THRIVERS is taking a short break during the summer and we're looking forward to releasing more episodes soon!

EP 17: Using Impact Forecasting to Set the Stage for More Revenue with Skyler Badenoch and Stephanie Skryzowski

March 9, 2023

Show Notes

Sometimes from fear and shame, sometimes from overwhelm, sometimes from just too much on the plate — nonprofit leaders don’t go deep into their financials and forecast out what they want their impact to be and what revenue it will take to get there.

In this episode, Tucker discusses the next normal in forecasting impact with two insightful guests: 

Skyler Badenoch – CEO of Hope for Haiti, an organization that works to improve the quality of life for the Haitian people, particularly children. 

Stephanie Skryzowski – Founder and CEO of 100 Degrees Consulting which provides financial strategy and bookkeeping services to nonprofits around the globe.

They explore ways to: 

  • overcome your overwhelm when it comes to financials 
  • collaborate with your team on budgeting and forecasting 
  • set yourself up for the impact success that your community needs from you and that you and your team deserve

P.s. Here’s Stephanie’s forecasting and cash flow template for you to download!

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Tucker: Welcome to THRIVERS, Nonprofit Leadership for the Next Normal. I am your host, Tucker Wannamaker, the CEO of THRIVE IMPACT, and our mission is to solve nonprofit leader burnout. Burnout is the enemy of creating positive change, and we want to connect you with impactful mission-driven leaders and ideas so that you can learn to thrive in today’s nonprofit landscape.
And I’m so excited to have some guests here with me today on a particularly important topic that, as we were doing a little bit of the prep work ahead of time, in thinking through what is this, what is the topic? ‘Cause it was starting out around revenue. But then I was realizing, well, revenue, obviously, as you all know, is a massive topic.
But what are we really getting into here? And I realized that a lot of what our guests here today are such experts in are around a lot of the financing and the forecasting and the budgeting side of revenue and how that actually can help support you as a nonprofit leader in actually gaining more revenue as well.
And so, anyway, that being said, I want to introduce our guests today. I am here with Stephanie Skryzowski. Did I get it? Did I get it, Stephanie? Skryzowski.

Stephanie Skryzowski: You got it, yes. Skryzowski.

Tucker: Stephanie is a visionary Chief Financial Officer that helps purpose-driven leaders better understand and use their numbers to make smart decisions. How awesome is that? How do we use our numbers to make smart decisions in order for us to grow our bottom line as nonprofit leaders? She’s the founder and the CEO of a hundred Degrees Consulting, which provides financial strategy and bookkeeping services to nonprofits around the globe.
Stephanie, we’ve actually worked with you as well with our organization. And Stephanie, I just have loved your wisdom and your passion, and I know that you’ve even made a recent pivot to just double down on the nonprofit world, if I’m not mistaken. And so excited to be able to be in this with you as well.
And then also joined by Skyler Badenoch. Did I get that right, Skyler?

Skyler Badenoch: Nailed it. Nailed it.

Tucker: You all are challenging my ability to get the last names, but Skyler Badenoch, he is the Chief Executive Officer of Hope for Haiti, which is an organization that works to improve the quality of life for the Haitian people and particularly the children. They’re about just under 5 million in cash revenue on an annual basis. Skyler, you’ve been in the trenches in a variety of different ways. I noticed in your bio too that you’ve worked on with Build On, you’ve worked as a Peace Corps volunteer. You’ve kind of seen a lot of different angles as a nonprofit leader in this space.
And so I’m really excited for you to be able to be on and share some of your lived experience and some of your wisdom through that around some of what we’re gonna be talking about today. So, Stephanie and Skyler, hey, thanks for being with me here today. It’s so nice to have you here.
Stephanie: Thank you, Tucker. Glad to be here.

Skyler: Thanks, Tucker.

Tucker: So, you know what we were talking about ahead of time, Stephanie and Skyler, was we were, we were, again, as I was sharing earlier, getting down into the nitty-gritty of revenue, which is a very important topic for nonprofits. But as I was looking at what is this “Next Normal” topic, it really started getting into things: forecasting, budgeting, and even really looking at how this helps to translate both in your own ability to understand your numbers in a more clear way, and not just now, but on an ongoing basis in planning out. But how that’s actually really generated and translated for Skyler, especially for you, in generating revenue as well.
But before we get into some of your wisdom, and from both of you, and either one of you can start, I don’t really care whoever would like to go. But curious, what are some of the pains that nonprofit leaders that you’re seeing are experiencing regarding things like just plain old budgeting and forecasting? What are some of the pains and the issues that nonprofit leaders are facing that you’re noticing in your space?

Stephanie: I can start.
Tucker: All right.
Stephanie: Yeah, so what I’m seeing is that a lot of times we all have to create a budget, right? Like that’s just one of the boxes that we have to check as a nonprofit organization. We create a budget for the year, our board approves it. Sometimes we put it into the accounting software, we run a budget versus actual, and that’s kind of it for the year, is what I see happening a lot with organizations.
And one of the challenges is that things are changing all the time, and they’re changing faster than ever. And so that budget that we created and got approved by the board in December to kick off on January 1st is no longer relevant in April. And then that is no longer relevant in June and in September.
And so, we don’t wanna change the budget throughout the year. That’s very messy and time-consuming. But that’s where forecasting comes in, and that’s what I’m seeing not a lot of organizations doing, is utilizing a forecast. And it’s basically just taking that budget, putting it in a different spreadsheet or next to the original budget, and then updating those numbers every month so you have this crystal-clear picture of what the rest of the year is gonna look like based on today’s information, not like December’s information when you originally created the budget.
So that’s something I’m seeing right now, not happening enough, is having this forecast and this really clear visibility into the rest of the year. So instead of being proactive in avoiding what could potentially be a cash crunch in November, we’re being more reactive. We’re looking at last month’s financial statements, we’re looking at last month’s budget versus actual. That’s not really, that’s like ancient history at this point, and we’re not really looking into the future as often as we should be.
Tucker: Hmm. Stephanie, I’m hearing like a difference between budgeting and forecasting, first of all. I’m curious from your perspective, and then Skyler would love to hear your voice on this too, especially as a nonprofit leader. What is some of the psychology underneath that you’re noticing? What are some of the pains that nonprofit leaders are experiencing? Why is it that nonprofit leaders aren’t taking some of those proactive steps? You know, whether it’s that they think it’s going to be irrelevant in three months anyway, and they’re just kind of throwing their hands up and saying, “Screw it, I don’t care.” What’s really happening on the reactive side, just from your perspective?
Skyler: I think one of the things, Tucker, is that many of us in the nonprofit space who are implementing programs is that we are so in the day-to-day and we’re living and working in the now. And it’s difficult sometimes because when you’re living, there’s a lot to do in the day, and there’s a lot to do in the now.
And it’s sometimes difficult to stop and say, “I’m gonna take some time away from being in the now to live in the future,” and step above the right now. And I know that’s true because I face it, and a lot of other people face it because there’s an immediacy of the work. So just being intentional about taking that step back and forecasting, planning, and budgeting is so important.
And I think one of the things that I’ve learned over the years, and I’ve learned this from Stephanie too, is that it’s important to have a system and a cadence in place, and that that helps. So we know that there’s gonna be a time where we’re just, our heads are down and we’re implementing, but we’re gonna know that there’s gonna be periods of time, whether it’s during the week, the month, the year, or the quarter, that we’re gonna have to take a step back and look and plan.
And I think carving out that time is important. It’s easier said than done, but it proves invaluable when you’re able to look at things from a different perspective than the now and the immediate you.
The immediate, you know, programs or the immediate…

Tucker: Yeah. Situation that you’re trying that’s in front of me.

Skyler: You’re trying to navigate. Yeah.
Tucker: Yeah. I love that, Skyler. Stephanie, curious your thoughts too on that, around the, what, you know, what’s the psychology, if you will, under what’s going on underneath that surface that are, you know, I love how Skyler hit the immediacy is a pain. It’s like now I need to step away from the now in order to look into the future. What else are you saying, Stephanie?
Stephanie: Well, I think there’s a little bit of fear, a little bit of maybe some shame, and this, you know, when we’re talking about money, like think about your personal finances, maybe not your personal finances, but personal finances in general. There’s often a lot of shame when it comes to money if you know you’re not where you should be, if you have credit card debt, if whatever. And I think that carries over a lot if you are the executive director, if you’re the CEO that’s responsible for the money, and things aren’t tracking the way that you want them to.
A lot of times it’s a lot easier to avoid looking at our numbers than it is to face the cold hard facts. And it’s true. And so I think that there’s, I mean, I’ve literally had leaders tell me that, like, “I would rather just not look at it and just make decisions based on how much money is in the bank today and like, hope for the best than have to dig into it.”
So I think it’s potentially a little bit of fear, a little bit of shame also, shame around like, that like I’m not a numbers person. Like this really confuses me. This really overwhelms me. And so when you hear a word like forecasting, if you’re not a numbers person, like that’s scary. That seems overwhelming. I don’t really know what that is. So I’m just not gonna explore. I’m just not gonna do it. So I think that carries through as well. Because I talk to a lot of people who are like, “I’m not a numbers person,” and that is the mindset that they’ve sort of drilled into themselves. And so they really believe that like, “I’m not a numbers person. I can’t do this.” So I think that plays in as well.
Tucker: Wow. Stephanie, I resonate very much personally with that, and I know you’ve gone through some of the stuff with us too. You know, last year we had a massive cash flow issue at the beginning of the year, and it was some of those pieces of like, I’m not necessarily a numbers person per se either.
And I felt that exact shame. Like, I was like, I should know this. It was all the, I should it all over myself, right? It was like, I should know this. I, why don’t I know this? And then I was like, wait, why am I beating myself up so much when I have people who actually know these things better than, like, it’s okay that that’s not my strength.
There are others who have this strength, and that’s why we create teams and partners as an example. But that shift for even for me, and I even teach on this stuff around co-creating your future and we have podcasts about all these kind of things. And yet I still felt that shame for a little bit there, realizing, wait a second, why don’t I know this?
What’s wrong with me? And I was like, wait, I need to reach out. I need to connect because this is important. So I appreciate you speaking to that, Stephanie, because that felt experience for me personally, but I know from many others as well. Skyler, curious your reflections on this.
Skyler: Yeah, I was just laughing because it really resonated with me.
Tucker: Did it?

Skyler: And I remember there were a couple moments where I’m like, oh, we’re just, I know, I know where we are financially, but I don’t wanna look. By the way, the inverse is true. So like, you know, if we just get a big grant and our bank account’s up, I look at that thing every day. It’s like my morning ritual. I’m gonna look at my bank account right now because I know it’s good and it’s gonna pump me up because it gives me that relief that, you know, we’re in a position of financial strength.
But it also reminds me that that’s why the planning is so important. Because now we can, now we can, we don’t have to, we’re not in that day-to-day grind of like, I have to get money to make payroll and there’s nothing else I could do right now besides try to go find funding to get to make payroll and, you know, do the work that I wanna do.
But when you get past that, then I think it becomes a lot easier to start being more proactive in your planning.
Tucker: Hmm. Well, let’s hop into what does the next normal of leadership around this particular topic look like? And I loved how you both brought up such really important topics around this. One was, Skyler, you hit on, you said the systems and the cadence or the rhythms around this, that it’s just, it’s not a thing that you just do willy-nilly every once in a while. It sounds like you have a system and a cadence around looking at it with other people, that it’s not just, it doesn’t create more isolation for you. You just have a rhythm with your team around it because, again, that’s what you know, Stephanie, you were sharing, the resonance I had was, I didn’t have a good rhythm around it at that point. And it created more isolation for me, which we know is one of the biggest perpetuates or perpetuators of burnout. That’s a massive issue, is isolating myself thinking, “Why don’t I have it figured out?” So I’m curious around what kind of, what does the next normal of nonprofit leadership look like? Skyler, I’d love for you to unpack a little bit of how you have been able to do this. What is your rhythm around this? What does it literally look like? How often do you meet with Stephanie, how often do you meet with your team? How do you look at the financials and how do you deal with some of the shame that may have arisen in you and you’re like, “Wait a second, okay. I don’t need to let that be there. I can lean into my team,” or however you’ve done it. Just curious about your perspective on how you’ve led in this sort of next normal.
Skyler: Yeah, and it has evolved over the years. I’ve been the CEO of Hope for Haiti now for six years. And when I first joined the organization, I knew that I needed help. I needed help and support. It’s actually our first time we started working with Stephanie and 100 Degrees Consulting because I needed help, coming in as a new leader, working with a team who I was just getting to know.
And I didn’t feel like I was the right person to drive the budget process and the strategic plan right away. I needed somebody to kind of help set up that practice. Hmm. And I also wanted to be more collaborative. I wanted to have my own input on what I thought the budget and the strategic plan should look like.
And we also had to involve our board. But that process has since changed. And, the next year after we worked with Stephanie, I think we worked with her for the second year, but it was more, I was more hands-on. Members of my team were more hands-on. Fast forward to today, it’s totally different. Our CFO runs the whole budgeting process.
I play a really important role, so does our board, but so does our team and the team really collaborates to the point where I get a budget that I get to look at and ask questions, dissect, change, modify, and ultimately put forward to the board. But it comes to me after it’s been looked through and built by our team.
And it’s a very collaborative process that wasn’t initially how we were doing it, but now we, that’s how it’s worked for us. And so every February we start the process. We have our six months of our fiscal year goes from July to June. So we have six months of really good data that helps us forecast where we think we’re gonna end up the year, and where we think we’re gonna go into the next fiscal year.
Our CFO helps populate all that. And so now I get a really solid budget in place before I have to do really very much of anything. Hmm. And then we drive it home collaboratively. We talk about it amongst ourselves as a team. It then goes to the board, but even before it goes to the board, it goes to different board members who are strong financially.
Not every board member is gonna be, that’s gonna be in their wheelhouse. Right? Right, right. Yeah. And so it goes to different board members. They ask questions, they ultimately give it their blessing. It goes to our finance committee. Our finance committee asks more questions, and then revenue projections need to be approved by our development committee.
And then it goes to the full board for a vote. And typically that’s also paired with a strategic plan so that the activities of our strategic plan are funded by the budget.
Tucker: Yeah. Hmm. Sounds like you give breathing room for co-creation of the process. Co-creation within the process, you said collaborative at least like 10 times, which is awesome. And that’s when you needed that space in order for that to really happen.
Skyler: Well, that’s hugely important. And that’s when big, big, like important things come up. Like during one of our sessions, our, just a good example, one of our doctors who was involved in the budget process said, “I want $5,000 to do a diabetes walk.” And so that was never something we did, and we’re like, “Well, why?” And she’s like, “Diabetes is a big problem.” And she made a great case for it. So we allocated the resources in the budget because our head doctor wanted that to be part of something we did. We talked about it amongst ourselves as a team, the board believed that that helped us fulfill our mission, and we did it. But that collaboration piece, like now, we’ve done it every year for the last four years. It never would have happened if we didn’t have collaboration and we didn’t have other people feel comfortable to have a voice in the budget process. Some people have also said, “I want to do this thing.” I’m like, “That’s not going to get done in the next five years, so you can’t do that.” But that’s the process, and some ideas are going to make it through and some won’t. But, you know, I think that process has worked out well for us in our phase of development as an organization.
Tucker: Yeah, that’s great, Stephanie, curious from your perspective, what is, what is this next normal of nonprofit leadership look like as, as somebody who works with a lot of nonprofits, around, you know, part CFO type of services, bookkeeping services, you know, the things that you do with organizations.
What is that next normal of leadership for them and how they can work in a much better, more efficient way?
Stephanie: Yeah, I think, I mean, of course, I’m always going to emphasize the financials and the importance of having a strong financial foundation, and that includes like your systems, having a really strong bookkeeping system and somebody who knows what they’re doing, not just like a volunteer who, you know, has offered to do your books every now and then, like a professional handling your numbers, and really leaders taking ownership of the financials.
Like I feel like with all of the changes across the sector, across funding, you know, different funding streams are drying up, others are popping, other new ones are popping up. Like we really need to be on top of our numbers. And so that means as the executive director, as a CEO, like it’s no longer okay to be like, “numbers are not my thing. I have somebody else help me with that.” Or “my treasurer looks at the numbers.” like, no. We need to take ownership and really understand the story that our numbers are telling us. Because there’s a lot of information inside your income statement that it’s not actually that difficult to understand.
Like once you really know the key numbers that you need to be looking at, like that’s where you can focus your attention. You don’t need to spend hours pouring over these Excel spreadsheets, but I think like for the next normal, you really need to have ownership of those numbers and understand the story that they’re telling you so that you can make decisions based on them because that’s what’s going to take you through whatever the economy might do, whatever challenges might lie ahead.
If you understand your numbers, like you’re gonna be that much further along and more confident in your work as well.
Tucker: Yeah, well, I can attest to that too, Stephanie. I felt more confident as I’ve dug in and understood. It just feels like clarity. But you know, I have a little bit of devil’s advocacy here against the two of you, which is, yeah, that’s nice and all, but what if maybe I have a little more confidence in understanding, but will that really make a difference for me? Will that really help in terms of anything other than just knowing? To me, it’s almost like I could imagine a nonprofit leader saying, “Yeah, I already know it’s painful, so why would that even help me?” It’s just gonna make me feel more pain or something like that. Like, how is this really going to help? If nonprofit leaders are able to go into that space, lean into the budgeting and into the forecasting, I do want to hit on that topic here in just a minute, by the way, of budgeting versus forecasting and the difference. But what does the leaning in do? What’s the joy that we can set before them and to go through the pain in order to get there? Why would this even matter to them in the first place? What does this ultimately do for them and what’s made possible if they do?
Stephanie: I mean, I can start on the expense side and maybe Skyler can chime in on the revenue. On the expense side of things, if you’re forecasting, you’re going to avoid a cash crunch before it happens. You’re gonna see this coming three months, six months before it actually happens. So you can take action now to avoid literally not making payroll.
So, I’ve worked with an organization before, and I know this is the case for many organizations, where your revenue is pretty heavily stacked in Q4, but your expenses are pretty much the same month to month. So you get this huge influx of cash in October, November, December. Then you gotta make it last for the next nine months until you hit Q4 again.
And I’ve seen organizations not manage this well because they’re not forecasting their expenses. They’re looking at how much money they have in the bank today. Things look good. So they’re spending money, they’re hiring new staff, they’re starting new programs. And then by the time we reach September, there’s basically no money left. And now we’re like, “Okay, those October donations, like they gotta start coming in.”And so forecasting allows you to not miss payroll because you weren’t really paying attention, and you know, you’re not gonna be scrambling and, you know, coasting into Q4 on fumes because you have that extra visibility. And I feel like that, like that saves you a lot of sleep and a lot of stress.
Tucker: Uhhuh .Yeah. Uhhuh. I could totally see that. Yeah.
Skyler: Yeah, I think of two things just from a revenue forecasting perspective. Like we went through this exercise, it was probably back in 2018 at Hope for Haiti. And we were forecasting for our revenue, and it became pretty clear that we were very reliant on some big foundation donors, and that was great because it was sustaining us and driving us. And there were some multi-year gifts there. But we also combined it with a SWOT analysis, and it became pretty clear that that was a threat because if any of those donors would go away, we needed to, we were gonna be in a pinch.
Yeah, and so we were intentional about saying, “Okay, we want to diversify our revenue, and we want to invest in peer-to-peer fundraising opportunities. And we want to invest in increasing our individual donors, people.” And we did that, and we were able to forecast out, recognize that there was a deficiency, and then plan and invest in helping alleviate that deficiency.
We also, when we were forecasting, this is the second thing, is we realized like, just like Stephanie said, like October, November, December, great. And then we had this time, it was like May and June were really low for us. And when we look back, even historically, they were low. And so our team started asking ourselves, “Well, what can we do in May and June to at least bump up our…”
And so one of our colleagues came up with this really fun fundraiser that we’ve done every year for the last five years now, called the Hike for Haiti Challenge, and it’s our peer-to-peer fundraising opportunity. Wow. And that was one of the things that helps solve that problem that was identified when we were forecasting. And we do that exercise every year, and we’ve seen that our May, June revenue numbers are way up compared to where they were four or five years ago.
Tucker: That’s great. That’s great. Well, and what else is made? You know, I’m thinking about our conversation that we were talking about earlier, which gets into the space of not just budgeting, but forecasting, and even over a longer period of time. And I know that that was one of the stories that Stephanie, you and Skyler were both sharing around this sort of like five-year forecasting out, going far out, which, you know, at first blush was like, why would, like, everything’s changing so much again, same idea.
Why would I even go even further out around this? And why is forecasting not just in the next year but even beyond? What’s made possible by doing that? Because I know Skyler, that’s a thing that you do at your organization that you’ve, I know, worked with Stephanie on as well around really forecasting. Like there’s the budget, but then there’s the forecast and really looking at how we think it’s going to be. It’s almost like you’re creating a hypothesis, but I wanna dig into that a little bit, even in that longer term perspective, like what’s made possible in even doing that type of forecasting that you’ve noticed.
Skyler: Yeah, I love that question. I’ll hit it real quickly because it, I have to first embrace reality. And the reality is, just like you said, there’s a really high percentage chance that that five years is gonna look, five years from now, your revenue’s gonna be totally different than what you had forecasted and there’s gonna be surprises and big donors, there might even be setbacks.
So put that, what we’ve found very useful, and Stephanie helped us create this, this five-year forecast, looking back at all the revenue expenses of the past five years and then looking forward to the five years ahead. And one of the things that we are really all about at Hope for Haiti is what we do, and that’s impact.
And so come on, we are about what we do, and that’s we help improve the quality of life for people in Haiti through healthcare and education and wash and economic opportunity. And so we are forecasting for impact. And so if I say, look, we want over the next five years, we want to hit 110, 120,000 patients a year.
That has a budget allocation to that. And we need to be able to say to our donors, “Hey, over the next five years at anywhere between 16 and $20 per patient, we can see a hundred thousand patients a year. This is what it’s gonna cost.” What can be transformational about that, if you find the right donor and stars align, is that you can find multi-year funding to help you fund some of those goals.
Maybe it’s not gonna be all the way out to five years, but there are donors out there who love a good two to three year. You know, I’ve been fortunate to, we’ve been able to get some five-year donors who have seen the vision. They said, “Look, that’s great. We wanna be part of that.”
And without going through that exercise, you won’t have the ability to show what kind of impact you could create with somebody’s generosity. And so that is one of the biggest reasons why we do this exercise, is to talk about what would it cost to create this for the next five years.
Tucker: And it’s almost like if you’re not creating this multi-year forecast clarity or understanding or hypothesis, you know, if you’re not getting multi-year grants, there’s, it could be because you’re not forecasting. Which is not only, not only you’re not forecasting your finances, you’re not forecasting your impact.
You’re not going into that space that helps tell a compelling story of what could happen. And to your point, like things are always gonna change. But if we don’t even create the conditions that allow for somebody who maybe wants to give a multi-year grant, whether it’s a foundation or a donor, we don’t even create those conditions, then of course, we’re not gonna get any multi-year grants.
Skyler: Yeah and I love, you know, now we head into our fiscal year. We’ve been successful at that and we head into our fiscal year and we budget, and we’re able to say to our board, Hey, listen, we got 50% of this already locked up in grants or commitments or pledge donations, and that helps us even more when it comes time to forecast. Knowing that we got 50% of our annual budget locked up in a 90-95% like probability that it’s gonna happen. That’s very helpful.
Tucker: Oh, that’s great. I love how it’s tied, you know, again, directly to impact, which is why if you’re a mission-driven nonprofit leader, that’s why you’re here. You’re not here to just do nice things in the world, you know? But you’re here to actually create real positive change, which takes resources to do. And so I love that your financial forecast is really an impact forecast first, right? It’s like, no, what do what is possible and what’s, and what is needed in the communities that we serve and the people that we’re working with, like that’s really where it’s going, which maybe can help some nonprofit leaders feel like it’s not all that revenue stuff. No, it’s tied directly to impact and through the impact, now here are the resources it needs for us to create that impact. So I love that your forecasting is like impact forecasting with finances associated with, or the resources needed to get that impact, which is great. Stephanie, any thoughts from you on what you’ve seen around forecasting and the power of it?

Stephanie: Yeah, I just think it’s like very visionary, and I love that you’re talking about impact forecasting because I feel like most executive directors, most CEOs have a vision for their organization for where we wanna go for the impact that we wanna have. And so just shifting the thinking around like, “Ugh, I have to create this stupid like detailed five-year budget, like nobody wants to do that,” but no, let’s just attach numbers to this beautiful vision that you already have. And I think it’s like a little bit of a shift in thinking. And along with that, I would say, I work with this one organization who every year they automatically have a five, like a rolling five-year budget. So every single year, they bump out the budget to the next year. And so what this did for them was they had an opportunity to apply for a multi-million dollar multi-year grant, and this organization wanted to see, okay, what’s your five-year budget? What does your five-year plan look like? And like, boom, they had it already because it was something that they already did. And so I think it also helps with thinking bigger, thinking down the road, like having this bigger vision, because they’re not just focused on like, “Okay, what’s happening this year? How much are we gonna spend on office expenses this year?” They have this five-year vision just continually going, and it’s just part of their culture. But what the one thing I will say is, if somebody is listening to this and they’re like, “I can barely get it together for like a one-year budget, let alone five years into the future,” it doesn’t need to be like line item detail for five years from now, and it doesn’t need to be perfect. I think we can go into an activity and exercise like this, thinking that like, “This is going to be wrong, but it is the compilation of the best information that I have today.” And it’s okay that it’s not gonna be perfect because I know a lot of leaders get hung up on like, “Well, how am I supposed to know how much we’re gonna raise from individual donors four years from now?” Well, you don’t, you absolutely do not. You are gonna get the number wrong, but like, you got some good information today. Use that to put it together, and it doesn’t need to be line item detail. Like, I know this organization that I mentioned, they in their, like in their budget line items, they have sort of like bigger, bigger categories and then the detailed line items underneath that. They don’t have a five-year budget for those detailed line items. It’s like the bigger categories. So again, it’s a broader vision, but it’s numbers to paper and it’s okay, not perfect because it’s not going to be. You are not going to get it right, but you are gonna get it right with the information that you have today. So just encouragement for those perfectionists out there.
Tucker: I love that. Well said. Yeah, Stephanie, thank you for bringing that in. You know, we have a frame that we’ve used which is called the skateboard analogy. We actually did a podcast about this because we realized how powerful and important it was for non-profit leaders, meaning like if you’re trying to build the big, beautiful car or like the big budget as an example, you don’t do it by building the car. You actually build a minimum viable transportation vehicle first, like build something that’s completely imperfect and then go from there. And I love that you were talking about when you said the rolling five-year budget, it’s like this ongoing learning document, right? We talk about this with strategic planning, like you’re not creating a strategic plan, you’re creating a strategic direction that you’re learning into. Like that’s not like, we’re not creating the thing that’s now gonna sit on the shelf. We’re creating something that we’re learning into that is by nature needs to not be perfect actually. If it is perfect, then it actually is that much more imperfect if you’re going for perfect because there’s no way for you to know, right? So build that…
Stephanie: You’re probably not thinking big enough. If it’s perfect, you’re not thinking big enough.
Tucker: I just wanted to… You know, we talked about the talk, you know, talking around impact forecasting, which ultimately translates into financial forecasting and not just having perfect… We talked about being collaborative in your budgeting process and giving breathing room for that, which is fantastic because it’s really space for co-creation and collaboration. We talked about some of the psychological issues, whether it’s a lack of rhythms or it’s shame and guilt, right? That are fear. I’m like, “Ah, I don’t even wanna do it.” With all of this… Next normal conversation, I’m curious from both of you, what are some real key practical steps like real nitty-gritty that nonprofit leaders can do to take around forecasting in the way that you’re talking about? What are something that they can start to do? In as nitty-gritty as you can get, the better, right? Go into QuickBooks and look at this specific report. I don’t know what it is, right? I don’t want to project anything here, but just curious, what are some real specific things that nonprofit leaders can do to start to make some of these steps around leaning into what you’re talking about? Who wants to go first?
Stephanie: I think that integrating forecasting into your monthly routine, is a great place to start. And it’s very straightforward. It’s very simple. Tucker, I’m happy to share like a template with your audience if staring at a blank Excel sheet is terrifying.
Tucker: Yeah, that’d be great!
Stephanie: But basically, really just looking at laying out your 12 months of the fiscal year, your budget, and then laying in your forecast next to it because likely what you thought was going to happen in September is probably not the same as what is now going to happen in September. And so just updating that every single month so you have this picture of the year, I think is a great place to start. It kind of gets you in this rhythm thinking past last month’s income statement and last month’s balance sheet. So I think that’s a really simple and straightforward way to get started in this forecasting rhythm.
Tucker: Stephanie, I feel like you had two in there. One is make sure you have a monthly rhythm around this in the first place, and then in that monthly rhythm, make sure you have some form of forecasting, which you have a template for. And so, we’ll, Stephanie, I’ll make sure and get that from you. And just for all the listeners, we’ll put those in the show notes below, on our website that you can grab that link and take a look as well. Does that work, Stephanie, for you?

Stephanie: That’s great, yeah.

Tucker: That’s awesome. Cool. Love it. Skyler, what do you think?

Skyler: Yeah, so you know, it’s when Stephanie was talking, I was thinking about what I was gonna say. I was like, “Oh well, there’s one thing that I always ask myself when I start to forecast, which is: what am I forecasting for? What am I, what, what are we forecasting for?” And so one of the tools that we’ve used to great success in figuring out what we’re forecasting for is a SWOT and a stakeholder analysis. And I can give you a quick example of how we used it just recently.
But we, we forecast, we did our whole SWOT analysis again, very collaboratively. We had various members of our team. I interviewed board members and, you know, our team. This is one that came from our team: our CRM is outdated and it’s just not working for us, and we would like to invest in Salesforce and migrate over to Salesforce as our CRM. That was a weakness that our team identified. And as far as weaknesses go, we had to associate an action to that, and the action was budget to transition over to Salesforce. Mm-hmm. And so that’s what we are, that’s, that helped us answer the question.
And there’s, we have, when we do our SWOT, we have 20 strengths, 20 weaknesses, 20 opportunities, and 20 threats. That’s how we did it. And I can share this document we used. We’ve done one every year. Every two or three years, we don’t do ’em every year, but it helped us figure out what we are, what we wanted to forecast for. And it wasn’t just Salesforce, it was programs. We wanted to budget for an opportunity to provide college scholarships to students, and we wanted to move up from 20 to 50 students, and that was an opportunity for us. But we needed to be able to figure out what are we forecasting for.
And it was that, you know, it was back in when we first started in when I first started in 2017, it was our branding was off. It was outdated and it didn’t capture the essence of what our organization had become. But we needed to forecast for that and to make that transition. And so I think doing that analysis of what you’re forecasting for is also really important.
Tucker: Hmm, I love that. It’s like a reflective question. Why does this even matter in the first place? Like what do we need to forecast around? You know, Skyler, I noticed throughout this entire podcast used the word “invest” a lot. Mm-hmm. And just to hear that language even is, you know, I’m assuming even that example that you used earlier around that walk or around peer-to-peer fundraising, like invest is a longer game perspective, right? It’s not invest to get necessarily something right away. Yeah, but it’s invest in building, you know, slow but sure chunks around things. And so, I just appreciate using that word “invest” like you’re investing in infrastructure. It’s not some overhead issue. It’s like, no, we’re investing in the infrastructure that allows us to be better as an organization, or as an organization all across the board.
So, well, and I wanna offer one too. Thank you both for your wisdom, and my only one to offer is similar to what all of us have actually already shared, which is if you are a nonprofit leader who is scared, who feels that shame, know that you’re not alone and lean in. Literally get out of that isolation that you might be in around that, and lean into people like Stephanie, even like Skyler, and other nonprofit leaders where you can learn and grow and freely say, “I don’t know how to do this.” And that’s okay because you have other gifts that you bring to your team, but somebody needs to understand some of these pieces. And so, just my thoughts are just lean in because I’m hearing that from both of you, Stephanie and Skyler, of “It’s okay. Lean in, lean into figuring this out. Lean into budgeting,” and it’ll be that much better for you, not just in the short term of getting you out of isolation, but in the long game of actually creating the conditions that allow you to bring in more revenue because you have, Stephanie, kinda what you’re hitting on that vision that’s there.
So, anyway, Skyler, Stephanie, thank you so much for being on the podcast today. It was so good to connect with the two of you, and really appreciate just your wisdom and the heart and the safety. I feel like as I was hearing you both share, I was like, “Oh, maybe I can lean in myself.” Like I was thinking about myself, like I can lean in a little bit more too, you know? And so, I just really appreciated the spirit that you both bring to this work, and thank you so much for being here today.

Stephanie: Thanks for having me.

Skyler:Thanks Tucker.

Tucker: Well, bye everybody.