Government budgeting can be a laborious process that leaves little time to think about involving citizens in the budget process. However, with organizations like the Government Finance Officers Association (“GFOA”) championing government agencies to become more transparent and accountable, the pressure for greater citizen engagement is growing. How can your government agency include citizens in the budget process without making it time-consuming and confusing? Fortunately, there are methods to make it all easier. Take a look at a few of our suggestions for engaging with citizens during the budget process.
Four ways to engage citizens during the budget process
1. Share the budget on social media
Social media is a powerful tool to stay connected to citizens. By sharing the budget on your social channels, people can share ideas and start a discussion about budget issues. With 88% of citizens aged 18-24 and 78% of citizens aged 30-49 using some form of social media, it’s an ideal platform for engaging with citizens about the budget and hear what they want for the community. Work with your communications or public affairs colleagues to make sure your finance team has a presence on your agency’s social media channels and use it to share information and have deeper conversations with the people you represent.
2. Create a two-way dialogue about the budget
GFOA recommends public participation as a best practice to help governments be more transparent, gain citizen trust, and improve public perception of government performance. When engaging with citizens, it’s important to be upfront and clear about how you are planning to spend taxpayer money. Soliciting feedback begins with sharing the budget and inviting citizens to give their feedback on your website, in a survey or meeting. When citizens feel as though they have a voice and a say in where their tax money goes, the more they will trust your approach and better understand the services you provide and their costs.
3. Use data visualization software
Financial planning and budgeting software can help you plan your annual budget, but citizens may not understand your spreadsheets and reports. To transform your budget into easy-to-read charts and graphs, use data visualization software to help citizens gain a deeper understanding of how money is being spent. Questica’s OpenBook works directly with our Budget solution to bring the budget to life with charts and graphs, descriptive text and informational pop-ups. Citizens can deep dive into the budget and discover information that was once hidden in a spreadsheet.
4. Budget simulation models
The next step for engaging citizens is by giving them the opportunity to get hands-on experience with your budget. A budget simulation tool will present your financial information in an interactive format where citizens can drill-down into the budget categories, adding and subtracting funds from the services and facilities of greatest interest to them, in an attempt to balance the budget. Questica recently partnered with Balancing Act, a budget simulation tool that seamlessly integrates with Questica Budget and OpenBook to help government agencies easily engage with citizens during the budget process.
If your government agency wants to improve transparency and accountability, citizen engagement doesn’t have to be intimidating or time-consuming. Sharing your financial information on social media and creating a two-way dialogue about the budget will help you learn more about the issues of concern to citizens. By using the right budgeting solution, data visualization software and a budget simulation tool, you can share the budget in a visually appealing format that’s easy to understand and allows citizens to interact with financial information that was previously hard to find in a spreadsheet. As a result, your government agency will be earning the trust of your citizens and improving their perception of the work you are doing to make their lives better.
Questica Budget is a powerful, multi-user budget preparation and management software suite that helps your public sector organization run operating, salary and capital budgets with accuracy and efficiency. Integrating with dozens of financial systems, Questica Budget has everything you need in one place to develop, track, monitor and adjust your budget, plus generate custom reports and create what-if scenarios. Imagine no longer having to enter data into error-prone Excel spreadsheets, and having time to analyze and plan for the budget. In addition, Questica’s OpenBook transparency and data visualization software makes sharing financial information effortless. Your stakeholders will have a better understanding of your budgeting goals when the budget is brilliantly visualized with descriptive text, informational pop-ups, charts and tables. To learn more about Questica’s products and how our software solutions can help you manage the budget with confidence – watch a product video, read one of our case studies or request a demo today!