You must be able to pay for the tactics that you will be proposing. Budgeting prevents your communications from becoming too expensive, and it also prevents you from putting all your efforts in a single tactic. Knowing how much you have available to spend on your communications will keep your tactics reasonable and allow you to plan responsibly.
Make sure to include budget for regular communications costs, evaluation tools, as well as for short-term and temporary costs such as raising awareness for an event or promotion. Include within the short-term and temporary costs section include some unallocated funds as needs will likely appear after you finish this plan and before you draft your next one.
Your previous communications budgets should provide the foundation for this section, as real numbers from previous years are the best ways to make realistic and informed estimates. You should also request quotations for different tactics that your organization may use to better understand the cost of different techniques. Remember to request quotes from multiple sources, as prices vary between businesses. Alternatives should also be listed so if you can’t hire a $10,000 consultant or designer, you might be able to have an employee take a $500 class to fill a similar need.
When setting the budget, you should look at what resources you already have within your organization and can be used for little cost. If you already have something that works as well as an alternative that you would have to purchase, use what you have. Partnerships with other organizations can also work well if you can both use each others’ services.
For-profit industry standards dictate that between 10 and 20% of total expenses should go towards communications. I recommend that 8-10% is a good amount for established organizations. That percentage should go up or down based on your organization’s specific situation. If you are at capacity and cannot increase in the short term, then slowly reduce the percentage of funding, or put it towards other communications efforts that build goodwill with your audiences. If you have room to grow, then try increasing your budget slowly.
If this is your first time setting a communications plan, be willing to adjust your budget based on your first evaluation period. Feel free to start small early on to get a feel for what is worth the money for your organization. If a specific tactic is pulling in more revenue than it costs, and/or provides some goodwill, then feel free to increase the spending in that area because you are making money for each dollar spent in that area. You should be paying for effectiveness, not out of obligation.