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Sustaining a Nonprofit

What does it cost to run your nonprofit, and what is the community’s return on investment from your work?


When you filled in your Purpose, Strategy, Impact template you outlined the work your nonprofit is going to do. Create a budget to estimate what that work will cost and then make sure you don’t spend more money than you planned. After your first budget year, you’ll be able to look back on the actual cost you incurred, think about whether your costs will change in the coming year, and create a new budget projection every year.

Activity: Project Budget

If it helps, don’t build a budget for the whole coming year - maybe you need to budget for a first pilot project before you commit to that.

  • Make a list of your planned activities. This might include programming, outreach, and setting up infrastructure.
  • List the costs associated with each activity. This might include paying staff, technology, advertising, rent, subscriptions, supplies.
  • If the total cost is daunting, see if you can convince someone in your community to sponsor or donate in-kind products or services.
  • If you have to put off some of your planned activities until you raise more funds, prioritize based on impact and risk management.

Tracking Progress

How do you prove that your strategy led to impact? Track two things: the immediate outputs and the longer term outcomes of your work. Outputs are the numbers of activities you conduct, and outcomes are the results of the activities. Track outputs by counting, and track outcomes by measuring.

What activities did your nonprofit produce? How many times, and for how many people? Be sure you keep records of service delivery and attendance.

You chose those activities because you theorized that they would lead to positive change. Measuring that change can be tricky!

It takes practice to decide what to measure, when, and how. Think about the positive outcome that you’re hoping to achieve. What metrics exist that would prove that your activity led to that outcome? How will you collect that data?

Collect data from participants via:

  • Surveys
  • Interviews
  • Focus groups

Collect data about participants via:

  • Observations
  • Big data (census, etc)
  • Data collected anonymously or with client consent (grades, scores, etc)

Carve out some time to reflect and celebrate, Weavers! Thanks for all you do in service to your communities.

Test your knowledge

Which of the following are common budget items for nonprofits?