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Beyond Budgeting Dollars: Eight Best Practices for Forward-Thinking Public Safety Agencies

Kristen Goode  | 11 March 2022  |  2 minute read

Two white pieces of paper, with spreadsheets printed on them with black ink, are laying on top of each other. There is a silver mechanical pencil with a black grip on top of one paper and a four function calculator on top of the other

A local nonprofit recently released a vision report in lieu of its annual budget report. The first part of the report reads like the annual budget proposal, but the second part of the report discussed the challenges the organization would face over the next ten years and how it envisioned proactively addressing the challenges.

Then one of the organization’s directors said something that has stuck with me: “Instead of doing what we’ve always done, which is budgeting the dollars we’ve been given to operate for the next 12 months, we’ve decided to look into the future, set a goal of where we want to be, and allocate our resources to meet that vision.”

Which begs the question: Is your agency budgeting today’s dollars, or has your agency set a goal of where it wants to be in 2032 and are you allocating resources to meet that vision?

Budgeting for Today vs. Allocating Resources to Meet a Vision

Almost a century ago, budgeting for the upcoming year was a successful operational strategy for governments and businesses alike. But in a hyper-connected world with a complex geopolitical landscape, operating for today is one of the quickest ways for a government agency to be left behind.

How to: Allocating Resources to Meet a Vision

There’s no shortage of resources around organizational vision. My local library has 67 books on the subject according to the catalog, and the internet offers even more resources, as a quick Google search returned roughly 215 million results.

While each resource varies in its approach to developing an organizational vision, there are eight key steps that are common themes across organizational vision resources.

Invite people from across the agency to participate in vision planning. Organizations often include a few high-level leaders in budget planning, but involving employees from all levels and areas during vision planning ensures the agency vision is achievable and representative of the agency’s abilities. 

Decide where an agency should be in 10, 15, 20 years. This is the time to look at the big picture and dream big (albeit attainable).

Set goals to define exactly how the vision looks using SMART goals. SMART goals definitively define how a situation or experience should look using specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound statements.

Evaluate where an agency is today so everyone knows where the agency needs to grow in order to meet the vision.

Divide the growth into manageable steps so there’s a plan to reach the agency’s vision.

Define how an agency will grow in each of the manageable steps. Use SMART goals to determine how growth will look and be measured during each step towards the agency’s vision.

Allocate the agency’s resources to support growth in each step. This includes budgeting dollars for today that meet current needs and the long-term agency vision.

Share the agency’s vision with employees and stakeholders to develop transparency, accountability, and support.

Both budgeting for today or allocating resources to meet a vision tomorrow will provide an agency with an annual operating budget — a key tool for transparency, accountability, and operational efficiency. However, only an agency allocating resources to meet its vision can have confidence that the money spent today will have the effective long-term impact citizens expect from government agencies who spend their tax dollars.

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