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We held our first training last month on effective budgeting and financial management for research.  I developed a set of guidelines for creating budgets which are easy to understand and update, and which can used to track expenses as well.   The guidelines drew on my previous experience managing a large portfolio of research projects and their associated budgets at Innovations for Poverty Action.  I also shared examples from a previous iteration of budgeting for my own PhD research in Ghana.

There are three major principles of budgeting which shaped the guidelines.

  • Explain your cost assumptions clearly. Funders want to see that you've come up with reasonable cost estimates. Documenting them clearly helps to establish the credibility of your estimates.

  • Provide lots of detail about your activities and calculations. A budget doesn't have to simply be a list of costs. It can also include a description of your research question, a project timeline, and information about how you carried out your calculations. This helps funders to understand why each expense is necessary for your work. A budget narrative can be used to provide additional detail as well.

  • Let Excel do the work for you. Excel has lots of features that make it easy to automatically update the values in your budget; handle complex calculations; and keep large budgets organised. Taking advantage of them will make your budget look professional.

The training documents are below.  They are free for anyone to download, modify, and use.