What does a program cost?

While expenses will differ program to program, many Indigenous Guardian programs have core costs each year. These can include staff wages, equipment and office materials. Additional costs may arise when you launch your program or every few years when reinvestment is needed (i.e. for vehicles or equipment) or you are expanding. Some costs are project specific and vary year-to-year depending on priorities and funding.

Conducting an annual planning and budgeting process can help you develop realistic program budgets that anticipate and estimate your expenses. Budgeting, in reality, is as much an art as it is a science. It gets easier with experience and as the true costs of running a program become clear.

While no two guardian program budgets will be the same, see the Infosheet "Typical Budget Categories for an Indigenous Guardian Program" to see budget line items and program expenses that you might consider building into your guardian program budget.

To develop a realistic budget start by gathering costs and estimates. Use the Template "Sample Indigenous Guardian Budget" for guidance. Also see the Tipsheet "Ideas for Developing a Budget"

Info sheet

Typical Budget Categories for an Indigenous Guardian Program



  • Wages and benefits - Program manager, guardians, seasonal positions, interns, etc.
  • Contracts - Short-term contracts for guardians, technicians, professional services, other contract services (i.e. biologist, lab work, data storage, etc.)


  • Required Certifications - First aid, radio operator, swift water rescue, etc.
  • Additional Training - Monitoring, conflict resolution, communications, etc.


  • Safety equipment -Radios, sat phone/InReach, first aid kit, life jackets, firearms, etc.
  • Field equipment -GPS, tablets, sampling equipment, digital camera, binoculars, etc.
  • Equipment storage - Rental lockers, storage units, moorage, shed, etc.
  • Program identification - Uniforms, logo, decals, flags, badges, business cards, etc.


  • Capital equipment - Purchase or lease of boats, trucks, skidoos, etc.
  • Fuel - Gas, diesel, propane, etc.
  • Transportation related - Transportation costs, helicopter/flight time, rental fees, etc.
  • Repairs and maintenance - Vehicle repairs, annual maintenance
  • Travel expenses - Travel/transport, food, lodging for meetings, overnight patrols etc.


  • Office related - Rent, utilities, office furnishings, phones, computers, etc.
  • Insurance coverage - For equipment, vehicles, liability, etc.
  • Contingency funds - Unexpected expenses (replacement equipment, repairs, emergencies, etc.)


  • Community outreach - Community meetings and events, education materials, newsletters, web, etc.
  • Honoraria - For elder or community advisor involvement
Info sheet

Typical Budget Categories for an Indigenous Guardian Program


Sample Indigenous Guardian Program Budget

Use this Sample Indigenous Guardian Program Budget as a tool to modify and adjust to anticipate and estimate what your program will cost. All data entered in this budget worksheet are fictitious and are simply there as placeholders to prompt you in your budget building efforts. Customize the information to suit your program's unique expense categories, salaries/wages, program costs, etc. If there are important categories missing here, please let us know so others may benefit from what you've learned. 


Sample Indigenous Guardian Program Budget


Ideas for Developing a Budget

  • Staff wages and benefits can be fairly easy to estimate. Compare the guardian program positions (whether field staff or manager) to similar programs managed by your organization.
  • If you know you’ll need to rely on contractors or contracted services, request quotes from potential individuals and companies so you know what fees or rates will look like.
  • Research the pros and cons of purchasing, leasing or renting field, safety or other equipment. Keep in mind, you may also be able to share equipment with other programs.
  • Things like fuel estimates can be worked out by calculating the number of trips/patrols you expect to run, distance covered, and fuel consumption/km traveled.
  • Remember to budget in a buffer. It’s important to anticipate the unexpected and have contingency funds available if you need them.

Ideas for Developing a Budget