Managing multiple income sources seamlessly

North Carolina Museum of Art can respond quickly, knowledgeably to budgetary questions

The North Carolina Museum of Art needed a more sophisticated way to manage its $17 million annual operating budget and manage funds that come from revenue, the state legislature and private donors. With a comprehensive budgeting and planning system, the museum can report monthly what it once struggled to report annually.

The museum operates a gift shop, a restaurant and catering business, a performing arts program, and a large membership arm of its fundraising program, each of which uses a different system to capture financial activity and feed data into its general ledger. The museum uses two point-of-sale systems, a box office ticket sales system and a fundraising/membership system. These distinct businesses create a complex financial environment.

Being able to quickly see that there’s a gap between your budget and your actual spending leads to cost savings and to better decisions.
Caterri Woodrum

Caterri Woodrum
Chief Deputy Director and Chief Financial Officer

When Chief Deputy Director and Chief Financial Officer Caterri Woodrum joined the museum in 2005, the budgets for the 25 cost centers, 150 projects and 100 subprojects were contained on spreadsheets – and each department had its own unique approach to developing a budget. “I turned pasty white the day I saw the budget system I had inherited,” Woodrum says. Further, the museum used a bottom-up approach to budgeting, where each department reported how much it needed to operate.

Woodrum had come from the private sector, where she had access to high-level financial management tools. “The primary ledger system the museum used was adequate for a nonprofit, and it worked,” Woodrum says. However, it was difficult for the museum to see how it was doing when reports had figures at least three months old. When board members met each quarter, they received data from two months prior. The biggest shortfall of the existing system was that it was particularly hard to track the costs of multiyear projects, such as when the museum worked with two other museums to curate a temporary exhibit of Monet paintings. “It was difficult to track the management costs over several fiscal periods, and three- or four-year-long projects aren’t uncommon for us.”

In addition, the museum was working toward an $85 million expansion that would require the main museum to close for eight months. Woodrum was tasked with putting money aside in reserves and working with programming directors to figure out what kinds of “Museum on the Move” programs were financially feasible to maintain enthusiasm and revenue streams while the museum was temporarily shuttered.

“We had to analyze, for instance, whether we could put our retail operation in a mall temporarily,” explains Woodrum. “Even nonprofits need to manage and make money in order to create a place that continues to enhance our visitors’ experiences and desire to visit.”

With a comprehensive solution for enterprise planning, budgeting, consolidation and reporting, the museum has a much better handle on its expenses. “Now board members are getting accurate, up-to-date information at each meeting,” Woodrum says. And while the museum separates the money it receives from the state government, the foundation and the state art society, “I now have a system capable of consolidating the information from these different legal entities and pulling together a combined financial statement,” Woodrum says. “This allows us to plan strategically.” Woodrum now has the ability to use a top-down budgeting approach that allocates a budget to each department and allows them to manage those dollars directly.

The SAS solution Woodrum uses is easy for those without financial training to work with. This is important because the museum isn’t large enough to embed a financial professional in each business unit. The museum has six power users and 30 staff members who access the system. “Being able to quickly see that there’s a gap between your budget and your actual spending leads to cost savings and to better decisions,” says Woodrum. “And it allows you to respond more quickly when things are, in fact, veering off track."

NC Museum of Art

Challenge

  • Successfully allocate funds from multiple sources.
  • Keep track of numerous cost centers and multiyear projects.
  • Help the museum sustain an eight-month shutdown during a major renovation..

Solution

SAS® Financial Management

Benefits

Being able to quickly see that there’s a gap between your budget and your actual spending leads to cost savings and to better decisions.

About the museum

More than 50 years ago, North Carolina became the first state in the nation to set aside public funds to create an art collection. With 4,300 pieces in the North Carolina Museum of Art’s permanent collection, the museum has a reputation for its old masters and Egyptian art. It also sits on the nation’s largest art museum campus, a 164-acre park-like setting that includes numerous pieces of outdoor art and an open-air theater.

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