More on Dropping Budgets and Asking Hard Questions

A little while ago, I posted a blog called “A Radical Proposition: Say Goodbye to Budgets,” which featured an interview with Molly Shultz Hafid, from the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock, and Carol Cantwell, of Fun with Financials. I went on to present on this topic with Molly and Carol at the GEO (Grantmakers for Effective Organizations) conference and with Carol and Ned Wight (Veatch’s Executive Director) at the GMN conference – to rave reviews!  According to one participant, “This [session] should be at as many conferences as possible!”

Now – for those of you who just can’t get enough – Molly has written a blog post on this topic for the Bay Area Justice Funders Group  called “No More Fake Funder Budgets!”.  It’s full of truthful and oft-not-spoken zingers, including:

Here is the uncomfortable truth: the budgets that we review are largely created by individuals who have learned exactly what we are looking for and tailor the budgets in their proposals directly to our needs – either our specific institution or the general practices in the philanthropic sector.  In other words, the budgets are fake.

Check out Molly’s blog – you’ll enjoy it.  And look for a longer piece on this topic from Molly and Carol in an upcoming issue of The Foundation Review, philanthropy’s peer reviewed journal.

Presenting at two conferences on this topic was invigorating!  But despite what you might think, the most exciting aspect of what Veatch did isn’t the budget. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t adore the getting-rid-of-the-budget part of this story, but even Dr. Streamline must admit that this may not appeal to every funder. No – even more exciting than the decision to drop the funder budget in favor of a deep inquiry into financial health was that the Veatch Fund asked itself the most important of questions:

  • How are we really using this information we are collecting?
  • Is it really telling us what we need to know to make a funding decision or support our grantees?
  • If it’s not telling us what we need to know, what could we do instead?

And yes, when they asked and earnestly answered those questions, they dropped their budget requirement. You might ask those same questions and reach different conclusions, leading you to different streamlining decisions.

No harm in asking, right?  You might be surprised where the answers take you!

Dr. Streamline

Dr. Streamline is also known as Jessica Bearman. She, along with her colleague Streamlining Surgeon Alice Cottingham, and a cohort of Streamlining Interns, are available to answer all of your streamlining questions. Together, they diagnose the good, the bad, and the mystifying, and prescribe cures for your streamlining woes.If you have a question about your own grantmaking process, or one that you’ve encountered, please write to Dr. Streamline at for a useful (and possibly entertaining) Rx.

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