Making the Most of Your Budget for Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): 6 DEI Experts Weigh In - Senior Executive

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DEI Expert Panels 1 min

Making the Most of Your Budget for Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): 6 DEI Experts Weigh In

It’s up to DEI leaders to secure more funding for ERGs, a challenge requiring deliberative planning and clear outcomes.

by Senior Executive Media Editors on June 1, 2023

Employee resource groups (ERGs) are notoriously under-resourced – often treated as more of an employee perk than a strategic business driver worth investing in. It’s up to DEI leaders to secure more funding for ERGs, a challenge requiring deliberative planning and clear outcomes.

How much should you engage ERG leaders to make specific budget requests for their individual groups? Must every ERG initiative align neatly with organizational goals? How will you demonstrate ROI? Should you compensate ERG leaders for their time? (Yes.)

We asked members of the Senior Executive DEI Think Tank – a criteria-based organization for DEI decision-makers at large companies, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies – to share their best practices for securing and making the most of financial resources for their employee resource groups. Here’s what they had to say.

Marisa Grimes

ERGs Must Make Their Case, Compete for $$$

Marisa Grimes

Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, U.S. Tennis Association

We work to ensure our ERGs have a strategic plan in place for the year, and we align the budgets around those objectives as well as our broader DEI strategic goals. Rather than split the budget evenly among the groups, funding depends on the group’s planned activities, and we scale up or down accordingly based on where we feel their efforts will be most impactful.

Ivan Lee

The ERG Outcome You Want: Employee Engagement

Ivan Lee

Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Elastic

The budget for ERG-led activities should be focused on awareness, programming, and communications, with the outcome being engagement.

Eric Jo Johnson

Establish Criteria for Approving ERG Budget Requests

Eric Jo Johnson

formerly Director of Culture and Inclusion, VNS Health

Leaders can optimize the ERG budget by ensuring that they are clear on how the budget will be used to meet certain business goals or objectives. Then, ERG leaders can make use cases for how they will be operationalizing the money, because there is a common logic on not just what funds will be used, but to what extent when to meet various criteria. This sets the stage for the budget to be spent effectively in meeting the goals of the business.

Karen Perham-Lippman

Aim for Purpose-Driven ERG Programming

Karen Perham-Lippman

Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Jensen Hughes

ERG goals and budgets should be aligned with business objectives while also meeting the focus of each ERG (i.e., fostering workplace inclusion and sense of belonging for employees). 

[At Jensen Hughes], through the implementation of a 5P framework (purpose, people, processes, planning, and priorities), all ERG initiatives and activities align with and drive impact toward retention and talent development, company culture and employee engagement, learning and development, innovation, CSR/ESG objectives, supplier diversity, and brand.

Netta Jenkins

Provide a Roadmap for ERG Leaders to Follow

Netta Jenkins

Vice President, Global Inclusion, Unqork

I provide ERGs with a roadmap for the year. They share estimated costs for each month. We are able to level-set, discuss the impact, and assess monthly.

Isabel Gonçalves

Get More Bang for Your Buck With ‘Crossover’ ERG Programming

Isabel Gonçalves

Senior Manager, DEI Content and Engagement, Splunk

We empower each ERG financially so they can run their educational programming and events, bring in guest speakers, and more. An effective way we’ve seen the ERG budget being utilized is by encouraging cross-ERG and intersectional events. This way, we can maximize partnerships and attendance as we bring in more perspectives and facilitate a more robust dialogue, and we also encourage allyship across the organization by sharing intersecting stories from underrepresented communities.

Senior Executive DEI Think Tank is a criteria-based membership community for chief diversity officers and senior-level DEI leaders at large organizations to share difference-making tactics, trade valuable resources, and seek the counsel of experienced peers in a private, confidential setting.

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