Creating a DEI Budget Template: A Strategic Guide

If your organization wants to back up its commitment to DEI with real action, creating a dedicated DEI budget is one of the most impactful things you can do. With a strategic financial plan guiding your initiatives, you’ll be well on your way toward fostering a truly inclusive workplace. A well-planned DEI budget is a powerful tool that aligns perfectly with an organization’s core values and goals and drives real, impactful change.

Recent research shows that more and more companies are investing in DEI. Over half of human resource leaders surveyed said they increased funding for DEI training, software, and other programs compared to the previous year. Experts predict global spending on DEI initiatives could grow from $9.3 billion in 2022 to over $15 billion by 2026.

In this article, we’ll review the key steps for building your own DEI budget template. With some planning, you can create a budget that aligns perfectly with your company’s goals and values.

Understanding the essentials of a DEI budget

An effective DEI budget funds programs and initiatives that actively promote diversity, equity, and inclusion across all levels of an organization. It is more than just a financial plan; it reflects an organization’s commitment to fostering a truly inclusive workplace. This budget is pivotal in translating DEI goals from aspirational ideas into actionable programs and initiatives.

The importance of a DEI budget lies in its ability to support various key areas like:

  • Training and development: Workshops, seminars, and other education that build awareness around topics like unconscious bias, cultural competence, and inclusive leadership. This DEI training equips employees to create a welcoming environment.
  • Recruitment and hiring: Allocating funds towards inclusive recruitment strategies ensures a diverse candidate pool. This might involve funds used to attract diverse talent, like partnerships with inclusive job boards, diverse career fairs, and software to remove hiring biases.
  • Program development: DEI budget often funds the creation and maintenance of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), mentoring opportunities and other initiatives that provide support and community for underrepresented groups.
  • External partnerships and community engagement: Part of the budget may involve sponsorships and collaborations with external DEI-focused nonprofits and community groups.
  • Metrics and reporting: A portion of the budget is often dedicated to tools and analytics for monitoring DEI metrics and reporting on the impact of initiatives.

A DEI budget is a strategic tool that enables organizations to operationalize their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. With some thoughtful planning around these critical areas, your DEI budget has the power to drive meaningful progress toward a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace.

Assessing your DEI financial needs

Implementing effective diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives requires thoughtful planning and adequate financial resources. Even the best-intentioned DEI programs will fall short without proper funding and strategic budgeting. This process involves clearly understanding your current DEI landscape and identifying areas needing investment.

  • Review existing DEI initiatives: Start by evaluating the existing DEI programs and formal and informal measures. Document programs for recruiting, retention, mentorship, employee resource groups, training, community outreach, etc. Critically evaluate each initiative’s level of participation, effectiveness, and impact on advancing DEI strategic goals. For example, your recruiting efforts may yield diverse candidates, but your training lacks programs for retaining employees from underrepresented groups or fostering an inclusive culture. Seek to understand why specific programs flourish while others flounder.
  • Conduct employee surveys and focus groups: Now is the time to gather employee perceptions and ideas. Well-designed anonymized surveys and moderated focus groups can reveal areas where employees feel progress and existing blind spots or unmet needs.
  • Identify gaps and opportunities: Analyze all existing data from audits and employee feedback to pinpoint DEI program gaps and growth opportunities. This will fuel smart goal-setting and budget decisions rather than reactive policies.
  • Set strategic priorities: Not all DEI initiatives will have the same urgency or impact. Categorize the areas needing funding based on timing, expected return on investment, and capability to catalyze widespread impact across DEI focus areas.
  • Consult experts and benchmark against leaders: Get expert perspectives and advice before finalizing budget numbers. DEI thought leaders and industry veterans can provide invaluable outside-in wisdom. They can also connect you with benchmarks to compare your DEI budget and programming maturity against organizations at different stages. No need to reinvent wheels when proven solutions exist.
  • Estimate costs: Now drill down into specifics around potential budget items in each strategic priority area. Research the typical costs of executing initiatives effectively by talking to trusted peers in your industry or through DEI networks. Underestimating costs is one of the biggest budget pitfalls. A training program may have high upfront costs for material and program development but could save money long-term through retention.
  • Develop a comprehensive budget plan: Armed with robust data and expertise, thoughtfully allocate funding across DEI priorities, balancing immediate and future needs. Revisit connections to overarching DEI strategic goals and expected returns throughout the process.

Remember, a thorough DEI audit and financial assessment help allocate resources effectively and ensure your DEI initiatives align strategically with your organization’s broader goals and objectives.

Structuring your DEI budget

Creating a DEI budget template requires a thoughtful approach to allocate funds effectively across different initiatives. Here’s a step-by-step process:

  • Identify key DEI areas: List the main pillars of your DEI strategy, such as recruitment, retention, training, leadership development, employee resource groups, community engagement etc. Break major categories into subcategories like training could include unconscious bias education, coaching skills, inclusion competency skills, conflict resolution techniques and more.
  • Categorize expenses: Within each strategic category, define specific budget items. For example, under training, list costs like hiring external trainers, developing in-house programs, or subscribing to online DEI courses.
  • Assign cost estimates: Research competitive pricing for each budget line item, whether its technology, services, staffing or other. Consider expenses like licenses, seats, and prep and development rates, not just the sticker price. Build relationships with vendors willing to partner on pricing.
  • Prioritize funding: Prioritize these expenses based on their potential impact and your organization’s specific DEI goals. Some initiatives require immediate funding, while others can be planned for later stages. Distinguish must-haves from nice-to-haves.
  • Allocate funds: Strategically distribute funds across priorities based on the severity of needs, expected returns, and dependencies. Generally, aim for balanced investments versus putting all eggs in one basket.
  • Review and adjust: Review the budget to ensure it’s realistic and aligns with your overall DEI strategy. However, you should be prepared to adjust as needed, especially in the first few years of implementation.

Aligning DEI budget with organizational goals

Implementing impactful diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives requires more than just funding – it demands tight alignment with wider business objectives. Without deliberate strategies linking DEI programs to overarching organizational goals, those efforts risk becoming disconnected, misunderstood, and ultimately undervalued.

  • Understand organizational goals: Gaining leadership buy-in for your DEI budget starts with understanding your company’s current business goals and direction. Meet with executives in charge of long-term strategic planning across departments like operations, marketing, product development, and more. You’ll need to clearly comprehend priorities guiding executive decisions and investments before positioning DEI budget needs against those backdrops. This could be anything from expanding into new markets to enhancing innovation. Don’t assume you already know organizational goals – take time to directly engage diverse business leaders first.
  • Link DEI initiatives to business goals: With organizational priorities documented, conduct a goal alignment exercise, mapping each current and proposed DEI program or activity directly to one or more related business goals. For example, demonstrates that funding employee resource groups connects clearly to an executive goal of enhancing innovation through diversity of thought and perspectives.
  • Communicate the value of DEI: Next, socialize this goal alignment mapping throughout the organization – particularly with executive leadership and key voices across middle management and individual contributor levels. Concisely explain connections between DEI budget items and organizational objectives, emphasizing win-win advancement towards cultural and business goals.
  • Integrate DEI across business functions: Regulation and risk reduction should never solely justify DEI resourcing. The most persuasive messaging frames DEI as an indispensable accelerator fueling – not just supporting – business goals. This means positioning DEI budget needs within broader conversations around direction-setting for organizational focus areas like customer engagement, talent development, operations excellence and innovation. Then, it will contribute equally alongside other business leaders in plotting integrated strategies accounting for DEI’s advantages.
  • Seek input from diverse stakeholders: Diversity starts at the budget planning table. Leaders across demographic representations, roles, ranks, and regions each offer unique lenses on effective DEI integration across the enterprise. During budget outlay and goal alignment conversations, include stakeholder voices beyond senior executives and DEI program administrators alone. The lived expertise of intersectional identities uncovers additional challenges and fresh pathways toward progress and multifaceted support.
  • Regularly review and adapt: While directionally consistent, DEI strategies cannot remain static and inflexible in the name of consistency or simplicity alone. Revisit integration mappings, stakeholder engagements, executive messaging plans, and budget allocations at least quarterly. Assess whether adjustments or course corrections better align activities with internal issues or external societal forces, exposing new needs or opportunities for impact.

By carefully monitoring and adjusting your DEI budget, you can ensure that your organization’s investment in DEI is effective, impactful, and aligned with your DEI goals and overall business objectives.

What’s next?

Creating and managing a DEI budget is a multi-step process that begins with understanding its importance, assessing financial needs, and structuring the budget across various DEI initiatives. Aligning this budget with organizational goals ensures DEI efforts contribute to broader business objectives. Stakeholder buy-in is crucial and should be sought by demonstrating the ROI of DEI initiatives. Regularly monitoring and adjusting the budget ensures its ongoing effectiveness. Investing in DEI is a financial decision and a strategic move towards organizational growth and a more inclusive culture.

Kate Stone
Kate Stone
Kate Stone leads marketing at Diversio, a technology startup that uses data analytics to help companies and investors unlock diversity for improved performance. Diversio works with clients in 30 countries across the world and has been featured at global events like the G20 and Davos.
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