time. In Budget Maestro, Pat can re-budget a department, add new programs, and eliminate programs within minutes, avoiding the risk for human error and compromised data.
Budget Maestro also allows Pat to turn programs on and off depending on expense trends like seasonality. In doing so, Pat and her team stay razor focused on the programs that need to be managed at the moment. While time and resource savings have been significant, the true value of a tool like Budget Maestro is the ability to strategically manage budgets to ensure the appropriate allocation of funds and personnel to make an impact on the community. By accurately staffing and funding these programs based on up to date and accurate budgets, Pat and her team are helping provide a safe environment for at risk children and their families. Without the financial support to fund these programs, Wood’s Homes would not be in a position to help these children and families. Pat notes, “I am grateful to Budget Maestro for not only making my job easier, but helping to ensure that we can allocate funds and resources to critical programs, designed to assist in the development and well-being of our community members.”
“By automating this process, I can spend more time working side by side with the staff to strategically evaluate budgets and identify opportunities for improvement across our programs,” concluded Keppler.