One of the most important aspects of producing and providing health information is the money – funding projects or core services and making sure that you are effectively budgeting and being cost effective. Before you can begin project planning for an information resource or service, you need to consider what your costs will be and where the money to fund the work will come from. You also need to consider ongoing costs, for example any dissemination costs, evaluation, reprints or review of materials. To do this you will need to start by creating a project budget.
It is very easy to underestimate how much time and resource a project will need. Think carefully about every step of the project from start to finish and be realistic about what you will need. Get quotes from outside suppliers, look at other similar projects you may have done in the past and what those costs were. Think about whether work is more cost effective outsourced or done on a consultant basis.
You might want to consider:
- Volunteer costs – e.g travel to focus groups, thank you gifts for participation, training or support
- Staff costs or project manager – time, travel, expenses, training
- Print and design or web costs
- Evaluation of the resource or service
- External consultant or services fees – translation, user engagement, copywriting, editing or proof reading
- Project pilot costs
- VAT – some goods and services will have VAT applied. Check http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/vat/index.htm to be sure what you will need to pay VAT on
- Incremental annual increases in costs – for example staff time and on costs
- Methods of dissemination – postal costs, waiting room leaflet services
- Any PR or awareness raising work
Set out your budget and get feedback from your colleagues, including fundraisers and finance staff or bookkeepers. You may consider using full cost recovery to develop your budget (some funders will now request that you do this). What this means is securing funding for all of the costs involved in running a project; both direct project costs and a proportionate share of your organisation’s overheads. Direct project costs are the costs that relate clearly and directly to a project. These can include salaries for project workers, volunteer expenses and a dedicated laptop for the project. Overheads are costs that partly support the project, but also support other projects or activities that your organisation provides. These can include a proportion of salaries of core staff such as administrators, rent and utilities costs or your organisation’s legal and audit fees. If you have a fundraising team, they should be able to help you calculate these costs.
In the current economic climate funding information projects can be a challenge. You may be lucky enough to have money available from your organisation’s core funds. But even if this is the case, you will still need to be able to demonstrate that your project is cost effective, that you have considered all the costs included within the project and that you have looked at ways you could make savings.
If you need to look externally for funding, there is a wide range of potential sources, including grant making trusts, large national funding schemes like the Big Lottery Fund, commercial companies, individual donors and research grants. Wherever you apply you will need to set out a good case for why your project should be funded ahead of another organisation. This means clearly demonstrating the need for the project, who the beneficiaries will be and how these people will benefit from the work.
Some funders will cover project-related costs only, others will also fund core costs. Core costs are the central costs of running your organisation. Statutory funders are more likely (than company or trust funders) to fund an organisation’s core costs, although they are also unlikely to support groups in a long-term funding agreement. Grant schemes may say that funding is available for either capital or revenue costs. Capital costs are one-off costs: buildings, equipment, vehicles – spending on items that become capital assets of your organisation. Revenue costs are your ongoing running costs, items of expenditure such as heat, light, rent, wages, pensions, transport, insurance and so on.
- Do your research. Whether you are looking for a funder, or putting together your budget, make sure you have enough information to do this effectively. The more information you have the less room for error there is and the more likely you will deliver your project on budget or secure the funds you need.
- Learn from any previous mistakes in your budgeting and if necessary consider adding in a standard contingency amount to any costs (e.g 3-5%), so that if things do go wrong, take longer that you anticipated or cost more you have the funds to complete the project.
- Thank your funders and keep them in touch with the work or the project. Many organisations work hard to build ongoing, long term relationships with their major funders. These relationships can be vital for future funding and support. Some funders expect you to provide detailed project update reports, so check what is required of you.
- Be realistic about how much time things take and try and factor in time for activities such as answering emails, reviewing documents such as new versions, editing, telephone calls or teleconferences, meetings, project planning and discussions with suppliers.
- If you are applying for funds from a grant giving body, such as a trust or a commercial company’s foundation, make sure you fulfil their eligibility criteria. All grant givers are clear about the sort of projects they fund, in what areas and in which sectors. Many also have rules are to the type of organisations they will fund – for example some will only fund registered charities, though more and more are broadening their criteria to include all non-profit organisations.
- Consider going to a number of funders for smaller amounts, rather than one funder for the whole amount. This can make it an easier ‘sell’ for you, and can be helpful to approach an organisation for funds when you already have support from another one.