Welcome to the Modern Nonprofit Podcast! Today our guest is Sarah Olivieri. Sarah is a seasoned leader in the nonprofit sector, leverages over 18 years of experience to guide organizations towards success.
As the CEO and Founder of PivotGround, Olivieri implements her innovative Impact Method™ to simplify operations, create aligned teams, and increase impact. Beyond her work with PivotGround, which was founded in 2014, Olivieri also co-founded the Open Center for Autism and served as the executive director of the Helping Children of War Foundation.
A #1 international bestselling author, she has made significant contributions to literature in the field, co-writing “Lesson Planning a la Carte: Integrated Planning for Students with Special Needs”, and featuring as an expert in the acclaimed series, “The One Thing Every Mompreneur Needs to Know”.
Known for challenging traditional strategic planning and promoting a less conventional, data-centric decision-making approach, Olivieri continues to push the boundaries of nonprofit management.
Now let’s dive into the podcast!
Motion to Move the Meeting Forward
Boardroom conversation is typically filled with approvals, what the next steps are, and if there’s any luck, some harmless banter.
Our host Tosha and special guest Sarah talk through some differences and new perspectives when it comes to boardroom conversations. Specifically about how nonprofit organizations can handle budgeting for the next fiscal year.
Sarah is a consultant, founder, and former C-suite executive for nonprofits. After seeing nearly every side of the monthly, semi, or annual boardroom meetings, she decided to experiment with some of her well known and trusted clients.
Turn Off: Budget // Turn On: Projection
Here’s the gist – Sarah recognized that board members and the presenting C-suite executive(s), whether that be the CEO or CFO, may be getting lost in the unimportant details about budget planning for the next year. This was due to the expectation that had been previously set forth by historical board members and board room conversations.
Before we get too far along, let’s pause to reflect on a key piece of the conversation between Sarah and Tosha. Tosha points out that in her personal business she replaces the word ‘budget’ in her vocabulary to the word ‘projection’. Sarah compliments this idea as well, reminding us that it’s important to recognize that dollars are a tool to help 501c(3)’s achieve their mission. However, when it comes to budgets, they’re merely a projection and not necessarily a reality. Not to say they are unimportant or unnecessary, but simply a goal for next year’s operations.
For reference, we’ll use the words budget and projection interchangeably for this conversation.
Second; All in Favor?
Sarah realized that an approved budget, from her experience, became less about the organization’s ability to appropriately allocate its dollars and more about how well the budget was presented. When a budget approval or denial is more about the presentation than it is about the intentionality behind it, there’s more to look into.
Luckily through Tosha and Sarah’s conversation, we later learned that the experiment proved positive results. Her experiment was essentially to consult the clients to eliminate the budget approval process. Because of this, the board members became more engaged in the conversation in meaningful ways. They wanted to seek further to understand and assure that the budget was in place to help the organization achieve its goals – exactly what the entire purpose was to begin with.
Sarah seemingly discovered a way to penetrate the previous way of boardroom thinking which led to the intentionality and purpose necessary for positive organization health and achievement.
Impact vs. Profit
The conversation surrounding the budget in the boardroom is one piece of the puzzle, but what about the actual details of building a projection?
Sarah gives us a great perspective on how to look at programs specifically when trying to answer the following questions:
- Is it good at making money?
- Is it good at making an impact?
- And finally, what’s the balance – is it worth it?
She shares that changing the structure to be more representative of programmatic revenue and expenses has proven to be extremely effective.
For example, she measures the revenue with only Program A against the direct costs associated with that program. So, by comparing the fees for services and restricted grants (Program A Revenue) with the direct program costs and labor expenses (Program A Expenses), she can begin to identify the value of the program.
After doing this with all of the programs on the balance sheet, she can help her clients understand if the revenue and impact are worth the total cost to the organization.
Thinkers like Sarah, who are willing to take risks and think outside the box are exactly what prove to make effective changes in nonprofit organizations.
The best way to connect with Sarah is to visit Pivot Ground, where you can find plenty of free resources for those boardroom and leadership conversations.
To hear the full story, listen to our podcast here.