It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Written by Brandon Allen 

Executive Director | Brandon Allen 

I bet I know what you’re thinking… Either you received this newsletter too late or the people over at Fortify Foundation can’t read a calendar. Well fortunately it’s neither! As we enter the new year, there are a lot of new considerations that start to cross our minds. New Year’s resolutions, new goals, new visions, new plans, and hopefully a time where we re-establish our mission and how we can further accomplish it moving forward. 

Then comes the best part, the annual budget meeting. Again, the most wonderful time of the year! 

Ok, I know that this perspective is not shared by all (especially if that meeting lasts hours or perhaps even days). However, even if it is not your all-time favorite meeting, it is still a wonderful time to reflect on what God has granted us and allows us to reassess and redistribute to the greatest areas of need. 

I have no idea how your typical budget meeting goes. It should be a profitable time of intentional planning and organizing your ministry in such a way that it is better off in the future than what it is today. Hopefully, the aim isn’t just to finish in the black more often than finishing in the red year after year. Although, I’m sure we have all had times when we have wondered how things would turn out. Despite those moments of doubt, it is still a time that reinforces the vision and helps us move forward in faith. Do you believe that God has called your school into existence? Well, if that is the case, which I believe it to be, then no doubt He wants to see your ministry move forward accomplishing even greater things ahead! Sometimes the only limitation is ourselves. As Chris Hankins puts it, “A God-sized vision should always be something that is impossible to accomplish in your own strength.” Isn’t it always exciting when we see those God-sized visions come to fruition? But those visions should never be just limited to us. 

One of the differences between a man-driven ministry and a God-driven ministry is whether the tenure of that ministry continues well beyond the point of the man. You may be the best administrator that the school has ever had. God has used the gifts He has entrusted to you to make the school a financially strong institution. But what happens when the next administration has a different set of gifts and isn’t fortunate to carry the financial aspect as well as you? What if the donor base has shifted to where the donors God has blessed you with today aren’t available to the next administration? Has your gifts/expertise been limited to you? Wouldn’t you want to secure your school’s financial future as much as possible? 

This requires that we plan for 3 specific areas: the Immediate, the Intermediate, and the Infinite. 

The Immediate 

This is the area of planning that deals with today. Planning for those true annual expenses that we can’t do much about. While we most certainly want to be diligent in saving money where we can, at the end of the day, we still know that the best the utility bill is ever going to be will still cost us this much. The required amount of staff and their respective salaries are always going to have their own line item. Curriculum, cafeteria, athletics, fine arts, office supplies, advertising, and so forth all contribute to the immediate needs of the school. These are the core of what makes our institution what it is today. 

The Intermediate 

In our planning process, we start to develop ideas and ways we can better accomplish some of those immediate needs. It is a true joy to talk to so many schools that are starting, or are in the middle of capital campaigns, to further expand their campus just to meet the need for growth in their enrollment. As with any capital project, this typically occurs within a 1-3 year timeframe. Maybe it’s not a full-blown building project but a plan to update the facilities with a fresh coat of paint, new carpet, LED light bulbs, or resurfacing the parking lot or perhaps the gym floor. All of these are additional expenses that require extra planning on our part to ensure that it gets taken care of and improves upon what God has already blessed us with. 

The Infinite 

Finally, we get to the final stage of planning which is often missed. This phase is just as crucial as the previous two areas but it occurs well beyond us and so we tend to take it for granted, or even forget about it altogether. The final phase of planning that we need to consider is called the Infinite. This operates under the assumption that our school’s existence is indefinite. I want you to consider a couple of quotes authored by Simon Sinek. “To live our lives with an infinite mindset means that we are driven to advance a cause bigger than ourselves.” Quote #2: “One of the primary jobs of any leader is to make new leaders. To help grow the kind of leaders who know how to build organizations equipped for the Infinite Game.” I want you to consider both of the foundational ideas behind those quotes. While the exact wording may have been coined by Simon Sinek, the thoughts behind these ideas were established well before him. At the very end of both the gospels of Matthew and Mark, we are given very specific instructions in what we have come to know as the Great Commission. It gives the idea that we are reaching others who will in turn reach others. The infinite plan until Christ’s return so to speak. 

I think we all would agree that God has granted us a “cause bigger than ourselves” through Christian education which ultimately impacts the next generation for Christ. The question is, how are we planning for it? If our thoughts and budgetary planning never move beyond the intermediate term then we have probably missed a great opportunity! 

As we enter the new year and times for new discussions, let me challenge you to think about the infinite and reflect on the long-term sustainability of your school. This is where our foundation is focused and wants to help you through the addition of your school’s own endowment fund. I know what immediately comes to mind for the average administrator. How can I fund something of this nature on top of what we already have? 

Let me give you something simple to consider in your budgeting process. Imagine if you set aside $100 per student this next year, whether that comes from existing tuition, or increasing it by that amount. At $10 per student per month, if your school has created any ounce of value in these parents’ minds, you wouldn’t lose any of your current enrollment over that increase. Think of the amount that you could be setting aside each year and exponentially increasing through a proper investment strategy. All of a sudden those figures start to add up and even a smaller-than-average Christian school could have a sizable fund that is spinning off perpetual returns and placing them in the infinite strategy. 

No doubt we all would have appreciated the benefits of an endowment fund if it was handed off to us and contributed to our current budgets. A simple plan with a major contribution to future kingdom impact.