To develop budgets and grant applications at your nonprofit, you need solid cost estimates. These will help you to obtain the funding.  Instead of guessing at the cost of an item, use the list below to create estimates. If you use the Internet, print any items you select as examples to use when you are ready to start the project or year. The last section includes several discount opportunities for nonprofits.


Personnel Costs

  • Use professional journals for management jobs and want ads for entry level positions
  • For development staff check out the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Salary Survey. Also, seek out local surveys. For example, Rollins College, Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership Center, in Winter Park, Florida compiles a salary survey each year.
  • Time Sheets. Use these in advance to estimate how much time an activity takes. You will find this especially helpful for routine tasks, like developing a monthly newsletter.
  • To estimate the value of a volunteer’s time, see the Independent Sector website for a general rate. For the volunteer nurse in your clinic or other specialized skills, use the lists at Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

Real Estate and Equipment Costs

To determine cost for these items, check the following:

  • Land: Real Estate: Zillow for comparables
  • Space rental: review want ads to determine a reasonable price for square footage
  • For used furniture, bikes and equipment: try Craigslist. Check other cities, if nothing is available in your area.
  • Meeting room rental: Ask or look at the websites of hotel chains with conference centers

Travel Costs

For travel related costs

  • Mileage: Use Mapquest, Yahoo or Google maps especially for frequent trips between offices
  • Travel. Do you need to estimate airfare to conferences at an unknown location?? Select a travel website, like Expedia. Base your estimates on travel to a distant city,
  • For charter bus rates, see Insert your zip code in the appropriate box to find a local service provider.


Supplies and Books Costs

For supplies review:

  • Office supply catalogs
  • Recent invoices from your print shops for copies and brochures

Other: Sources To Use When The Above Resources Prove Inadequate

  • Bids from contractors
  • Verbal estimates from those who have completed similar work
  • Best guesses from knowledge family members, board members, local municipalities or other connections

Discount Opportunities

The following opportunities often require a membership fee or charge a fee for pounds of goods you receive, however they provide significant nonprofit savings.

  • Gifts in Kind International (national, but also local opportunities in some areas)
  • National Association for the Exchange of Industrial Resources
  • Food Banks
  • TechSoup for computer software

For more answers, check out this Nonprofit  CEO Library.

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