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Spending money is how you invest in your organization. What are the best investment options you can make in growing your organization? 

A question I get pretty frequently is “Should I really be spending money on ___? Is that the best use of my funds?” Counter-factually, an argument can be made to donate to other worthy causes instead of investing in additional support for yours. To answer this question, you need to know about the available potential solutions and determine the expected ROI and impact of whatever resources you’re spending. Whether it’s time or money, you need to invest in your cause in order to achieve the results you desire. It doesn’t help you or your funders to short-change your organization of resources it needs to be more effective. When soliciting funds, ask for what you think will help your organization thrive, not just survive.

Here’s an example: We’ve developed a sample budget template that covers the most common expenses organizations need to function optimally, and included explanations for each line as to why it’s a worthwhile investment and what the anticipated impact is of that investment. Please note that each organization is different – but please use this as a guide when building your own budget and choosing what to invest in.

We asked our experts about the most impactful investments organizations can make that are often left out of the budget. Here’s what they said:

Deena Englander
Operations Coach, High Impact Alliance

denglander@highimpactalliance.com LinkedIn

www.highimpactalliance.com Calendly

I think that people tend to focus on the human labor costs of their ventures, but not on the overhead and support costs that enable the people within the organization to work most effectively. In my view, the budget should tell the story of how the organization works – how many people you have, which expertise you outsource, what support services you use, and how much software plays a role in what you do.

The primary areas I see neglected most often include:

  • Personnel training and development – As Katarina and Tee mention below, investing in your staff (including yourself) gives them the support, guidance, and continuous pathway towards growth. This will make your staff MUCH more effective.
  • Software implementation – while it can be complicated to find the right software, using something to manage your projects and contacts makes a huge difference to organizational efficiency. If it’s not something that comes easy to you, outsource it. We have some great providers in EASE!
  • External consultants – There’s no way you can be an expert at everything. And you shouldn’t try to – it’s an inefficient use of resources. There are people to reach out to whom, for a fee, will provide you with the knowledge and services you need. It’s much more efficient to work with experts in the field. Whether it’s legal, financial, HR, operations, strategy or some kind of other expertise, you will usually be able to significantly amplify your organization’spotential survival and growth by engaging with experienced professionals. It’s really an investment into your organization’s assets and fosters a more effective operational framework.


James Odene
Creative Director, User-Friendly

letstalk@userfriendly.org.uk LinkedIn

Marketing is so often left out of a budget. In most cases you should be budgeting for branding, a website and some assets. Branding is a strategic practice, not just a visual, so relying on a ‘cheap’ online designer isn’t the way forward. They might give you something that looks good, but that’s not the (primary) job of a brand, you need something that works, is differentiated and distinctive in your market – those are strategic considerations. And then your website is likely to be your main channel that informs what kind of impression people have of your work. There is also a strong chance that you’ll need an actual marketing campaign budget for ads, artwork or such during the running of your organisation. The actual budget requirement will change for all different ventures, but a rough guide of 10% of your overall budget is likely to be somewhere close. When is comes to building a marketing budget, I’d recommend practicing a ‘zero-based’ budgeting process to first ask ‘what do we need to achieve our objectives’, then ‘what will that cost?’ rather than, ‘I’ve guesstimated a budget of 1k, what can I do for that…?’


Kait Miller
Executive Director, Canoe Collective

kait@canoecollective.us LinkedIn

I’d include a line for increasing an organization’s operating reserves. Operating reserves provide a financial cushion to help organizations weather economic uncertainty and carry out longer-term strategic planning. Orgs can build this cushion by including a “contribution to reserves” line item in their budgets, enabling them to set aside money towards this unrestricted fund balance. Learn more here.

On your individual budget, I’d recommend that you make ensure the lines in the budget correspond with expense accounts in the General Ledger. This enables programs and orgs to track more easily budgets vs actuals.


Tee Barnett
Coach, Tee Barnett  Coaching

tee@teebarnett.com LinkedIn
teebarnett.com Calendly

Contextualization of line items for at least three audiences strikes me as quite important – upper management, employees and external stakeholders (funders).

My eye drifts toward the professional development line item in particular. I don’t think organizations do enough to encourage people to spend that allotted amount, or offer options that employees could pursue and/or be inspired by.

Dynamics can exist where people feel like there’s a pretty high implicit hurdle associated with inquiring about the professional developmen budget because they might worry about getting penalized in some way. Employers might be letting that implicit hurdle remain unaddressed in many cases, often unintentionally. But in some cases, employers avoid promoting professional development benefits intentionally in order to save money, or because they don’t have an understanding of just how impactful personal and professional develoment can really be.


Katarina Polonska
High Performance Relationship Coach

info@katarinapolonska.com LinkedIn

Internal coaching typically has its own bias, does not have the same psychological safety as external coaching can offer, so folks don’t share what they need to share.
Based on my work, external coaching helps clients see beneficial increases in the following areas:

  • Improve relationships (73%)
  • Communication skills (72%)
  • Interpersonal skills (71%)
  • Increase sales performance (19%)
  • Work performance (70%)
  • Work/life balance (67%)
  • Wellness (63%)
  • Reduce sales cycle (25%)