Don’t Be Afraid of Numbers

I spent the first years of my history career immersed in the specifics of collections, research and historic preservation. I didn’t plan on working with budgets and the only numbers I thought were relevant to me were accession numbers and dates.

Slowly, I learned the power of knowing the numbers. I started writing grants to fund my work where budgets were part of a strong application. Then I moved in to managing departmental budgets and finally overseeing multiple budgets for an entire museum division.  It became apparent that knowing the numbers was the key to being a strong and engaged leader.

By knowing how money is allocated in a budget, you steer your future. If you can read a financial report, it can help you evaluate success or change course if needed. If you can read statistics, you can meet the needs of an audience. All this is important in leading a vibrant and relevant history organization.

I didn’t go into a career in history because of a love for or aptitude for math, but when I let go of any angst about dealing with numbers, I became a better leader.

Tips for learning to use numbers:

  • Learn to read the budget for part or all of your organization
  • Read the annual financial report
  • Ask questions!
  • Attend basic accounting classes
  • Find a good book about budgeting and financial reports
  • Attend the Seminar for Historical Administration which offers sessions dedicated to knowing the numbers

Cindy Olsen

Minnesota Historical Society

SHA Class of 2010

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Posted on February 19, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Cindy,

    I agree with you completely! I definitely did not go into the history field to spend my day as the administrative/budget guru. It evolved, since I was not afraid of numbers and there was a need in the organization. While no one is irreplaceable in this era of layoffs, filling a definite need helps.

    Rhonda
    SHA ’07

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