How do we create a budget for communications?
Budgeting for communications starts with your communications plan. Once you’ve outlined the communications strategies and tactics you’ll undertake to achieve your objectives, the path toward developing a budget should be quite a bit clearer. Just as with your organizational budget, you’ll want to plan for and track expenses by category (e.g., advertising, salaries, design, special events, to name a few).
When you write your communications plan, you should be allotting a dollar cost to each strategy you include. Make sure you do your research. Be realistic about resources and timelines needed to create, implement, monitor and evaluate each strategy. A delayed project, for example, can eat up resources, significantly affecting costs.
When you transfer these costs to your communications budget, you’ll want to list out each project and detail all associated costs. You also may want to consider adding a line item for contingencies. If you allow for unexpected expenses in advance, you won’t be forced to abandon a strategy if its associated costs are more than you anticipated.
Another important factor is to distinguish between your organizational communications budget and those of specific programs. Of course, this is worthwhile in terms of understanding and managing your overall budget. However, it’s also important because integrating communications into overall program planning (and related grant requests) demonstrates a sophisticated, holistic approach to realizing your mission.
Funders understand the return on investment associated with communications activity that supports mission-related goals. By ensuring communications is a core function across your organization, you will position your organization as a far more attractive and strategic investment in the eyes of funders. Indeed, support for communications should be built into your grant requests as a matter of course. Doing so will set the stage for you to deliver on your own goals, as well as those of your funder.