Monday, October 16, 2006

Budget 101

American Rivers’ most recent website redesign was a pro bono effort. And up until the migration to Convio, AR’s web budget was next to nothing. On top of it, the staff managing the website basically fluctuated from one full-time person to one third-time person. Safe to say, the recent Non-Profit eBenchmark Study reinforced the mantra: you get out of it what you put in to it.

From March 2005 to March 2006, AR raised just under $25,000 online (approximately half of that in December/January alone) with just over 20,000 online subscribers, activists, and/or supporters. Majority of the donations came from online renewals too. However, our website costs with Convio were far greater. Knowing full well ROI is not solely based on the money raised, but if it were, AR has been running a net loss on all online activities.

So, when 2007 fiscal year budget planning session began, there was a strong push for money to invest in two web people, one strategy and one advocacy, as well as a budget to revamp AR’s website. It was a major step forward with renewed commitment to the online process.

However, after the first round of cuts this past Spring, the budget was eventually reduced by 30%. Over the next 6-months, various folks from within the department fought tooth and nail to keep it at that level. It remained at that level (even as the Outreach side of things took a blow) until last Friday when I brought up the allocation of costs associated with our ‘branding’ work (I’ll explain later). Needless to say, a couple virtual kicks were dealt under the table as a result.

As I’m learning, regardless of the money you plan (or hope) to spend, you should be fighting for every last dollar—to the very end, because no budget is ever safe.

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