The Cost of Operating a Program

The total cost of an “I Have A Dream” Program over 12-16 years can range from $2,500,000 to $5,000,000 including operating costs and scholarship awards. A wide variety of factors affect the total cost such as the size of the annual operating budget, Program staffing, the number of Dream­ers, the number of years of operation, the number of Dreamers who go to college or post-secondary programs, and the Program’s mix of in-kind donations versus cash funding.

Basic operating costs of a program should include the salary and benefits for a full-time Executive Director, Program Director, AmeriCorps members and/or any other staff, office supplies and overhead, and the cost of implementing basic services such as after-school and summer programming, parent meetings, local field trips and excursions, coordination of volunteers and mentors, and transportation for these events. See the next section for a sample first-year budget. Each program’s circumstances will vary and each program should create its own budget based on the anticipated cost of operating in its locale.

The operating budget will also be affected by additional  ser­vices that the program may decide to provide based on the Dream­ers’ needs and the available resources. These may include conducting academic needs assessments, providing long-distance trips and college visits, or enrolling Dreamers in outside academic programs, SAT, or college preparatory courses. Often,  programs secure additional funding to pay for special programs or activities.

“I Have A Dream” programs typically do not, and should not, pay for everything. The total cost of an IHDF Program depends on the way the program strikes a balance between what is funded by par­ticipants and what is achieved through volunteerism, in-kind dona­tions, and targeted contributions. One program may rent office space; another may get its space donated by a local school, CBO, college, or housing authority. One program may use only volunteer tutors, while another hires professionals, and a third may have pro­fessional tutoring services donated. There is no “right” mixture. IHDF Programs try to bring in the resources of others in the com­munity to the fullest extent possible. Using donated services and facilities keeps costs down and helps existing funds go fur­ther. Partnering with experienced providers to fill a specialized need is often more efficient and yields better results than “rein­venting the wheel.” However, IHDF programs are not stand-alone organizations. They build bridges to the entire community. The more relationships a program develops, the more people and orga­nizations there are to call on for assistance, the more supporters there are for every Dreamer, and the more impact the program has on the community.

Formulating a Budget

The budgeting process should take into account all of these anticipated costs of operating a program, including personnel, rents and transportation, programming, and tuition support. These costs will vary greatly depending on the geographic area of the program, and comparable local rents, salaries, and scholarship promises. 

Some good resources for projecting local salaries, rents, and other costs can be found here. Average public college and university tuition, by State, is published annually here

The overall cost will also be greatly influenced by the total number of Dreamers, the grade in which the program starts, and any scholarship support the program plans to provide. 

A useful tool for projecting scholarships based on these variables can be found here

Sample First-Year Programming / Operating Budget

Program Director$50,000.00
FICA Expense2,295.00
State Employment497.00
Blue Cross933.00
Major Medical3,724.00
Total Personnel$57,538.00
Telephone 2,000.00
Office Supplies/Equipment2,000.00
Total Communications6,000.00
Maintenance/Supplies 662.00
Service & Contracts1,000.00
National Dues1,000.00
Overhead to Community-Based Organization6,000.00
Total Operational9,662.00
Books & Publications 1,500.00
Educational Supplies2,000.00
Parent Activities & Workshops1,000.00
Recognition Events/Parties2,000.00
Summer Program3,000.00
Local Transportation2,000.00
Special Trips2,500.00
Tutoring (Training and Support)4,000.00
Staff Development2,000.00
Total General Program Expense23,800.00


Funding Policy

For all new Programs, initial funding arrangements must be established in advance. At least three years of operating costs shall be outlined and projected scholarship awards calculated in order that funding requirements be established. Program leadership must also either have forwarded funding commitments sufficient to cover subsequent years, or a demonstrable strategy to raise the remainder of the funds. Funding arrangements, while the responsibility of the Affiliate, must be approved in writing by the national “I Have A Dream” Foundation.

Each local “I Have A Dream” Foundation Affiliate and independent “I Have A Dream” Program shall provide the national “I Have A Dream” Foundation copies of their annual budget, balance sheet, P&L, 990 and audit. These should reflect adequately-funded expense and scholarship accounts under the terms of the licensing agreement.

To obtain approval to start a Program, the expansion committee lead or Executive Director must provide:

  • A full Program budget (does not have to be a line item budget, but must show, number of staff members, number of Dreamers, operational spending, amount of annual scholarship, scholarship spending, and overhead).
  • Cash in hand to cover the first 3 years of budgeted spending.
  • Pledges or grants that will cover the first 5 years of spending plus scholarships.
  • Plan to raise the rest of the money needed for full funding.
  • Clear statement of expected investment returns for cash on hand.

Annually, no later than September 1st, all Affiliates must provide:

  • Budget vs. actual spending for the past year.
  • A Program budget for all remaining years (does not have to be a line item budget, but must show, number of staff, Board members, number of Dreamers, operational spending, scholarship spending, and overhead).

These financial statements must be supported by third party documents, such as bank or brokerage firm statements, but they do not need to be formally audited reports.