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Facilities Management Budgeting: Part One

Facilities Management Budgeting: Part One

Each church possesses unique qualities that must be accounted for when planning a maintenance strategy or developing your budget.

A comprehensive church facilitates budget would seem to be an obvious need for any church. Yet, I've talked with numerous churches that do not have a separate facilities budget (or their budget consists of a few line items without any detail or historical perspective).

The facilities budget is not just a financial planning tool.

In fact, the budget and the planning processes provide additional benefits for the facilities organization and your church as a whole. The output of the budgeting process provides a framework that will help your church set expectations with the finance organization and, over time, establish a level of comfort and trust between your facilities team, these organizations and your congregation. As this trust grows, confidence of the facilities team's decision-making improves and the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) factor decreases.

As your facilities team builds out its budget framework, take some time to open new communication channels with church staff and other work areas. It will be important to understand what short-term and long-term plans are in the works and how these other teams depend on the facility to accomplish their goals.

As the primary consumers of your facility, the congregation's goals must be enabled. This would also be a great time to establish a feedback loop, a mechanism by which church staff and volunteers could tell you what is working well and what needs attention. Similarly, there should be timely and consistent communication about what the facilities organization is doing and planning for the future.

Use the Sunday bulletin, monthly newsletter, social media, e-mail and/or website to keep everyone current. I find great value in one-on-one discussions with church leadership and members. Also, remember that your church facility typically represents one of the first impressions (after the church website) for anyone passing by or entering into your doors.

Whether you are creating your first facilities budget or trying to determine that your budget is comprehensive enough, there are a number of "research" efforts that will serve you well. The idea behind the research effort is to educate yourself regarding the facilities business as it relates to a house of worship.

In some ways, a church is "just another building to manage," but in reality, each church possesses unique qualities that must be accounted for when planning a maintenance strategy or developing your budget.

When I was trying to determine how much it should cost to cut the grass or plow the snow or what the spend rate for cleaning supplies should be or how much to hold for capital projects, et cetera, I discovered there exist established benchmarks for my geographic area I could use as a starting point. I take my lessons from the best in the business. Tim Cool has, and continues to provide, sage wisdom regarding church facility oversight. A number of years ago, he published a great primer, called Church Facilities Management: The Facts, which outlines some of the best benchmarks. I used this article to kick-start my own budget framework in 2010.

Another great resource exists in your church's filing cabinets. In most churches, the office staff processes invoices, pays bills, and organizes paperwork, which represents historical data of your church's day-to-day business. This history provides a glimpse into trends related to maintenance spending, utilities, and insurance costs. Take the time to organize information regarding as many maintenance areas as you can find.

Typically, five years of data should provide a bounty of information regarding how maintenance dollars have been spent. This does assume your house of worship has been spending monies for maintenance needs. For 12 years prior to my election into the trustee chair, for example, the Committee had been deferring all maintenance except what was absolutely necessary in order to keep the lights on.

The conclusion of your research efforts should have one primary goal: to determine, "What is normal for our church?"


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