20 Expense Items to Consider When Creating a Budget

At some point in your organization, your plan for your future will include a look at your income and expenses. You may find jotting a budget easy. Others prefer never to have to look at the budget  part of their activities and rely on their fiscal department or someone else to take care of all “that money stuff.” If you are one of the latter types, seek  skills about managing money, funding, and budgeting, so you can understand and direct your nonprofit’s future.

1.Staff by position
Record approximate salaries and hours for each position.
This budget comprises pensions, health care, social security and payroll taxes, and typically includes a percentage of salaries, estimated yearly.
Provide separate categories for auto mileage, airline costs, business-related meals, etc.
4.Fees for training
Consider tuition, training costs and other developmental investments. This category is critical to incorporate when you seek competitive funding because training expenditures show your non-profit organization’s investment in its human capital.
5.Consultants or specialists
List cost estimates for expertise you lack or extra help you need during busy times, such as for development or program design.
6.Meeting expenses
Will you need meeting rooms and supplies, like white boards and handouts?
This expense is sometimes part of overhead. (See #19 below.) In other cases, include rent for office space and utilities for the relevant time frame.
8.Periodicals/written materials
What will you need to read? List expenses for books, magazines, newspapers and Internet subscriptions.
9.Office supplies
Given your recent experiences, you can often estimate an amount per person per year. Or else, pull out a catalog and jot down a list of needed supplies and their costs–from files to pens and paper.
This category consists of money for copies made at print shops, letterhead, stationery and annual reports.
11.Telephone/fax/on-line services/cell lines
This item includes estimated costs for basic services and long-distance for your various communications equipment.
Will you need funds for regular mail, packages and mass mailings?
13.Accounting/ bookkeeping services
This category includes accounting and audit expenses or, if these services support other programs in the organization, a proportion of the costs.
You will need estimates for computers, printers and, if needed, a fax. In addition, incorporate expenditures for desks, chairs, tables and file cabinets.
You can add in costs for such expenditures as newsletters, print ads and the development of a web page to promote your activities.
16.Membership dues Do you pay fees associated with memberships that help you achieve your mission? This is the line where such fees belong.
This includes costs for policies advised by your financial adviser and coverage required by law.
18.Project supplies
This varies greatly from activity-to-activity. If the project supplies equal 25 percent or more of the total budget, divide this item into additional categories.
In some organizations, this item is a predetermined percent of the total project budget. It generally consists of outlays for the executive director’s salary and office space used by the whole organization.
This is where you document expected donated items and volunteer labor. Each type will need a description and an amount. Check the Internet to find current rates.
The goal of a budget is to create a realistic picture of your future. Any narrative you develop to go with the budget translates this same picture into words. Therefore, the budget narrative and the budget are two descriptions of the same plan. One description is mostly numbers; the other words. Together they provide your best guess about the future.

* Note: I do not recommend the use of “miscellaneous” as an expense item because the term generally raises questions. I find it easier to increase office or project supplies to cover small, unforeseen expenses.


For information on how to obtain income to fund your budget, see this industry-changing article.