Solutioneering: Helping Churches Define AVL Budgets

featured-how-trendsHow much should a church set aside for making audio, video and lighting (AVL) upgrades? As each church is unique and budgets are vastly different from church to church, the best way to answer that is to look at what drives their budget. Considering about 50 percent of a church’s annual finances are dedicated towards staffing and operational costs, whatever the budget for AVL is doing to be, it’s working out of whatever is left after these recurring expenses are covered.

When it comes to helping churches realistically define AVL budgets for churches, it’s important to note that they are driven by three main components:

  1. Vision from church leadership (Value: how important is AVL technology to leadership as it pertains to services and events at their campuses?)
  2. Content and frequency (Application: what will be utilized and how often will it be in use?)
  3. Personnel – the ability & quantity of technical personnel (Expertise: who can provide the technical content, support, and maintenance?)

These three factors have more importance in the budget total than do attendance, membership, denomination, operating budgets, or location.

Helping Churches Identify Real-World Costs of AVL

Imagine driving a defined sales pipeline that is as simple as checking options off of a list. That’s dreamy for vendors, and it’s a helpful reality for the vast majority of churches that lack the technical expertise on staff to make decisions encompassing AVL technology purchases.

To help churches with this process, start by identifying which parts of the solution you’re offering and how they need to consider allocating budget for the five budget line items for Media:

  1. Hardware upgrades/new hardware
  2. Software upgrades/new software
  3. Preventative and ongoing maintenance
  4. Personnel training (conferences and trade shows) and education
  5. Peopleware — outsourcing of contract labor for projects and special events

New Construction Budget

Another useful bit of data that can help give context to the question of ‘how much’ are the budgets for AVL technical systems in new construction projects. It’s not uncommon to see 8 percent of the total budget allotted to provide a rudimentary AVL system. Twelve to fifteen percent of the total new construction budget will provide a solid system, and 20-22 percent of the total budget will build a technically-savvy venue. So for a $1 million new building campaign, anywhere from $80,000 (rudimentary) to $220,000 (technically savvy) can be budgeted for the technical systems alone.

Annual Operating Budget

Even though Media budgets vary greatly from church to church, it’s safe to apply 5-10 percent of the A/V/L system cost (if budgeted correctly using the above three averages) as yearly operations and maintenance dollar amounts. So if a church spends $150,000 on your A/V/L system, then anywhere from $7,500-15,000 a year can easily be spent making sure the systems remain in perfect operational order and that they’re getting the software and hardware updates as well as replacement parts that are necessary in order to keep the technology from becoming obsolete or failing due to inadequate preventive maintenance.

A “rule of thumb?” Even though there’s not hard scientific data on this budgeting process, but I will point out one bit of scientific data from a report that I co-authored. Back in 2005, I helped TFCInfo create the first scientific report on how churches allocated budget for projection technology.

The main bit of data shows that of the churches that participated in the survey (n=650), 45 percent of them spent more than $11K on their projection system. This data is striking when the average size of the church in the survey was revealed: under 300 in attendance. Churches with an average attendance between 500-1,000 spent $32K on projection alone and mega churches (2,000+ attendance) spent $186K on average. All of those numbers are from the research we did in 2005, but it’s the only accurate data on the subject, so I offer it as a baseline reference point.

Conclusion for Vendors

The future is here and now. When manufacturers leverage their massive expertise at leveraging technology and systems integrators provide the helpful insights to demonstrate good stewardship of financial resources through realistic budgeting for technology, the opportunities will present themselves.

Though I risk saying it again here on rAVe [Publications] for the umpteenth time, the House of Worship market is ready and willing to spend money with those who help them define the scope, protect their finances from wasteful spend, and equip church leaders to make meaningful decisions around AVL technology.

How is the A/V/L industry doing at educating and equipping churches? Share your views and links in the comments below.