Welcome to the First Nations
Fiscal Planning Calendar

There are not many groups in Canada that have the unique government-to-government relationship that First Nations share with Canada. This meant there were very few products available to help First Nations deal with financial issues. That is, until now. This fiscal planning aid has been developed specifically for First Nations governments and organizations like yours. The goal of the Fiscal Planning Calendar and its components is to help you to balance fiscal pressures from your communities and funding agencies by following a simple process.

Product Design

There are three distinct parts to the Fiscal Planning Calendar:

  1. The Calendar is the centrepiece to the project. It will remind you about various steps in the fiscal planning process and will, in the long run, make your job easier. The Calendar outlines the three main cycles of fiscal planning: planning, budgetary, and accountability. It also gives you a month-by-month breakdown of tasks. In this area of the calendar, you will see that each cycle has a particular symbol and colour to help you keep track of where you are and what your next steps will be. Hopefully it is something you will post up in your office and refer to on a regular basis.

  2. The CD-ROM is the partner to the calendar that contains the contents, definitions and step-by-step processes you can follow to do fiscal planning with your organization. You will notice that there are links throughout the CD that allow you to jump between definitions, processes, and templates on which you can put your own organization's information.

  3. The Handbook, a paper version of the CD-ROM, is a quick reference if you can't get to your computer right away. It is organized by cycle and is coded by colour and symbols to match the calendar and CD-ROM. To make it even easier to use, we have included a table of contents that is organized by month. That way, you can pick activities for a particular month and find it referenced in the cycles by colour and symbol.

Forms and Samples
Along with the text and calendar, we have provided you examples of various fiscal planning elements from the "Red Feather First Nation", a make-believe Aboriginal community in Canada. We hope that the Red Feather First Nation examples help to illustrate concepts clearly and succinctly. There are also a number of forms and templates included in the CD-ROM and Handbook that you can actually use for your own fiscal planning work.

Colour and Symbol Coding
Each of the three main cycles: Planning, Budgetary, and Accountability are differentiated on the CD, Calendar, and text by colours and symbols. These will help you find exactly what you're looking for without having to waste time flipping through pages of documents.

Software
The CD-ROM is programmed to run just like a Web page, directly from your computer. You won't need any special software to learn about the fiscal planning process. The spreadsheet examples have been designed using Microsoft EXCEL. However, in the Budgetary Cycle, we do recommend various accounting software packages for more effective bookkeeping.

Getting Started
Now, you're ready to start. While you won't need any fancy equipment to do fiscal planning you will need two things. First, you'll need to set aside some time to go through the three main cycles. Second, and most important, you'll need support from Chief and Council and senior staff to begin implementing the process with all Band Programs. Remember, fiscal planning doesn't happen overnight. It is an ongoing process that requires input and cooperation from Chief and Council and Band staff throughout the fiscal year.

What is Fiscal Planning all about?

First Nations Councils, like other governments, deal with countless issues within their communities. In every case, numerous demands compete for limited funding. How can a First Nation government remain within its funding limits, yet deal with these competing issues in a fair and meaningful way? The answer is to adopt this fiscal planning process.

In any organization, public or private, it is good business practice to develop a budget for the upcoming year. Based on the current year's record of revenue and program spending, budgeting involves deciding on paper what the program priorities will be, with the full knowledge of their projected costs. However, there is more to good financial management than predicting what next year's annual revenues and expenditures will be. In public organizations like First Nation governments, fiscal planning means coordinating the budgeting process with planning for the future while ensuring accountability to both the community and funding agencies.

Planning is a process that considers the "big picture" unique to each First Nation, including the community's vision, Council's mandate, programming priorities, and capital needs, and others. Accountability ensures that the process of budgeting remains open to participation by the community, that reporting is timely, and that there is a process of appeal if needed.

These three processes that make up fiscal planning-Planning, Budgeting, and Accountability-are not static and independent; instead, they are cyclical and interdependent in nature.

The Planning Cycle is the process of selecting goals and determining how best to achieve them given the interests and funding limits of the community. The Budgetary Cycle refines the community's priorities over a short period of time and provides basis for financial operations, coordination, and effective control of all activities. The Accountability Cycle is then the gathering and timely communication of key information on how the leaders have carried out their responsibilities to implement programs to achieve the community's goals.

These cycles may be repeated more than once in a fiscal year depending on the situations that exist in the "real world." Decision-makers plan for the new year, develop a budget to reflect that plan, and report to the public on a regular basis. Based on the exchange among the public, funding agencies, and the organization, priorities may be changed, or emergencies may occur which then require budget modifications during the year. If this happens, the cycles are then repeated.

The Fiscal Planning Calendar will describe the steps in the planning, budgeting, and accountability cycles, define some key terms, identify time requirements, and illustrate how to go about using these steps so that your community is better able to plan for the fiscal future.

The cycles and the steps within each are presented here as separate and distinct from one another. This was done to make the calendar and its pieces easy to read and understand. In reality, decision-makers will find much overlap and continuity between the steps and the cycles themselves. It is helpful to keep this in mind as we go through the process.