Money makes the world go round, and this holds true even in the world of activism. Every group incurs some kind of cost and for many this can be a limiting factor in what they can and can’t do. So here are couple tips for creating a budget, ideas on how to pay for it, and simple record keeping for monetary transactions.
1. Make a Plan
The first step in having a successful budget is looking at what you want to do this year. Are you doing only two events the entire semester, or one a week? How big will your events be? Sit down and plan out for your year. List all the major events and all of the small in between events that will cost money (i.e. snacks, travel expenses, postering, leafleting, etc.). Below is an example of what your list might look like:
- Activities Fair: food and leaflet costs
- General Meetings: food costs
- Blackfish Screening: food, room reservation, and screening permit costs
- Guest Speaker: room reservation, speaker fees, travel costs, publicity costs
- Trip to Farm Sanctuary: transportation costs
2. Estimate Costs
Now that you have an idea of what events you are going to be doing, it is time to make a good estimate of what these things will cost. How much is a room reservation for your school? Do you need to pay someone to run sound? How much on average do guest speakers ask for? How much will travel cost?
If your club has been running for a while, this is as easy as looking at past billing statements or receipts and adding everything together. If you haven’t done this before, it is going to take a bit more work and require you contacting people in administration or facilities.
Below is an example of how I estimate cost for a larger event:
Veg Challenge Cost Estimate:
- Expo Costs:
- Event Support: $165 (man hours x wages per/hour x number of hours)
- Food Costs: $150 (12 boxes toffutie cuties, 48 primal strips, 3 ½ cartons chocolate soymilk)
- Guest Speaker: $250 (airplane tickets $112 + rental car $65 + hotel room w/ special school discount $73)
- Graphic Designer: $50
- Posters: $35 ($2.91 x 12 posters)
- Banner: $12 (cheap table cloth $1, markers/spray paint $11)
- Movie Screening
- Free (co-sponsorship w/ group on campus)
- Special School Event Host:
- Hosting Fee: $500 decided by school (food + beverage costs)
- Recycling Event
- Food Costs: $80 (cookies + cake from local baker)
- Entry fee: $10 (set by hosting club)
As you can see some events are going to cost more than others. It is important to see where your money is going. When in doubt as to how much something is going to cost, guess higher instead of lower.
3. Cash Flow
Now that you know how much everything is going to cost (roughly), it is time to decide where this money is going to come from. For food and movie screening costs you can simply apply to VegFund. For the rest though, it is a good idea to ask your school if they can give your club a stipend. More than likely this will NOT cover the rest of your bill. This might also put additional requirements on your club and limits on what you can spend money on. It is important to weigh the pros and cons of being school funded. For some clubs the pros will outweigh the cons and vice versa.
Now it is time to get creative. Where else can you get money? Have you applied for a Pollination Project grant? How much can you fundraise throughout the year? Have you considered using an online site like Kickstarter?
Remember, be realistic. How much do you think you can fundraiser? Most clubs do well if they can make $200 at a car wash in some areas, while others can make closer to $500. Talk to other groups in your community and see how their fundraisers have gone in the past if you haven’t done one before.
If you are planning on doing a larger event for fundraising like holding a fun run, or wiffle ball tournament there are a couple things to keep in mind. The first is that it probably won’t do great the first year, however, if your club becomes known for doing the event every year you will see an increase in income over time IF you continue to run a solid fundraiser. Larger events are very risky. There is a chance it could flop and you end up losing money to the event. It is up to your club to decided if the benefits outweigh the risks.
4. Cutting Back
More than likely you will realize that you can’t do everything you wanted to do, so it is time to decide what can you cut back on. Do you need to do the film screening this year? Do you need to do the trip to Farm Sanctuary? Do you need all of the balloons for your tabling event?
The events that should be pulled first are the really risky ones that cost a large amount of money and haven’t been proven to do well in the past. If you have two guest speakers for one academic year, shoot for one and see how it goes. Instead of two movie screenings, do one and have it be in the semester you don’t have the guest speaker. If you don’t want to pull the larger events, then look to cut back on smaller ones or make then low/no cost events. This includes things like chalking the ground, doing a flash mob, or making posters to hang up. These events require minimal resources and many of the items can be used more than once making it cost effective.
5. Avoid Frivolous or Risky Spending
This includes excessive leafleting materials, snack foods, craft supplies, etc. Also avoid promising money for something if you don’t have a sure fire way of making it. If you tell a guest speaker you can pay them $3000 plus travel expenses make sure you have a way to do this before making the promise. Nothing will ruin a group more than having an irresponsible business manager or a president who makes promises they can’t keep.
6. Keep Records
The business manager should keep records. This can be done in a file that contains all of the receipts from the year or an online Google doc file. Either way, you want to make sure that it stays with the club and gets passed from one business manger to the next. I suggest keeping an Excel or Spreadsheet file with all expense and income for each year that matches your account banking statements. This will make it easier to make a budget for next year.
Keep all invoices and proof of payment. Why? Because there will come a point when someone will tell you something hasn’t been paid for. This can be a make it or break it moment. If your club is getting by on the skin of it’s teeth, having to pay for something twice can ruin several events. Keep invoices and receipts until the end of the year. I would personally suggest keeping electronic copies as well in case anything comes back up down the road. Record keeping is very important.
So now you have a budget, know how you are going to pay for it, and good payment records. Stay on top of things and keep track of your funds and nothing will surprise you down the road.