If you’re anything like me, you get a little anxious when your co-workers boast that they have finished up their holiday shopping before summer even hits. “But it’s 6 months away!” you exclaim. Come December, you’re scrambling to brainstorm gift ideas for your nieces and nephews and pulling your hair out trying to navigate through the mall parking lot. Your co-workers? Well, they’re sitting back enjoying freshly baked cookies and hot apple cider.

Some of us are not great when it comes to being prepared. We procrastinate as much as we possibly can.  This translates over in our jobs, especially when the task we are putting off is daunting – like planning next year’s budget for your volunteer program.  Unfortunately, if your organization’s fiscal year follows the calendar year, now is the time for you to start thinking about your 2016 budget.

In most organizations, budgets need to be locked in by October/November. This helps various groups within the organization appropriately plan for the year ahead. But planning a budget often takes several months. You need time for:

  • Meetings with your team
  • Research and forecasting activities
  • Approvals from various levels of the organization
  • Revisions to planning documents
  • And, of course, more meetings

Like it or not, budget season is here! Here are 5 things you can and should be doing now to get ready:

1. Reflect

Think back on the year so far – what was important to you as you planned for 2015? How many times have your thought “I wish I had the budget for…” or mentioned to an employee or volunteer “that’s a great idea, let’s remember that for next year so we can put it in the budget.” We bet it’s countless. So start making a wish list of everything you’d like in the budget. Maybe you’ve been thinking about a more robust volunteer screening program, or a new permanent employee to handle social media and generate compelling online content. Maybe you simply need new supplies. Whatever it is, add it to your list.

2. Research

Now that you have your wish list, it’s time to research these items and gather all the information you’ll need to bring to meetings with your team. This might include:

  • Specific vendors for any services you need
    • Food services
    • Background screening
    • Shipping/Receiving
    • Online services (web design, social media etc.)
  • Costs of the tools and supplies you’re requesting
  • The business case behind any new positions needed, along with associated salary and workstation costs

3. Forecast

Next, you’ll need to start forecasting for 2016. What outside influences might affect your campaigns or programs? How are your staffing needs going to change? Will you use more volunteers next year? How will that affect other costs, like screening or training?  If you’re planning on increasing your staffing or volunteer resources, what will that mean in terms of your physical office space (will you need more space, more cubicles, additional technologies)? There’s a lot to think about, so get started now – and never assume next year will look the same as this one.

4. Share

Now that you have your wish list and some core research completed, it’s important to think about who else within your organization might have items to add, or feedback on some of the items you’ve noted. Circulate your list to the team and plan time to discuss what resources you want to prioritize.

5. Review

Give yourself some time and distance from your list, then go back and execute a full review of each item. With some separation from any emotional attachments you may have had to certain items on the wish list, you might want to make some adjustments. Are any of the items unrealistic? If so, perhaps remove them for now. When you present your wish list, you want each item to be taken seriously.

Now that you have your budget plan/request compiled, you’re ready to present it. Understand you probably won’t get everything you want. Try creating a few options ranging from bare bones needs, through to your perfect budget. It can help to link items to a specific Return on Investment (ROI). You need to convince the powers that be that your line items can make a significant impact!


Find out if you're ready for budget season. Take the quiz.

Watch our webinar on this topic, It’s Budget Season. Is Your Volunteer Program Ready?


Have you succeeded in putting together an ‘award winning budget plan’? Connect with us on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn to share your tips for success!

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *