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How should we budget for ERGs?

Now that we’ve learned about why ERGs are important and some key considerations in structuring them, it’s time to get into setting budgets for your ERG Programming. You may wonder why in the world we need a whole blog post for it. Why? Because every company we’ve talked to said one of their top 3 pain points was budget management and tracking. So we decided to dedicate a whole blog post to ERG budgets.


Setting your budget


We recommend starting with the question of what programming you expect ERGs to run. For example, speaker engagements are often costly, and finding a speaker that’s vetted often starts at $1,500 but can range up to $20,000. ERG leaders often find themselves in an uncomfortable predicament of reaching out to potential speakers they can’t afford and have to enter a negotiation, while speakers find themselves frustrated that companies want to benefit from their expertise without paying them what they’re worth.


While at some companies additional budget can be found, being thoughtful about what budget you’re able to give an ERG upfront avoids unnecessary hurdles. Start with what programming ERGs may run alongside dedicated months such as Black History Month, Mental Health Awareness Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Pride Month, etc. For example, a common year of programming for our mental health ERG would look like this:


  1. 1 paid major speaking engagement for mental health awareness month

  2. 2 paid speaker engagements in collaboration with other ERGs during their biggest cultural months

  3. Paid Book Club for 20 people covering books such as "Maybe you should talk to someone” by Lori Gottlieb

  4. Free hosted panels on how employees have used mental health benefits such as Calm and Modern Health

  5. Free monthly gratitude sessions

  6. Free virtual spotlights on known people dealing with, and advocating for, Mental Health shared by our executive team


We’ve seen budgets that exist as one holistic pool across the company for each ERG can tap into as well as dedicated budgets per ERG. We recommend providing each ERG with a dedicated budget but, again, the most important aspect: planning ahead in partnership with ERG Leads so you can ensure they’ll be able to tap into sufficient funds.


Managing budgets


As much as possible, we recommend avoiding putting the overhead on ERG leaders. We often found that ERG leaders had to pay the cost upfront and then expense it, and when the cost reached a certain threshold: go through a purchase order process that’s often cumbersome. We recommend finding methods where ERGs don’t own the actual payment but rather submit a request to pay to a relevant function that handles the admin overhead or provides a company card specifically focused on ERGs.


We know that side-stepping the internal expense system is a challenge, but any creative ways to not have ERG leaders go through the process would make their lives significantly easier. If you can’t sidestep it completely, we recommend outlining clear steps an ERG lead should follow to request a budget approval or submit an expense while providing support throughout it.


Tracking budgets


A lot of ERGs we’ve talked to mentioned that they don’t know how much budget they have as a whole, or what is left. We see different approaches to budget management not only across companies but across ERGs within the company. Some are more rigorous than others and keep a planning spreadsheet, others reactively gather their cost when needed. This can be challenging and makes programming harder, and not only that, some ERGs run into the challenge of ending the year with plenty of leftover budgets they weren’t aware of that they now need to spend in a hurry.


Depending on where your organization is, we recommend providing a budget tracking template, and if the ERG has a dedicated Treasurer, work with them on a cadence of updating budgets. If you have Program Managers overseeing ERGs, we recommend creating a simple submit form of expenses that goes into a collective tracker across ERGs that’s also accessible to the ERG leads while also providing a one-stop-shop for the program managers.


Tooling right now is lacking when it comes to managing ERG budgets, through Joyn, we hope to simplify this for ERG, DEI, and People Leaders so they can manage and track their budgets in a single place without the overhead they’re currently facing. If you’re interested in learning more, you can contact us here or reach out to me directly at larissa@joyn.one.

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