Tomorrow is the end of fiscal year 09; my office has been in planning mode for FY 10 for several months. I have gone out of my way to re-forecast revenue projections from the advancement office, and I've pushed all of them downward in an effort to be realistic for next year.
FY 09 had its share of challenges, to be sure. The fall was downright ugly. However, despite the challenges of this fiscal year, my deepest concern lies with the forthcoming fiscal year, FY 10. We need to think strategically about the challenges that it will bring.
I read with great interest an article in this week's The Chronicle of Philanthropy entitled "Worst Case Scenarios," by Ben Gose. He focuses on the need for us to create contingency plans with these steps:
1. Set priorities
2. Forecast your financial future
3. Identify "trip wires" (those areas that mean cuts)
4. Put specific people in charge of carrying out the plan
5. Don't expect miracles
As state and local governments "grapple with deficits, and foundations hit hard by endowment losses cut their giving," we need to plan "for an even worse environment - fund raising is likely to weaken before it gets better" (27). To buttress that point, Gose cites Fiscal Managment Associates, the spokeswoman for whom states, "We are suggesting to charities that they plan for a worse year in 2010 than they've seen in 2009" (27).
I'm not out to cry wolf or to instill fear in the hearts of my blog readers; rather, I simply want to point out the fact that it's prudent to prepare for the challenges of FY 10.
Focus on the compelling stories of your schools and stay positive, but assess your downside risk and plan accordingly!
My gut tells me that FY 09 was not the make-it-or-break-it year of many independent schools. FY 10 will be more challenging, and FY 11 may be the point where we begin to see the clouds break.