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Curriculum Center Browse Bibliography Build EPacket Pricing Structure Distribution Process Management Control in Nonprofit Organizations
Note on Budget Ploys
Anthony, Robert N.
Young, David W.
Functional Area(s):
   General Management
   Management Control Systems
   Organizational Behavior
   For Profit
Difficulty Level: Beginner
Pages: 8
Teaching Note: Not Available. 
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First Page and the Assignment Questions:
Ever since there has been budgeting, there have been budgetees who engage in various activities (what we call ploys) to help improve their chances of obtaining the resources they desire, and supervisors who engage in their own ploys to try to prevent an inappropriate or wasteful use of resources. Our observations in both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, spanning several decades, have led us to conclude that these ploys fall into four categories:

1.    Ploys for new programs (Numbers 1-14)
2.    Ploys for maintaining or expanding ongoing programs (Numbers 15-19)
3.    Ploys to resist cuts (Numbers 20-25)
4.    Ploys used primarily by supervisors (Numbers 26-32)

     There are some overlaps among the categories, and Category 1 clearly relates to the programming (rather than the budgeting) phase of the management control process. In all instances, however, the ploys are about obtaining or maintaining resources. We describe each ploy briefly, and speculate about an appropriate response to it.


1.    Foot in the Door

     Description. Sell a modest program initially with the idea of concealing its real magnitude until after it has been initiated, and has built a constituency.

Example: In a certain state, the legislature agreed to fund a program to educate handicapped children in regular schools rather than in the special schools then used. The costs were said to be for transportation and a few additional teachers. Within five years, the definition of handicapped had been greatly broadened, and the resources devoted to the program were four times the amount originally estimated.

    Response. This ploy can elicit one of two responses: (a) Detect it when it is proposed, consider that it is merely a foot in the door and that actual costs eventually will exceed estimates by a wide margin, and therefore disapprove the program initially (difficult to do). (b) Hold to the original decision, and limit spending to the original cost estimate, despite pleas for more funds (effective only if the ploy is detected in time).

     Variation. A variation on this ploy is the bait and switch ploy: initially request an inexpensive program but increase its scope (and cost) after approval has been obtained. This differs from the “foot in the door” ploy in that the changes take place before the program begins rather than after is has been operating for a while.

2.    Foot in the Mouth