Post #7: Building your budget

As you enter the final stages of preparing your application to Small Town Transformations you are no doubt addressing the budget for your big ideas. The template can be found on Page 10 of the Expression of Interest form, or a more flexible version can be downloaded here. This may be a process which brings up more questions for your group. Here is a little more guidance on how to approach building the budget for your project.

What should our budget show?

Firstly, the budget is an indication of your project structure and effective planning capacity. It is another, important method by which the structure of your Small Town Transformations project can be assessed and the financial viability examined. It is crucial that it balances and illustrates not only how the Small Town Transformations funds will be spent but also shows what other contributions will be made, in cash or in-kind from contributors and partners.

How detailed does our budget need to be?

This is an Expression of Interest budget - we do not expect line items to show dollars and cents at this stage! We understand that some projects will be descriptive and will need more work to really understand the costs but it is vital that the cost areas are communicated; that the budget items make sense to the project delivery. It may be that in some cases these are best expressed as percentages of the budget or as indicative where absolute costs are not able to be arrived at - whilst shortlisted applicants will need to provide a much more detailed cost breakdown in the next stage it is still important to show your ability to accurately assess the scale of each element you are considering.

Lead Applicant and Partner contributions

Cash and in-kind contributions are expected from partners in the project. Cash contributions are simply expressed as a budget line; in-kind contributions may come in a number of forms:

•             Specialist expertise and consultation

•             Voluntary time - including from the lead applicant organisation

•             Use of space, equipment, machinery provided free of charge

•             Items provided at cost - any removed profit can be valued as in-kind

The general rule of thumb used to calculate in-kind is market value - the equivalent hire cost, hourly/daily weekly labour rates, purchase cost (for donations). In-kind contributions can add enormous value to projects and at the same time demonstrate cross-community commitment to the outcomes of Small Town Transformations.

Artist and Management fees

Artists should be paid appropriately - the amount is likely to depend on a number of things, including the experience and skills of the artist, the type of work and the length of the contract. If you are proposing particular artists you will work with, have a conversation with them about cost.

When considering professional management expertise, look at your proposed schedule and see where that may be best employed. You may be able to identify clear periods of time where this would be beneficial for efficient delivery - and for you to learn from. Project management costs are similarly governed by skills and experience.


You will see a field for Evaluation in the budget template. A nominal figure is all that is required at this point – evaluation responsibilities will be further explained if your application is shortlisted. A value of $2,000 will suffice at this point.

Finally, a couple of general points...

  • Seek out expertise within your community if you are struggling to estimate costs - whilst you may feel an arts project is unfamiliar territory for you, when broken down to its component parts a familiar logic will present itself, especially to those with some budgeting and accounts experience
  • You may find that you are adjusting your project ideas late in the day once you have examined the delivery cost of each element - that is a natural and important part of the process and will hopefully help you to reach a more solid plan and not over- or underestimate 
  • It's important to be realistic. There is no point in submitting figures that can be easily questioned - the selection panel are skilled in project delivery and are well able to interpret your plans

You're nearly there - if you need any advice in these final weeks, please do get in touch.

Inspiration: Constellation



How do humans put stars in the sky? Artist Melissa McGill has given it a shot on a historic island in New York State's Hudson River. She has created a new constellation comprised of solar LED lights suspended above the ruins of Bannerman Castle. The ethereal lights form a shape that responds to the first nations history of the area and is acting as a focal point for telling stories and gathering the community.

The work is also drawing visitors from across the country and having an impact on the fortunes of nearby small towns. 

Regional Arts Victoria's Adelaide Fisher recently visited the installation, and has written about the work and her experience on the Inspiring Arts blog.

Click here to read more.