Lesson Six: Creating the Budget

Now that you have articulated your mission, created a plan and set priorities, you are ready to build the budget itself.

Before starting to budget, outline your realistic expectations, assumptions and goals for the coming year. Begin with identifying those costs you can control and those that are non-controllable. These may be different depending on different priorities and activities that fit into those priorities. Spending time understanding what is adjustable for each project and program can help you understand what you will need if funding changes later on.

What are controllable and non-controllable expenses?

  • Controllable: You may have the ability to plan for and adjust expenses. Examples include salaries (may not be as adjustable in government entities), marketing, new equipment, travel, and training.
  • Non-controllable: Previously obligated, usually not adjustable and many are annually recurring (like rent, utilities, website hosting, etc). Examples include rent, depreciation, utilities, and certain equipment costs. For government based offices, salaries may be non-controllable and there may be fewer other costs that you have to account for.

Once you have identified all of the controllable and non-controllable expenses for each project, program, etc. it is time to start assigning numbers for both income and expenses. Making assumptions requires forecasting—economic conditions, political direction, investment income, the rise and fall of opportunities in the community and in the film industry. Experience contributes a lot to forecasting. Equally important are conversations with colleagues, business associates, vendors, industry experts, governing members, etc.

Now that you have all the pieces you can begin to build the budget itself. Budgets can be developed in a variety of ways using a variety of tools and formats. We have included three different sample budgets to get you started.

The first budget is a basic budget that can be used to talk with entities outside your office about what you need and what you plan to spend money on. It covers the large categories and allows a very clean and easy picture for bosses or funders to see. This budget is created in an Excel Spreadsheet and has notes attached regarding the use of Excel that may be helpful in getting you started: 

Simple Budget

The next example is also a budget that can be used for talking with outside entities or other stakeholders like a board or community member. It is attached to a long-range plan that helps give it context and show the outcomes that the budget is meant to support:


Budget with Plan

The last budget is an example of an internal working budget that lays out everything in detail and breaks them down into line-items that can be tracked over time.


Detailed Budget