Participatory Budgeting: How to Create Your Best Budget Yet

Nonprofit leaders, are you looking for a better way to budget this year? A process that actually builds morale instead of squashing it? Sounds too good to be true, right? It doesn’t have to be! In this episode, Stephanie discusses the participatory budgeting process. She does a deep dive into what exactly participatory budgeting is, and equally, if not more importantly, what it is NOT. Hint: it is NOT a free-for-all.  

Participatory budgeting is an innovative way for nonprofits to include their team in a process that has often been part of a power dynamic in organizations. This approach helps leaders to dismantle this power structure present in the organization where one party holds all the money and the power. It’s also an excellent way to boost morale and buy-in as well as encourage accountability and transparency.

While collaborative budgeting is an excellent strategy for nonprofits to implement, that’s not to say it doesn’t come with its challenges. Stephanie has worked with countless nonprofits throughout this process and has seen her fair share of the challenges they face. With her expertise and guidance, she has helped these nonprofits overcome these obstacles. Now, she’s sharing these proven strategies with you! 

Read the podcast transcript here.

Episode Summary

On today’s episode, you’ll learn strategies to help you create a more collaborative budgeting process including: 

• What participatory budgeting is (5:00)

• What participatory budgeting is NOT (7:05)

• What to do before putting a single number on a spreadsheet (9:00)

• How to include team members in the budgeting process (11:45)

• How to avoid getting back 15 different spreadsheets that all look differently (13:00)

• How to keep morale high during this process (15:15)

• Challenges with participatory budgeting (18:45)

• Creating a line item wish list (21:30)

• Tips for making participatory budgeting successful (23:00)


“Nobody knows those line items in those departmental budgets better than the people who are actually running those programs.”

“What is most important here is transparency.”

“What we need to take away from this is that not every single thing that people suggest and people want is going to happen.”

“We are actively working to dismantle the innate power structure present in the organization where one party holds all the money and the power.”

“We want to have more meaningful dialogue organization-wide on the direction that the organization is going.”


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