Tool 6: Developing a Curriculum Project Budget

If you’ve ever had a house built, you know that the process of estimating construction costs involves weighing and balancing many factors - and chances are great that the final total will be different from what you originally projected. Developing a curriculum budget is no different. Some curriculum costs are obvious; if you know the format needed early on and the potential units to end up with, you can obtain budget estimates for offset printing costs or for duplication of audio, videotapes or CD-ROMs. But many costs are not so obvious and may be harder to identify or specify: contractual labor, travel, postage, storage, piloting costs, marketing, etc. If you’re not careful, such costs can quickly consume the budget that was designated for final production! Good planning up front can help ensure that your projected budget will cover your needs.

Creating Your Initial Budget

Use the MSUE Curriculum Project Budget Worksheet (Microsoft Word file format) to create your initial budget. Be sure to include line items for all aspects of development and production, including the following. This worksheet will not only be useful in keeping you on track with your available budget; it will also be used to determine the actual, county and retail prices of your final curriculum product.

  • Project staff time: What level of staff support is necessary for the development of your curriculum? Will the coordination, research, writing and piloting be handled by someone paid on an existing budget, or will you need to provide funding to support someone carrying out these roles (for example, to hire a writer or content specialist)? Can you access the time and expertise of "in house" or departmental writers, editors, graphic artists, media specialists or computer programmers, or will you need to contract with outside vendors to get this expertise? Refer to Estimating Curriculum Project Staff Time to help answer these questions, and use that information to estimate the potential costs related to everyone’s roles.
  • Format/media costs: What is the desired educational format for your curriculum? Use the information from your needs assessment and other sources of information to identify the educational format you anticipate you’ll be using, and do some research on the potential reproduction costs for the identified format. (Refer to Selecting Educational Formats, Media and Key Curriculum Components for more information.) As you explore various formats and media, ask yourself what features are absolutely essential for the production of a marketable curriculum and what features are "optional"? What’s your bottom line?
  • Piloting costs: How extensively will you need to pilot your curriculum and will this piloting require funding for travel, duplication, data analysis, training or other workshop costs?
  • Duplication costs: What is a realistic quantity of your curriculum to produce? What’s the anticipated market demand? What are the potential storage costs?
  • Marketing costs: How will you market your curriculum and what are the costs connected with various marketing techniques (travel to conferences to promote materials, brochures, ads placed in various journals or magazines, Web site promotion, direct mailings)?
  • Training costs: Once your curriculum is available, will your curriculum budget need to cover costs involved with training target audiences on how to use your material? If so, what are the aspects that you’ll need to cover (such as travel, workshop facilities, handouts, sample copies of curriculum)?
  • Other costs: Will your curriculum contain copyrighted material (such as artwork, music or text) that will require royalty payments or copyright fees? Are there any other costs not covered by the topics listed previously?

And Keep in Mind . . .

Budgets are a complicated business - both to estimate and to stay on top of as a project moves along. Here are some other hints to keep in mind throughout this process:

  • Be very clear about the role that grants will play in your budget. If your project is being done with the support of a grant, make sure that you’ve consulted early on with a member of the MSUE Curriculum Development Support Team to create a grant budget that accurately projects the curriculum development and production costs. Take the time to investigate whether there are any line items that cannot be covered by a particular grant source. If this is the case, clearly identify the other budget sources for these costs.
  • Explore the curriculum market so you can identify an optimum price that the market will bear for your curriculum. Keep in mind that MSU Extension uses a basic formula for determining a curriculum’s county price (that is, the price charged to a Michigan county Extension office) and its retail price (that is, the price charged to other customers). Work with your MSUE Curriculum Development Support Team member to help ensure that the existing market will bear the projected prices.
  • Depending on its scope and breadth, curriculum development can be a long process during which projected costs can increase significantly. You may want to pad your estimates by 10 to 20 percent to account for these kinds of changes.
  • Be prepared to be flexible with your budget. Be prepared to make adjustments or compromises if necessary. These could range from adjusting your budget to support additional pilot sights to tightening production costs through changes such as reducing the number of ink colors, reducing the length or special effects in a video or media project, or reducing the number of contracted photos or illustrations.

Most importantly, be prepared to revisit and refine your budget on a regular basis. This ongoing scrutiny will help ensure that you stay on track and will alert you to any changes needed.

Last Updated: July 29, 2009; Last Reviewed: April, 2009
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