1. Leave adequate time – a key element of planning a project budget is to make provision for adequate time to consider who needs to be involved from the team, prepare a plan, consult and obtain sign off.
2. Form of budget – does your organisation have a template form that is used for project budgets? If not, can your finance team prepare one for you which helps you to consider all possible elements required and help to not miss any? Is there a shopping list of items or headings that exists for you to start with? If you aren’t comfortable using spreadsheets, is there someone who can provide a template or help you learn? Will a budget require formal sign off once completed and have you left enough time for this step given that there may be revisions to make?
3. Income – what about project income? Will there be multiple sources and when will they all be confirmed? If you are seeking multiple years funding from multiple funders, how can you manage the risk of some funders not funding the work? Do you have a backup plan or do you need to do some basic scenario planning?
4. A word on salaries – you need to consider all the associated statutory costs incurred in covering a salary including PAYE, pension and so on. You might want to seek guidance from your finance team as to your specific needs but as a general rule of thumb this will be expected to be about 14-16% on top of salary costs for PAYE and pension. If you run an hourly, daily or weekly rate or run sessional work then you need to have an understanding as to how ancillary salary costs are broken down, for example various types of leave, sickness and so on all have a cost associated with them which different charities account for in different ways.
5. Work as a team – keep the dialogue flowing between the various people involved in the planning and delivery of a project and you will have organisational buy-in from the very outset of the work.
6. Direct or indirect cost - separate out direct (programme staff, direct capital costs) and indirect costs (managing the whole organisation, rent, fundraising, insurance) and understand them. You will then be able to make an informed decision as to how to articulate these to particular funders and provide evidence as to the basis of your budget calculations. Some funders may exclude indirect costs, which is becoming less common over time, but is still very prevalent. If you aren’t able to fully recover costs for a project, should you be delivering it at all?
7. Be as accurate as possible – spend some time with the team around you so you can build a project budget based on your collective experience or previous actuals. So much information is available if you ask!
8. Be a fortune teller – consider what might change over the course of delivery. If your project is over multiple years, think about what effect inflation might have on costs. If you’ve obtained quotes from outside your organisation, ask suppliers opinions on how costs might increase over time or ask them to fix their costs. Take some time to consider unforeseen costs such as Brexit when importing goods from within Europe. Funders may allow for a contingency element to the budget, especially if they can see a sensible rationale behind your calculations.
9. VAT – despite being a complex and dry subject, make sure that you understand your position with regards to VAT, especially when undertaking larger capital projects. If necessary, seek specialist advice – it may be expensive to get a qualified advisors opinion, but it won’t be anywhere near as expensive as getting a VAT decision wrong at the outset and having to foot an unforeseen and substantial bill.
10. Cashflow – not thinking about managing cash could cripple delivery of a project and incur irrecoverable overdraft charges. Some funders take a common sense approach to cash and will work with you to help manage cashflow or pay up front with regular reporting and reconciliation. Those funders who fund quarterly in arrears mean you need to be particularly on top of your cash flow to ensure that you can stay in the black during the project delivery. If you don’t have the cash available, consider engaging in a dialogue about this with your funder.