How to Create a Program Budget

Before beginning any type of program, you need to create a budget. When you are planning a special program for a school or other nonprofit organization, whether the program is designed to make money or not, you need to keep track of how much money you are spending at each stage of the program. If you are not generating income from the program, you may be starting with a set amount of money, from a grant or from another budget. With a set amount of money with which to operate your program, it is especially important to stay within your budget.

Launch a computer spreadsheet program, such as Microsoft Excel, to help you keep track of your budget. Create columns for the planning stages, operating stages and follow-up activities for your program.

Review the activities planned for your program. Determine whether the program will generate income. For example, if you are planning a program that requires participants to purchase tickets or if you will be asking for donations for your program, that will be considered income.

Determine the expenses involved in your program, from the planning stages to the follow-up activities. Expenses will include salaries, equipment or supplies required and space rental if appropriate.

List your income projections and expense projections on your spreadsheet for each stage that you created in step 1. Use realistic figures for income and expenses. Depending on the length of the program, list expenses by day, week, or month to help in the planning.

Subtract the total expense projections from the total income projections in the final row of your spreadsheet. If that number is in the negative and your program was designed to make money, you will need to re-examine your expenses to see if you can reduce or eliminate some of them.

Review your budget throughout the length of your program to ensure you stay on track.


  • For budget purposes, under-estimate income and over-estimate expenses to reduce the possibility of going over budget.


  • Eliminate unnecessary items from your program budget that do not contribute directly to the success of the program.